Preview: FC Bayern vs. Valencia CF

MUNICH, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 18: Arjen Robben talks to his team mate Thomas Mueller (L) during a FC Bayern Muenchen training session ahead of their UEFA Champions League group F match against Valencia CF at the Saebener Strasse training ground.

In Match Day 1 of the 2012-2013 UEFA Champions League. Over the past ~6 weeks, Bayern has been doing well to expunge last year's heartbreak. But it was in this competition that our greatest suffering occurred, and it's only in this competition that we can ever truly balance the scales. Preview below.

The Line-Up

When David Alaba's injury was first reported in summer training, I was hopeful that he might be ready to return by this match. But he's still a casualty, and even if he was healthy, we wouldn't want to throw him into the Champions League grinder without any recent playing time.

Otherwise, though, our long-term absences haven't hurt us too badly. Mandzukic is filling in well for Gomez up top, and Shaqiri has looked well in multiple positions. As far as new boy Javi Martinez, manager Jupp Heynckes says, on the club's official site, "Javi could certainly play from the start. He's improved in training and he's already earned the other players' respect." So ... "could." Not giving much away there. Robben and Ribery have both been training and, depending on how they feel, should be ready to go (according to Four-Four-Two).

Here's my guess:

Mandzukic

Ribery - Müller - Robben

Martinez - Schweinsteiger

Badstuber - Dante - Boateng - Lahm

Neuer

In other words, pretty much the full team aside from the Alaba and Gomez injuries. I'm much more confident in our ability to make up for the absence up front than in the back. The Badstuber - Dante pairing left some holes in open to exploit, and Boateng is sometimes a threat to make a mental error. Will Valencia be able to take advantage? Let's look at ...

The Opponent

Valencia have traditionally been one of the bigger clubs in Spain. In fact, they were the last non-Real, non-Barca team to win La Liga (though that was 9 years ago). Since then, they end up in one of those CL spots more often than not. They haven't mounted a serious challenge at the Liga title in a few years, but they have a good argument as the third-best franchise in Spain.

Their current roster is led by Roberto Soldado, a striker with a pretty good scoring rate who can work from both feet. Soldado has plenty of big-match experience (having played at Real for 3 years), and I think he even played for Spain in their recent WC qualifier. Last year, Valencia's offense was solid, notching 59 goals in 38 Liga matches (behind only two teams ... guess who?). But they're much less active offensively on the road: 40 goals at home vs. only 19 away. And in the CL last year, they had one explosive match, a 7-0 win over Genk, and a pretty good 3-1 win over Valencia. Both at home. In other words, they don't appear to travel very well (certainly relevant for tomorrow, but of course, the pitch is the same size everywhere).

Defensively, Frenchman Aly Cissokho is one of their back-line standouts. I think we played against him in the CL three years ago, though. Hang on, I'll look it up ...

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Yes, he was on the field for Lyon for both legs: Olic's hat trick game and the Ribery red-card game. Victor Ruiz and Joao Pereira are the other defenders I would keep an eye on. In their recent match, a win vs. Celta Vigo, it appears that they run the now-typical 4-2-3-1, with their right side (our right / Ribery side, from the Bayern point of view) the weaker point of their defense. But they held a few normal starters out of action, and they might have been saving a few wrinkles to throw at Bayern.

Final Notes

- The match kicks off at 8:45 PM Munich time from the Allianz - the local time (on your current computer or mobile) will be displayed below):

Convert time zones with worldtimebuddy.com

- I might be watching it in Baltimore, where I have a morning appointment. Anyone know a spot up their that's showing the match? If not, I'll have to race down to DC by game time. I should be able to get a Match Day Thread up in time. If I can't though, consider this the Match Day Thread and rest assured that I'm not dead. Thanks for reading.

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