Preview: FC Bayern vs. VfL Wolfsburg (Updated)

We’re still two days out, but I pretty much won’t be able to think about anything other than the Bayern game for the next 38 hours, so I’ll go ahead and throw up the preview right now. Bayern comes off an ugly loss to Monchengladbach. Combined with some lingering uncertainty from the pre-season and early wins from BvB Dortmund and a few other good clubs, Bayern fans are in desperate need of a good performance this Saturday. The game kicks off at 3:30 PM from the Volkswagen Arena, 9:30 AM Eastern in the USA.

Note that this preview has been updated several times - marked like *  *  *  * this.  Only one error in my initial post, but several other things that need to be expanded upon.

Gol! TV resumes their bizarre and fascinating North American Bundesliga coverage.  So, if your cable package has Gol! TV, you’re in luck.  On the island, ESPN UK will rerun the game at 8 PM.  But hopefully you will already know the result by then, because you were following along at The Offside’s Match Day Thread, which will be running during the game.

THE LINE-UP

It’s doubtful that Jupp Heynckes will panic and do anything crazy after one loss.  All week, we’ve been discussing possible line-up and formation changes, but I imagine we’ll go with our standard line-up, including Ribery (who was limited to reserve action last week with an injury).  So, expect Ribery to come in at the LW spot, Müller to slide back to the CAM/second-striker role, where he really belongs anyway, and Kroos to hit the bench. 

Possible alterations could include Olic getting in at either the first striker or CAM spot, Tymoschuk replacing Gustavo at the CDM spot, or anything to try to jump-start the offense.  Even if the starting line-up is our standard one, you can expect more aggressive and early substitutions if things become bogged down. 

At the very least, I hope Olic is dressed for the game.  What the hell happened with that?

*  *  *  *

Edit - Friday morning now, and Arjen Robben has come down with an injury.  Unbelievable.  Apparently, it's a "back problem." 

The same article says Ribery is likely to start, so we could either:

(1) Move Muller to RW and Kroos into the middle (CAM) spot

(2) Bring in Olic, either at the CAM spot or on the RW himself

(3) Get really crazy and give Alaba or Usami a start.

We'll be back with more as details become available.  I hope this leads to an Olic sighting, one way or another.  If we aren't going to play him even when our other forwards are hurt or uneffective, we ought to sell him and give him a chance to play somewhere else.

*  *  *  *

THE OPPONENT

For the 4 or 5 years I’ve been following the Bundesliga, Wolfsburg has been like one of the handful of best teams in the league.  They finished 5th in 2007-2008, then won the whole thing in 2008-2009, when they had Edin Dzeko and Grafite tearing everyone up.  They’ve also played in the Europa League a few times and accorded themselves pretty well. 

So, I guess I always assumed that they were one of the historically “big” teams in Germany.  But, apparently that isn’t the case - looking at it now, their 2009 title was their first ever, and they’ve actually spent a lot of time outside of the 1. Bundesliga.  Now I’m trying to wrap my mind around the fact that this team I’d always thought to be one the historical greats (at least the equivalent of the Packers of the Bundesliga, if not the Cowboys or 49ers) is traditionally not really big or good.

There’s a group of Wolfsburg fans that sometimes comes into the bar anytime VfL is on real TV.  There’s like 4 or 5 of them, and they appear to speak English without any kind of accent, so that might have led me to believe the club was big enough to have a significant international following?

Anyway.  The Wolves (I assume that’s their nickname? It has to be, right?) brought back Felix Magath this offseason. 

*  *  *  *

I stand corrected.  Magath came back in the spring, before the past season ended.

*  *  *  *

Magath is a former Bayern man that led the VfL to their Bundesliga title, then departed for Schalke, then came back a few months ago.  They suffered an embarrassing opening round loss to lowly RB Leipzig in the Pokal, but then rebounded to crush a decent Köln club in week 1 of the Bundesliga.  Brazilian forward Diego is still listed on their roster, but a few of my readers have told me that Magath is basically waiting to sell or dump him.  But they do have Christian Träsch, Marco Russ and Simon Kjaer, the young Danish defender that was rumored to be a target of FC Bayern this past off-season. 

*  *  *  *

More updates here - Diego is done with Wolfsburg, as this article describes pretty clearly.  And Helmes, who I describe below in pretty dismissive terms, was actually once a very promising talent, and is still sufficiently threatening.  Thanks to reader Lars for the new information.

*  *  *  * 

Wolfburg’s offense struggled last year, scoring only 43 goals and having a few goal-droughts that lasted for multiple games.  But last week their offense kicked into high gear early in the going, let by Patrick Helms’ two goals.  Helmes has played a few games for the German national side, but never established himself as a regular.  In fact, I think I’ve only seen him play for Die Nationalelf once or twice, and he looked pretty weak if I’m remembering it correctly.  So if this guy starts scoring goals against us, I give up.

AROUND THE BUNDESLIGA

Dortmund is on the road vs. Hoffenheim, ‘Gladbach hosts VfB Stuttgart, and Schalke plays Köln in a pretty interesting matchup.  ESPN 3 is not running the Bayern game, but they will have live broadcasts of the Stuttgart/Gladbach match, as well as Sunday’s Kaiserslautern/Augsburg match for some reason.  Too early in the season to know who to root for in any of these, but since so many of you are so scared of Stuttgart, I guess we should take Gladbach’s side in that one.

FINAL NOTES

- I’ll probably be back to update this preview before game time, just wanted to get it up there now so everyone can weigh in.  Does anyone expect more severe line-up or formation changes than what I posited above?

- Wolfburg’s stadium looks pretty cool - the Volkswagen Stadion.  Only about 9 years old, looks pretty sharp, and built right on a canal.  It has high sides but an open roof, which leaves it exposed to …

- Slight chance of rain on Saturday.  It’s going to rain hard tomorrow in Wolfsburg, but tapering off to “passing showers” on game day.

- I will be watching the Bayern game, but I have to admit I’ll be toggling back and forth between that and the QPR match (which starts at 10 AM).  First Premier League game in 15 years.  You’ll have to forgive me.

As always, feel free to email us at bayern.offside@yahoo.com to point our errors, and you can also join our twitter feed at http://twitter.com/bayern_offside.  We’re up to 97 followers, so if you time it right you could be lucky #100.  Sorry, there is no prize.  Thanks for reading.

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