Pressure Mounts as Bayern Munich Face Form Test in Audi Cup

Clark Whitney@@Mr_BundesligaFeatured ColumnistAugust 3, 2015

Bayern's head coach Pep Guardiola watches new player Arturo Vidal from Chile , right,  and Xabi Alonso from Spain during the a training session in Munich, Germany, on Wednesday, July 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

The preseason has been a roller coaster for Bayern Munich, who have experienced some significant highs and some rather deep lows. In total, they've won two matches, lost one in regular time and had three draws turn into penalty shoot-out defeats.

The most recent was a German Super Cup defeat to Wolfsburg, a match that saw the Bavarians' lead snuffed out at the death before the German Cup winners beat the Bundesliga champions in spot-kicks.

The defeat to Wolfsburg was a wake-up call for the Bavarians, who conceded the trophy to deserving winners in the form of the Lower Saxony side. Bayern played well below their best and will need to do much better if they are to reach their goals in the 2015-16 campaign.

Fortunately, Pep Guardiola and company have a chance to boost their morale ahead of this weekend's DFB-Pokal first round and the following week's Bundesliga opener. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Bayern will host the Audi Cup, a four-team tournament that will be a good gauge of their quality and readiness as the long season approaches.

Real Madrid, AC Milan and Tottenham Hotspur will join the Bavarians, who will face the Italians on Tuesday before contesting either the championship or third-place match against the winner or loser of the other fixture the following day.

Preseason fixtures and tournaments are rarely of great importance on their own, but in this case, there will be a bit more pressure on the Germans. A few mistakes are tolerable, but repeated failure to reach their top level is an indication of form.

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Their fans will be expecting a signal of intent after the club's recent shortcomings, especially considering Bayern's historical dominance in the competition: Previously, the hosts won the 2009 and 2013 editions, coming in runners-up to Barcelona in 2011.

Bayern were winners in their last Audi Cup appearance, in 2013.
Bayern were winners in their last Audi Cup appearance, in 2013.Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

On an individual level, the Audi Cup will offer a chance for players who recently joined Bayern's first-team training to get in a last bit of practice before the season proper begins. Fit-again winger Arjen Robben made his first preseason appearance against Wolfsburg and was perhaps not at his sharpest, but he will look to make a step forward this week.

New signing Arturo Vidal will look to integrate into the squad more on the pitch, having set foot on the pitch for the first time as a Bayern player in the Wolfsburg match.

Robben has long been a key player for Bayern, and his form and fitness could make or break the club's hopes in the Champions League, if not on the domestic stage. The Cup will give him and new signing Douglas Costa a chance to develop some chemistry as the Brazilian looks more and more a likely candidate for a full-time starting role in Guardiola's team.

Vidal was a big name signing from Champions League runners-up Juventus, and great things are expected of him at Bayern. He has a combination of attributes that is unique to Bayern and perhaps all of world football. But under Guardiola, the midfield is a precise area tactically, and even the Chilean in all his greatness will need to show that he is willing and able to provide exactly what Guardiola wants.

Finally, the Audi Cup is a good opportunity for Guardiola to redeem himself, to prove he knows how to get the best out of his players and to coach his team to victory.

There were some questionable tactical decisions on his part that proved costly against Wolfsburg, from starting the slow and aging Xabi Alonso in central midfield to substituting spot-kick specialists Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski with a penalty shootout still entirely possible. To some extent, the trainer will have to win back the faith of the Bayern fans.

An Audi Cup win would not be enough to inspire confidence from all the cynics, but it would be a good start as the 2015-16 season approaches. We'll soon see how much Guardiola has learned from the preseason and just how prepared his players are for the challenges that wait ahead.



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