In a week that saw the two Manchester clubs eliminated from Europe and Serie A become the talk of Europe again, there was very little in the newspapers about Bayern.
If there was anything written about Bayern at all, it had to do with the fact that half the squad has the flu.
Bayern lost 2-0 at the Etihad. What must be said, though, is the reserves put in a great performance. It was great to see Hans Joerg Butt back in the team and wearing the captain's armband. Butt put in a great performance.
In any Bundesliga side with the exception of Bayern, Butt would have been the starting keeper. He is probably the best substitute keeper in all of Europe.
I was a little disappointed with Nils Petersen. Nonetheless, a striker is dependent on the service from the midfield and that was almost missing. Ivica Olic put in a great shift and Joe Hart denied him a goal with a brilliant save in the first half. The defence was reasonably sound.
For a team that has never featured together before, Bayern put in a great shift.
With two more matches to go before the winter break, Bayern has to ensure that they do not relinquish what is a paper-thin lead in the Bundesliga. The lead is small due to the blip against Mainz.
Nonetheless, Bayern is in the lead is due to the fact that both Dortmund and Gladbach failed to win in a match that would have seen the winner take hold of top spot.
Bayern beat Bremen last week in what was a brilliant attacking display. The score-line (4-1) did justice to both sides.
In the first half, it took pure individual brilliance from Franck Ribery to break the deadlock. The goal came from a counter-attack where David Alaba played in a wonderful ball to the Frenchman, who went past players and shot at goal.
Bayern's attacks otherwise were largely fruitless and the fear of a Bremen equalizer was looming. Eventually, after the introduction of Markus Rosenberg in the second half, Bremen got as much.
Bayern then took control with the introduction of Arjen Robben on the pitch. Two penalties by Robben and a Ribery goal later, Bayern was back at the top.
A large talking point about the game surrounded Aaron Hunt and Toni Kroos. Hunt lashed out at Kroos and had Kroos not moved out of the way, he would find himself in the hospital by now and out of action. Hunt was shown a red; I never imagined him as the kind of player to do that.
If one felt sorry for Kroos, one has to feel sorry for Mario Gomez who scored a legitimate goal which was ruled out for some unknown reason.
Every flu victim including Mario Gomez, Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos and Arjen Robben have been training. Nonetheless, Robben is seemingly still doubtful. Bastian Schweinsteiger is training again.
Bayern has largely escaped unscathed without him so far despite a few unwanted defeats. They are ahead of Stuttgart by a full nine points.
Last year, at around the same time, Bayern took on Stuttgart twice—once in the league and once in the German Cup. Both matches were filled with drama.
In the league, Bayern went up 3-0 but was still pegged back. The final score was 5-3 to Bayern. In the Cup, Stuttgart, despite being reduced to 10 men in the second half, kept coming back at Bayern. That one finished 6-3 to Bayern. Miroslav Klose struck in that match.
The most recent match was the last game in the previous season. Bayern won 2-1 in that one. Stuttgart is always a tough opponent. They are coached by a person who was previously deemed good enough for only six months but has spent about a year in Swabia. He is a former Bayern player who goes by the name of Bruno Labbadia.
Stuttgart can play some amazing football. They drew against Dortmund this season. They have a wonderful player in their ranks called Shinji Okazaki. Okazaki has scored some great goals this season. Stuttgart also has one of the best goalkeepers in the league in their ranks—Sven Ulreich.
Otherwise, there is Martin Harnik who performs well for them whenever he is called on.
Games against Stuttgart, who sits seventh in the table currently, are never easy. Bayern lost to them in the season before last (2009-2010). Whenever Bayern plays Stuttgart, there is plenty of entertainment.
I will be heading to Washington DC on Sunday. I will probably be missing the game, but trust me, I am desperate to watch it. So for those who are fortunate enough to catch it, please don't miss it!
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