Preview: FC Bayern vs. 1. FC Köln

MUNICH, GERMANY - MAY 03: Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, Philipp Lahm, Jerome Boateng and Diego Contento await the ball during a FC Bayern Muenchen training session at training ground Saebener Strasse on May 3, 2012 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Nadine Rupp/Bongarts/Getty Images)

In the final match of the 2011-2012 1. Bundesliga season. Bayern supporters could be forgiven if our thoughts are wandering elsewhere - the upcoming Pokal final, the summer transfer season, and the 2012 Euro Championships loom large, and of course thinking about the Champions League final is occupying about 60 percent of my waking hours these days. But we've got one more league match to knock out, and it is an interesting one in several ways. Climb aboard.

The Line-Up

Some of the same weird and contradictory currents influencing the line-up for tomorrow as last week: seeking to get some playing time for the lesser-used guys, trying to work players into roles they may need to play later this month due to suspension, a few statistical / personal goals, and above all a desire to avoid injuring any of our key players. The club's official preview gives a few hints, but nothing concrete (Gomez says he wants to win and wants to score, and keep in mind he's currently 1 behind KJH for the Bundi scoring title. But he also acknowledges that we have bigger goals later in the month).

Here's my prediction - based on guess-work, as always:

Gomez

Ribery - Olic - Usami

Pranjic - Gustavo

Contento - Badstuber - Tymoschuk - Lahm

Neuer

This would be a pretty cautious line-up (Bastian, Robben, Mueller, Kroos, Boateng all on the bench) but would still give Gomez, Franck and Lahm a few minutes to work on timing and stay match-fit, and also give Gomez a chance to notch a goal (or 2?) if he wanted back-to-back scoring crowns. I could see the line-up getting even more cautious, such as not including Ribery, but I doubt it would get much more adventurous. A Robben or Schweinsteiger injury is not what we need at this point.

If you have other thoughts, definitely leave them in the comments.

The Opponent

I was somewhat aware that things were gloomy over in Köln, but I had no idea exactly how dire. Lukas Podolski is headed to Arsenal after the season. The club can finish no higher than 16th, which would put them in a playoff to stay in the top tier. And if Hertha Berlin wins, they could be going down automatically.

On March 10, Die Geißböcke beat that same Hertha squad through a Christian Clemens goal in a scrappy match that left them thinking that they'd at least be safe as far as relegation (even if they weren't having a great year). But that was the last Bundesliga match that Köln won, and their subsequent 8-game winless streak has been punctuated by 5 matches in which they gave up at least 3 goals. Last week, they faced a trip to Freiburg in which they would have liked a win, but would have been satisfied with at least a draw and a vital point. They got crushed 4-1, with defensive breakdowns dooming them once again. This season, Köln has the worst defensive record in the league with 71 goals allowed, and the worst goal differential at -33. Ouch.

Podolski is obviously their main weapon, with 18 of their 38 league goals, but Bayern's site indicated he missed practice with a stomach problem. I'd hope Lucky Lukas would at least make it back for his (maybe?) final home game, but we'll have to wait and see.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga

As mentioned, Hertha and Köln are battling to stay out of 17th and the automatic relegation spot (Kaiserslautern being already doomed). Hertha is at home vs. Hoffenheim and currently had a pretty big goal differential advantage, so if they win, Köln would go down with either a loss or a draw against us.

I'm told that teams 5 through 7 in the Bundesliga will go to the Europa League, with the Pokal's automatic spot being released because both finalists will be in the CL. If that's true, then Wolfsburg (at Stuttgart) and H96 (at home vs. Kaiserslautern) are both in the running for a Europa spot. Hannover currently has a 1-point edge, so if both clubs win, they play in Europe again. Solid little run they're putting together up there in Hannover.

Down on the Farm

In the 2. Bundesliga, 3 clubs remain alive for the playoff-promotion spot (with SpVgg and Eintracht already assured of top tier ball next year). Fortuna Duesseldorf has the inside track: they're at home to MSV Duisburg, and a win puts them in the playoff. But if they stumble, the next two clubs, Paderborn 07 and St. Pauli, are playing each other. The winner of that one could pass Fortuna should they lose, and get a chance to play Hertha or Köln in the two-leg playoff.

At the bottom end of the 2. Bundi, Hansa Rostock and Alemmania are already set to go down, but there's a 3-way fight to stay out of that 16th spot. Karlsruhe currently occupies it, but they're at home to Eintracht, who might be in a "give the B-team a shot" mood (having already clinched promotion). A Karlsruhe win would put pressure on FC Erzgebirge Aue and Energie Cottbus, both currently on 32 points. Erzegebirge is hosting a lower-mid-table Bochum side (how they've fallen), and Cottbus is at home vs. middling Union Berlin. Erzebirge and Cottbus can seal survival with wins, but if either or both loses, Karslruhe can pass them. This would be especially awful for Energie Cottbus, Nils Petersen's old side, who were mid-table at the end of February but haven't won since.

Is this boring everyone? I find it fascinating, but if everyone is skipping over these sections, let me know and I'll cut it out.

Final Notes

- The match begins at 3:30 PM Köln time, 9:30 AM here on the east coast of the USA. It will be carried live on Gol! TV, and we'll be here before kickoff with a Match Day Thread.

- Chelsea's David Luiz and Gary Cahill are both set to miss this weekend's FA Cup final in England. They could still be fit by the 19th, but they're running out of time to get their work in.

- On the same subject - there's a chance Daniel van Buyten could be on the bench, and maybe even get a 5-minute workout towards the end of the match. He was able to return to full practice this week. If we had designs on leaning on him during the CL Final, this would be a great chance to see what he can do at match speed. Thanks for reading.

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