Preview: FC Bayern vs. Bayer Leverkusen

Dean Mouhtaropoulos

Bayern is riding high at the top of the 1. Bundesliga table, with 8 wins from 8 chances, and also comes off a Champions League win. But Leverkusen presents a tricky challenge. The two square off on Sunday afternoon in the headline match of ...

Match Week 9 of the 2012-2013 Bundeliga season. Die Roten are looking formidable, as we've been able to grind out wins even through injuries and (at times) less than perfect form. Leverkusen has an unbeaten streak of their own, spanning 8 matches across all competitions - although they have quite a few draws in there. The last time either of these clubs lost was Bayern's trip to Borisov on October 2.

The Line-Up

Grudnik gives a good run-down of player availability issues. A quick summary: Ribery is doubtful, Martinez is questionable, Alaba is pretty much back to 100 percent, and Gomez is making progress but still not close. Today's news is that Robben "could" be back. Even if he's fit, though, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Jupp Heynckes want to bring him back slowly.

With midweek play for several weeks in a row, you could certainly see a call for some rotation. But this is also a match Bayern really wants to win, against an opponent that we can't take lightly. So we definitely can't roll out a "B" team. Here's my guess:

Pizarro

Shaqiri - Kroos - Mueller

Tymoschuk - Schweinsteiger

Alaba - Badstuber - Dante - Lahm

Neuer

Some guess work, certainly - Tymoschuk hasn't played much, and Pizarro is normally second choice. But those guys are still talented and can still get the job done.

As far as the back line, I hope that Alaba gets some chances at LB after how he played last year. Boateng has been playing well, nothing against him. But if we're going to rotate CBs, this would be a good time to start.

The Opponent

An analysis of their current position would lead you to say "yeah, another Neverkusen season" - 3 wins, 3 draws, 2 losses, +2 goal differential, 7th position in the table. Right in their "decent, not spectacular" wheelhouse. But in fact, this has been a tale of 2 (short) seasons for Bayer Levs. They lost 2 of their first 3 in the league, including a 3-0 drubbing in their visit to the Signal-Iduna. They followed that up with a 0-0 draw vs. Metalist Kharkiv in their Europa League opener. At that point, things were looking pretty gloomy for Bayer 04.

The ship has been righted in the intervening few weeks, though. Back to back wins over Augsburg and SgVgg brought them back to the top half, and draws vs. Stuttgart and Mainz have at least allowed them to continue to pick up points. As we discussed last night, they're coming off a decisive 4-0 win over Rapid Vienna in the Europa League.

Tactically, Leverkusen seems to prefer a wide 4-3-3 with Schuerrle the point man of the front 3 and Rolfes the middle-of-the-park guy in the center of the midfield 3. Stefan Kießling, their leading scorer with 5 goals across all competitions, usually lines up on the left front-wing. He's a hard-working (and weird-looking) forward who plays more like a striker than a wing. But he's a tall, lumbering type, which usually Bayern doesn't seem to have too much trouble with - it's usually the quick-footed speedsters that bother us. Famous last words, I'm sure.

Elsewhere in the Competition

VfB Stuttgart, having ruined Germany's run of perfection in continental play, now gets a chance to ruin Eintracht Frankfurt's excellent start in the early Sunday match. Ruiners. Before that, though, suddenly respectable Freiburg (winners of 2 straight, in decisive fashion) host Dortmund on Saturday afternoon, and Schalke hosts strugglign Nuernberg. And earlier today, Hamburg beat hapless Augsburg to move up to 4th (temporarily) in the table.

Final Notes

- Our match will be carried live on Gol! TV, right after Eintracht Frankfurt vs. the Ruiners. No word on who our commentators will be, but I'll see what I can discern before Sunday. Stay tuned to the twitter feed.

- Alright ... somehow the widget has only made this more complicated. But I'm pretty sure that Europe ends their summer time this Sunday morning, meaning they "gain" an hour before Sunday rolls around. In other words, the match will start at 5:30 Munich time, and at the following time wherever you currently are:

Time zone converter at worldtimebuddy.com

It's 12:30 PM Eastern and 9:30 AM Pacific, if you're in the USA. I think.

- Some good stuff happening in the FanPosts sections. The aforementioned injury report from Grudnik, Anton's pointing out a hilarious Beckenbauer quote, and Kate L's update on the CL bracket challenge are all worth reading. Also, note that Gilly posted .gifs of the last match's goals. If the goals are high in number, we might need to avoid posting them in the comments section of the main match recap, so be sure to look down in the FanShots section for your .giffing needs.

- I have a few more things to say, but I'm pretty sure my wife is annoyed that I'm doing this on a Friday night, so I'll cut it off for now. But maybe check back for an update between now and Sunday. We'll have the Match Day Thread up before game-time, as always. Thanks for reading.

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