When we previewed the season's second half back in January, we identified the first key portion as the initial 5 matches in Bundesliga play. They hope was that (1) we could win most or all, while avoiding injury and building confidence, and (2) we could extend our lead atop the standings in so doing. Well, the results are in: Bayern went 5-0 in those 5 matches, notching 13 goals without conceding a single one. And we currently sit 18 points ahead of our closest chasers for the 1. Bundesliga crown. Even if Dortmund wins tomorrow (no guarantee against a tough Eintracht squad), Bayern will still have a nearly unapproachable lead.
The line-up for the day was mostly the starting XI we've become used to, with only Javi Martinez out (nursing a bruised toe joint) and Daniel van Buyten in for Boateng at CB (if you can even call that a change). I missed much of the first half, but Bayern took the lead late in the period from a set piece. Bastian did a good job of heading the ball back to where his striker could make a play on it, and Mandzu planted it in the net:
That goal definitely sucked some of the life out of the Wolfsburg crowd, as VfL had been hanging in their and creating some things of their own up until that point. After the restart, though, it was something of a dull affair; Bayern made some runs forward, but were mostly content to run time off the clock; VfL struggled to put much together; and several yellow cards assessed against both sides kept the match from flowing.
I would have loved to see some earlier substitutions, but Robben and Tymoschuk didn't get on the pitch until the 79th minute, and Gomez until the 82d. Seems like we could have used our depth better, with a big match coming up in 4 days, but I guess Jupp Heynckes has earned the benefit of the doubt recently. Even with little time to shine, though, Robben made his presence felt with an emphatic late goal from a perfect Mueller pass:
It will be interesting to see what's on tap for Tuesday ... Mandzukic will probably get the start at striker and Gomez and Robben both seem likely to start on the bench. There's still no work on the status of Javi Martinez. Gustavo is a capable middie in his own right, though (his wayward blast in the 2d half today notwithstanding), and his ball-winning skills and rough-house tactics could be useful against Arsenal. Any chance for a weird move, like starting both Ribery and Robben? Probably not, but I guess I wouldn't rule anything out.
We'll be back with more later. Check out the poll below, and have a great weekend.