Preview: FC Bayern vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen (plus Robben controversy)

A big match looms for FC Bayern, as we hit the road to take on Bayer Leverkusen. Bayern sits in second place in the table, coming off a decisive home win over Schalke 04. Leverkusen, meanwhile, sits in fifth - outside the group of 4 that have hopes of challenging for the title, but still a dangerous opponent.

Before the preview, let’s take a brief run through the papers. Why, who would have guessed - Arjen Robben is the subject of controversy! ESPN Soccernet reports that Robben considers recent criticism of him to be "personal warfare," and says his current situation is "not ideal." The weirdest part of the story:

"… although he recently confirmed he is not 100% fit, he has said that he would like to be given the chance to build up his fitness. ‘Besides the agitation and dirty games that have been played, it is a waste that I didn't get a chance to maintain my rhythm for three matches,’ he said."

See, that’s the thing. I understand no one likes to sit on the bench. Talented players always want to be on the pitch contributing. I also understand that it’s frustrating to be injured. When your body isn’t feeling 100% then (of course) your game will be altered and you won’t be able to do all the things you normally do. But to complain about BOTH of those things at once is a little incongruous. I guess his argument is "what do you expect from me? I’m injured! And also, why am I not playing EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY GAME???"

I do think some of the criticism is a little exaggerated - he’s still an excellent player, and there’s no need to attack him personally. But, when he was scoring like crazy in 2010, everyone was on his jock, acting like he was the greatest player in the world. He has to expect that people are going to be more critical when he goes through a slump.

Anyway, given our possibly short roster, it looks like he’ll get a chance to make a statement this weekend. Let’s dive into the preview.

The Line-up

Injuries abound.  Ribery and Badstuber are both described as “doubtful” on the club’s official site.  Müller and Boateng picked up minor knocks, but should be ready to go.  Schweinsteiger, van Buyten, and Breno are still long-term absences.  Diego Contento returned to “individual drills” two weeks ago, and we haven’t heard anything since.  I would hope he’d be ready if we needed him, but I can’t find any news on his availability.  If anyone has some inside information, I’d love to hear it.

Lahm missed the Germany-France friendly, but said he’d probably be ready by the weekend.  So, I’m going to go ahead and make the following guess:

vs Leverkusen

In other words, I think Lahm will play, and I think Tymoschuk will start at CM along with Alaba, with Goose moving to CB.  This is not a sure thing, though - Badstuber still might be able to go, which would give us more options.  But everyone sounds pretty pessimistic on Ribery.

The Opponent

Bayer Levs is dealing with massive injury problems as well - Michael Ballack is still out, Sidney Sam is still out, and now it looks like defender Verdan Corluka might miss out with a leg problem.  Schürrle will wear a mask for that broken nose, but should be ready to play.

Despite the ongoing injury problems, Jupp Heynckes’ old club has made a go of it this season, sitting in 5th place and with a +5 goal differential.  Their loss to Barcelona in the first leg of their CL tie probably left them without much chance to advance, and made me look like an idiot for saying they were going to give Barca a tough fight.  But they turned it around with a good road win over Köln last week, dominating possession and smothering the Köln midfield in a 2-0 win.  In their last 3 Bundesliga matches, they have 2 decisive wins and a close loss to Dortmund, as Bernd Leno’s solid play has papered over some of the club’s injury troubles.  If the National side is looking for a backup to Neuer, I think this kid would look like a better bet than Wiesse.  Also, he turns 20 years old on Sunday.  Hopefully the boys can give smash 2 or 3 goals past him as a birthday gift.

Final Notes

- We finally get some love from Gol! TV - they’ll be broadcasting the game live tomorrow.  Kick-off is at 3:30 PM local time, 9:30 AM here in DC.

- Weather looks good - cloudy, but mild temperatures and no chance of rain.

- This will be the first match at the BayArena since Barcelona made the trip for CL play.  The Leverkusen fans will be eager to get a win, and you know the atmosphere will be intense.  If you’re travelling to the match, please take any necessary precautions and don’t be a tough guy.

- Recall also that Philipp Lahm and Leverkusen supposedly hate each other.  This always seemed a little forced, but … fine.  It’s a rivalry game.

- We’ll be here tomorrow morning with line-ups and the Match Day Chat Box.  By the way, the Chat Box is much better than the old Match Day Thread - I don’t know why it took me so long to make that switch.  To those of you that kept pushing me to do it, thanks.  And thanks for reading.

*  *  *  *

Havde March 2nd, 2012 at 10:14 am

Did you see the other comments made by Robben? About the dutch coach pretty much being better then Heynckes and that he recieves better passes from the dutch players. I can only shake my head, if he is still here after summer then I will be speechless.

Jordan March 2nd, 2012 at 10:55 am

My hope is that Robben is in Bayern not only after this Summer, but for few more years. We are having his (and Ribery’s)exceptional offensive talant and trying to turn him away. I will gladly part ways with JH- stubborn, conservative and acting as an old primadona coach with no big qualities. There are just a few tallents like Robben in world soccer today and he plays for us. What we re trying to do, make him go? He will find a new club in a blink, where we’re going to find another winger of his caliber. Shaqiri? Maybe, but wouldn’ be fantastic to have all 3 of them(Rob/Rib/Shaq)in the team and sometimes on the pitch. Do not make a few words Rob said into drama, let him talk and play the way he did versus 04 and England.

RW911 March 2nd, 2012 at 11:05 am

Phil, hope this sheds perspective on what he has been through.

Ribery – the “best player in the team” as of now, says he doesn’t want Robben on the wing. ‘Frankly’ Ribery talks too much and since its time to get personal, he esp talks too much for a married man with kids who is famous and (under criminal investigation) for an affair with an underage prostitute.

Thomas Muller, who Robben isn’t much in awe of (I’m sure he respects him though) seems to have stolen his spot even if that isn’t Mr. Muller’s natural playing position.

Jupp “lurves” Kroos and likes to start him every time which almost always means Robben’s benching as Muller style random become more necessary instead of solo dribbling as Kroos can’t bring the pace.

Bayern’s latest signing Shaqiri is touted to compete for Robben’s spot. I honestly don’t like that guy, too loud for his stature and a lot of him seems to be hyped.

The last straw:
Beckenbauer did the damage again by criticizing Robben in the same breath while praising Ribery. He almost put him down for loving his family a bit too much. IMO How a player celebrates should be left to him. Franz shouldn’t worry if he lays down a mat and prays to Allah for 10 seconds after scoring as long as he brings in the medals and is a decent team player (unlike the likes of Tevez).

I don’t know what President likes to bleed his club like this cuz earlier in the year, Beckenbauer almost single handedly jacked up Schalke’s asking bid for Manuel Neuer as well.

The only guy supporting him for now is Hoeness and his voice is being lost in the din. If you ask me, there is ONE man besides KHR who understands Bayern best and that is Uli. Hope Arjen listens to reason and to Uli, signing that extension ASAP.

I think Jupp is having communication and/or ego problems with Robben cuz he supports Ribery and Kroos too much (and that means Robben’s ouster). While the “Flying Dutch Glassman’s” comments are unfortunate, I am not surprised. If this is a “family atmosphere” at the club, some people oughta treat him like one. Ribery was supported through his worst season. Robben, having proven is worth earlier, is only being fair in asking for a similar faith from Heynckes. And going by the way things are, the coach doesn’t really have much of an incentive in benching Robben cuz this club surely needs better results now than ever before in this season!

Jordan March 2nd, 2012 at 11:12 am

Phil, guys, anyone knows a good web site for tomorrow’s game. Don’t have Gol!tv…

Phil March 2nd, 2012 at 11:31 am

@ Good points, although I don’t think Uli is the only one on his side. Mueller (remember, the guy Robben punched in the face in front of 60,000 people?) also came out in support of him, and said that people who call Robben “selfish” don’t understand football.

All the personal stuff is a waste of time. I agree, it doesn’t matter how he celebrates goals. I’ve repeatedly said, when he’s healthy and locked-in, he’s one fo the best players in the world. But, you know, so was Michael Owen. He just couldn’t. Stay. Healthy. It wasn’t his fault. Didn’t make him a bad person. Just made him a player that no team could rely upon, because every match it was “Owen gets the start … IF he’s healthy.”

Phil March 2nd, 2012 at 11:32 am

@ Jordan – check in tomorrow before the match

Chullalobo March 2nd, 2012 at 11:36 am

I think we should definitely try to bring Giroud to the Allianz next season, the guy has everything Gomez lacks: Technical ability, amazing control of the ball, etc… he would bring the competition to Gomez and this will be better for the team. And what do you guys think about Sahin (since he is not being played at Madrid) and Debuchy? Also give me your thoughts on the Rafinha to madrid move

quaazi March 2nd, 2012 at 11:45 am

I’m so tired of Robben’s bullshit by now. He’d better start delivering on the pitch after these last 8 months (this sentence wouldn’t seem out of place a bit more than a year ago).

*  *  *  *

Chullalobo |  March 2nd, 2012 at 11:36 am

I think we should definitely try to bring Giroud to the Allianz next season, the guy has everything Gomez lacks: Technical ability, amazing control of the ball, etc… he would bring the competition to Gomez and this will be better for the team. And what do you guys think about Sahin (since he is not being played at Madrid) and Debuchy? Also give me your thoughts on the Rafinha to madrid move

quaazi |  March 2nd, 2012 at 11:45 am

I’m so tired of Robben’s bullshit by now. He’d better start delivering on the pitch after these last 8 months (this sentence wouldn’t seem out of place a bit more than a year ago).

corner

Akash_bayernfan_india |  March 2nd, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Robben’s comments are sad to say the least….instead of requesting the coach to give him a chance or fighting his way back to the team or actually just defending a bit more or being a better team player….he complains to the media…bayern paid as much for Robben’s treatment ALONE as US of America for treatment of injuries of its ENTIRE ARMY in Afghanistan ….
….
& now he says he is thinking of other options….firstly he plays only once every never & that also if he plays poorly, he expects a club to keep quite…his style of play is selfish…his attitude comparable to Ronaldo’s…

no matter what magic he does on the pitch…I would happily live & wait for the UCL for another 10000 years than accept such loud mouths to play for bayern….they are a blot to the name of professionalism..

you can call your coach bad & say you receive poor passes from low standard players while you give none yourself….What would you have done if you would have been in the Argentine NT…

There’s a reason you arent the best….there’s a reason that people dislike you….there’s a reason that you will never be a Messi or a Xavi, Iniesta or Schweini & that reason is your attitude….I wish you leave FC bayern & see yourself unemployed for the rest of your FUCKING LIFE…i wish the same for C.Ronaldo…YOU GUYS SUCK!!!!

Vrdo4ever |  March 2nd, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Thanks Phil,

From what I read too, I completely agree with your starting lineup.
Robben does not make sense, and should never talk like that about his coach and his teammates. I understand that the press and a few people have not been entirely fair to him, but thhats not an excuse to talk like that. Especially when he said about bringing back the DVD of the Netherlands match so in Munich they will see how good he is. I absolutely hated this comment.

Also Phil made a good point about him that he played so well in the past and that he has to realize that now that he is not as good people can be critical of him.

If he keeps us talking like this, I don’t give a shit which player it is, he should get the fuck out of Bayern.
PS. And I still haven’t forgiven him for punching my boy Muller that time.

Tomas March 2nd, 2012 at 1:40 pm

@RW911 Beckenbauer isnt our prez anymore so I dont see why his comments about Robben matter?
I think some of you read a bit too much into this. There are plenty of players who are prima donas. They get their feelings hurt too easily and spout out shit. Both Franck and Robben are perfect examples of this. Once Robben gets back to 100% match fitness and scores a couple goals, all this shit will be forgotten about.
I remember when Lahm spouted off, which IMO was nothing but the truth… people who were pissed off at the time forgot about it shortly thereafter.
I seriously doubt Uli and Co. are looking to sell/transfer Robben because of this. That would be stupid and reckless management. Things will calm down and some of you who are bitching about Robben now will most likely forget about this when he is back scoring like he was before.

PS Phil, probably a typo but ‘Bayern Levs’… wrong state buddy!

Im betting we walk out with a win but its not going to be an easy one. I think we are going to have trouble between Goose and Tymo and I think thats were the majority of the attack will be coming through… right down the center.

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