Match Week 10 of the 2012-2013 Bundesliga season. Bayern remains in first place, but comes off of a loss in league play and has several rivals within striking distance. A win here would give Die Roten some breathing space, and also set the team up nicely for the upcoming Champions League clash. A loss, and suddenly everything is thrown into flux.
Franck Ribery took part in full squad training yesterday, and is said to be fit if he's needed. Great news for Bayern, difficult news for anyone trying to figure out a likely starting lineup. Rafinha, despite going down hard on Wednesday, is available if needed. Alaba is obviously back to full fitness, and Tymoschuk also showed on Wednesday he can play a role if needed.
Badstuber's muscle tear is worse than it first looked, as he will now miss 2 weeks (although no surgery is required). And Gomez is inching ever closer, but still not ready yet. Plenty of options for Jupp Heynckes, but here's my guess:
Ribery - Kroos - Robben
Martinez - Schweinsteiger
Alaba - Dante - Boateng - Lahm
I considered whether maybe Ribery would sit - not so much because of injury, but just to keep him fresh for Lille and to be 100 percent safe. But I actually think he'd do well to get some work in on Saturday. As far as the back line - Alaba is obviously capable of playing LB, and now that Badstuber is gone, he needs to (Contento is an option, but that would be perplexing and frustrating).
As for Müller's absence? No reason, just have a hunch they may want to keep him fresh for Wednesday.
After a somewhat disappointing season last year, HSV made some moves this past summer. The biggest obviously was bringing van der Vaart back from England to be the midfield play-maker they needed. But they also grabbed Rene Adler from Leverkusen and Petr Jiráček from VfL after his solid Euro 2012 performance. So far, the reviews are positive, as Hamburg sits in 7th place in the table (only 2 points behind Dortmund and Bayer Levs, who are tied for 4th). They lost in the opening round of the Pokal, but the fans probably aren't too upset about that, especially as the club chases a European spot.
Hamburg still has some issues to work out, though. Their 4 home goals scored are tied for 5th-lowest in the league, despite the fact that they try to press forward whenever they can. Rafa van der Vaart is a known commodity, as an attacking middie, but they're going with a relative unknown at the striker spot: Artjoms Rudņevs, a young Latvian who had never played in a league higher than Poland until this year. But Rudņevs has some ball skills and a good work rate, and he might end up being an excellent player. And with a touch passer/string-puller like van der Vaart at the 9, Hamburg can certainly beat you if you give them space.
At GK, Adler didn't get off to the start Hamburg had hoped for, but has settled in nicely of recent (only 1 goal allowed in the last 4, 3 of which were wins). Earlier this year, Thorsten Fink was experimenting with some weird line-up that had Heiko Westermann in the midfield; that was a passing fancy, though, and the big captain is now back to anchoring the back line.
Elsewhere in the Competition
As I write this, Eintracht Frankfurt and Fuerth are locked in a 1-1 game in the second half. If Fuerth can steal this one in the second half, my bold prediction would come true (and Eintracht would fall further off the pace after their hot start). Over the weekend, the other big matches will be Dortmund hosting Stuttgart (BVB looking to maybe climb into 3rd, Stuttgart trying to continue their mini-run), Leverkusen battling Fortuna D (Fortuna started off red hot and has now hit a rough patch), and Mainz, the quiet contenders, trying to solidify or improve their current 6th-place standing.
- The match will be carried live on Gol! TV in North America. They have the Dortmund game on at 10:30 Eastern, then Bundesliga Magazine, then the Bayern match. A nice Saturday set-up from Gol! And it looks like they're going to lay off the non-stop "River Plate vs. Boca Juniors" promos.
- We kick off from Hamburg at 6:30 local time. Check below to see the time in your current area. As always, you may need to click the AM/PM button to get it to work:
Time zone converter at worldtimebuddy.com
- Leo Messi just had a son.
- Weird things going on in Vienna, as David Alaba says he was the object of racists jokes.
- Finally, I know it's harder now that the side-bars aren't right next to the opening read, but when you have a minute, look over some of the stuff people have posted under FanPosts and FanShots. There's often some interesting conversation going on there. And if you post something you think is especially cool, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe I'll link to it from a main-page post. Thanks for reading.