Match Week 16 of the 2012-2013 Bundesliga season. Bayern sits atop the league table. But we also sat atop the league table at this point last season, and the end of the fall season combined with the start of the winter season took us out of that position in a hurry. The club will be guarding against a let-down against a weaker opponent.
A run through the injury list: Robben's groin is OK, but now his back is a problem. He might be out until after the new year. Gustavo remains an absentee, and Holger Badstuber is out for the rest of the year. Daniel van Buyten appeared to pull up limping for a minute after a sliding tackle on Wednesday, but I can't find any indication he's been in the trainer's room, so let's assume he's OK.
Philipp Lahm had a bit of rest as Rafinha got the start on Wednesday, so I'll assume he's good to go. Here's my line-up prediction:
Ribery - Mueller - Shaqiri
Tymoschuk - Martinez
Alaba - Dante - Boateng - Lahm
The GK spot is a wild guess. I just figure, it has to happen some time, so maybe it will be this weekend. As you can see, I expect a bit of rotation, but with many of the normal starters still involved. As always, if you think I got something wrong, let me know in the comment section.
It's time for a weighty confession (which I'm pretty sure most of you already know): I actually thought these guys were going to be good. At the beginning of every season, I predict a "big climber" - a team that I expect to ... not necessarily challenge for silverware, but to at least outperform expectations and maybe improve on their finish. And this year, I picked Augsburg, who now sit in a tie for last place.
Now, to be fair, I did say when I selected them that I was trying to make it a bold, surprising pick. It would be no fun to pick a team who's already in the top 6 to make a "big climb" to the top 4. But make no mistake, I was totally wrong about these guys. They don't score much (their 11 goals-for are 2nd-worst in the league), their midfield can't win balls and can't maintain possession (they routinely control less than 45 percent of the ball, even at home and even against non-elite teams), and they never seem to come up with clutch plays when they really need them. Big forward Sascha Mölders has been injured, and indeed in 5 matches since his return, he's had 3 goals and the Auggies have picked up a few draws. But that's not really an excuse; these guys don't have a lot of speed, don't have much depth, and will struggle to even stay in the race for survival.
In response to their ongoing decrepitude, we proposed the nickname "The Clowns of the League." Having heard no objection, let it hereby be considered adopted.
Elsewhere in the Competition
Today, Hoffenheim (with Markus Babbel recently dismissed) went down to defeat at Hamburg. HSV is now level in 5th place (though with one more match played then everyone else), while Hoffenheim is in deep trouble - despite a game in hand, they're mired in the playoff spot, with a visit from BVB their only chance to earn points before the break.
Tomorrow, in addition to FC Bayern, Dortmund is also in action, as they host VfL Wolfsburg. The Wolves are barely any better than any of these other bums we've been talking about: they're stuck in 15th and have a -9 goal differential. Remember when VfL had Grafite and Dzeko, and it seemed like they might be one of the clubs that could challenge Bayern's reign? Now they might be fighting the drop.
Meanwhile, Eintracht and Schalke, both of whom surged early and have fallen back recently, are also in action tomorrow. They play Bremen and VfB Stuttgart, respectively.
- We're at 9:30 AM my time, 3:30 PM local. Sorry about the late preview, busy week for me. I should have the Match Day Thread up early.