Preview: FC Bayern vs. Werder Bremen

Shaun Botterill

The first quarter of the spring semester was a roaring success, and the second quarter is off to a great start as well. FC Bayern now returns to domestic play, with a near-insurmountable lead in the Bundesliga table. Will we see squad rotation now that mid-week play has returned? Can anyone mount a serious challenge to Bayern's dominance in league play? And when will the hot streak come to an end? We'll find out in ...

Match Week 23 of the 2012-2013 Bundesliga season. We've picked up a ton of new members over the past few days. If you see some new names in the comment section, be polite and friendly. If you are one of the new names in the comment section, fans of any club and proponents of any argument are welcome, but rudeness and threats are not.

The Line-Up

In the comment section of one of the previous posts, some people mentioned that Arjen Robben was finally likely to get a start. I agree that there likely will be some rotation, especially because we've got midweek play (a Pokal match) subsequently. I think it's likely that Mandzukic gets a rest ... but does that necessarily mean Gomez will play? There's an interview on the club's official site reminding everyone that Claudio Pizarro used to star for Werder and would love to face his old club. Decisions, decisions. Here's my guess:

Gomez

Shaqiri - Kroos - Robben

Gustavo - Tymoschuk

Alaba - Dante - Boateng - Lahm

Neuer

Shaqiri's ankle shouldn't be a problem any more, and this would be a good chance to get him some meaningful minutes. I could be wrong, though, as they might want to give the sprain more time to heal. I'm tempted to predict that Contento might get some time at LB, but Alaba is young and seems to recahrge quickly.

Pizarro? I bet he gets some minutes in the second half, but it seems like feeding Gomez a start is a better idea at this point. I'm pretty sure we don't have any accumulated yellow suspensions on tap (Dante and Ribery were the only ones to get carded last time, and I think Dante is now one away from a suspension). If I'm wrong about that, let me know.

If we get better line-up info in the next few hours, we'll update here.

The Opponent

Werder has struggled to stay relevant ever since they sold Mesut Oezil 3 summers ago. I feel like I always say that every time I mention their club, but I'll keep repeating it until they do something cool. This year they've had some stretches of pretty crummy play, and would probably be bordering on relegation danger if it weren't for the fact that the bottom 3 are so abysmal. But over the past 3 weeks, Werder may have started to turn a corner: first, they beat Hannover 2-0 in a match that could have been even more lop-sided (RRZ made 10 saves before Werder broke through with 2 late goals, and Hannover did little to threaten). Then they went on the road to hammer Stuttgart 4-1. Last week, they were thrown for a loss, but even then they looked respectable, fighting back to tie after trailing, and hitting the post in the late going in an attempt to claw their way back a third time.

Leading they way in recent weeks, believe it or not, is on-loan Bayern man Nils Petersen. The former 2. Bundesliga scoring leader, who (let's be honest) has a long way to go before he gets into the striker discussion for Bayern's senior team, has 11 league goals this year, including 4 in the last 3 matches. I didn't see any of his brace vs. Freiburg last week, but I did see some footage of him against H96 a few weeks ago, and he's starting to come around. Interestingly, he still didn't seem to proficient at handling the ball, and it looks like he'll never be much of a dribbler. But he's starting to learn how to make runs and to give his teammates a target to cross the ball to. Check it out:

Anyway, it's just a brief hot streak, but it's a start. If he never gets involved with Bayern's team, I still wouldn't mind seeing him succeed.

Werder has been drawing strength from Mehmet Ekici, who was under contract with Bayern for a while but was constantly being loaned out. He and Kevin de Bruyne provide a bit of firepower, although neither is very consistent. Also, for new readers, one of our traditions here is to name a player to watch from the opposing team who's name might not be as well known, but who ranks highly according to advanced metrics and/or who gets it done in quiet or unusual ways. This week, we'll point the finger at Aaron Hunt. The German midfielder has good passing numbers and had 2 goals to out-duel blog darling Adam Szalai in Hannover's win against Mainz earlier this year. Also, note this tradition is only about 4 weeks old, and will probably get dumped as soon as we get bored with it (which happens pretty easily).

Elsewhere in the Competition

Doubtful that anyone challenges Bayern atop the table, but if we were to happen to slip up, a win by Dortmund over Monchengladbach would pull BVB a little closer. More interesting, though, is a battle at the other end of the table: Hoffenheim and Augsburg are both likely to finish in the relegation spots, but one will head down automatically while the other may have a chance to save themselves with a play-off win. They're currently separated by a single point, and they face each other this Sunday. Also, Freiburg and Eintracht Frankfurt kick off today; with both currently in European positions (SC Freiburg currently trailing Frankfurt by 3 points), this could be a big-money match.

Final Notes

- Bayern kicks off at 3:30 PM local time. Click the graphic below and it will tell you the starting time in your area:

Time converter at worldtimebuddy.com

- Jupp Heynckes will be involved in his 1,000th match when this one touches off, including all games as a player or member of a coaching staff. Congratulations to Don Jupp, and it looks like he's peaking at just the right time, no?

- Pro-Bayern talk is finally hitting the international papers: see here, here and here.

- Kate has the new standings up for the Champions League bracket challenge - check it out if you're participating.

Check in tomorrow morning for the Match day Thread. Thanks for reading.

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