Match Week 26 of the 2012-2013 Bundesliga season. The past 8 days have been busy; if you need to get caught up, you can click through any of these links to read about Boateng netting a match-winner with his first Bayern goal, Arsenal beating us in the CL second-leg game but Bayern still managing to advance, a host of other wild games in the CL leading to the field narrowing to 8 quarterfinalists, and this morning's draw matching Bayern against Juventus in the next round.
In the league, Bayern currently holds a 20 point lead over Dortmund and a 21-point lead over tomorrow's opponents. After tomorrow, we will have only 8 matches to play and hopefully a lead of 20 points or more. In fact, there's a good chance we could clinch the title before the end of March. But let's worry about tomorrow first.
Ribery is still out. The Frenchman has resumed running and individual drills, but hasn't participated in a full practice yet, and will be held back. Additionally, Jupp Heynckes has promised some rotation, with Mueller, Mandzukic and Lahm all not making the trip. Sounds like a wise plan (I'd almost want to give Kroos a rest, too, bust I guess then we'd have nobody left to play forward).
Here's my guess:
Shaqiri - Kroos - Robben
Martinez - Schweinsteiger
Alaba - Dante - Boateng - Rafinha
Contento and Pizarro might also figure. I was hoping Emre Can could start getting some action now that we have such a huge lead, but he's still not over his earlier illness.
Other than the fact that I always mistakenly write "Bayern" when attempting to write "Bayer," Leverkusen is a pretty respectable opponent. Most Bayern fans don't seem to have any negative feelings towards them, despite their earlier win over us in the fall. Stefan Kießling, the tall, mop-headed striker, has been their star this year. His 16 goals are one off the league lead, and it was his strike that gave Leverkusen the lead in their 2-1 victory over Bayern (though it was Sidney Sam who netter the late winner).
Perhaps lesser known, but in my mind maybe equally important to Leverkusen, is Andre Schürrle. The German wing-slash-attacking middie doesn't have quite the goal-scoring pop that Kießling brings, but his 9 goals and 7 assists across all competitions this year have been big, and he at least keeps Leverkusen's opponents from double- and triple-marking Kießling. Surprisingly, Leverkusen get a good variety of contributions in general: even though Kießling has 16 goals, they have 3 other guys who have at least 3 goals and at least 3 assists, and even their defenders can threaten the goal (Wollscheid has 2 goals in the league and 1 in Europa). So it's not just about shutting down one guy - Bayern's defenders need to keep a tight formation, clear loose balls as quickly as possible, and, above all, not get caught flat footed staring at the ball when a Leverkusen player sets up camp in a dangerous spot.
Elsewhere in the Competition
Dortmund vs. Freiburg is a somewhat interesting match-up, though mainly from the Freiburg end (they're 1 point off a Europa League spot). But perhaps the biggest game (other than ours) is the Sunday match between Borussia Monchangladbach and Hannover 96. Both have looked, at various times this season, like they might make some interesting moves and threaten for a European spot. But both are coming off lackluster draws last week, and sit mid-table (BMG in 9th on 14 points, H96 one spot and one point behind, though with a superior goal differential). This is pretty much an elimination game for the continental hopes of both sides: the winner gets a big boost and is set up for a chance at a late season push into the top 7, while the loser starts to fade from relevance.
- WatsonCrick has a nice FanPost regarding squad rotation and depth, if you want to check it out.
- We have the late game Saturday, starting at 6:30 local time. Click below to check the time where you currently reside:
Time converter at worldtimebuddy.com
- I might be a bit late with the post-game recap, so if it's not up right after the match, check back Saturday night. In the meantime, Gilly will hopefully post goal .gifs in a FanShot, so check down in that right-hand corner soon after the wrap. Thanks for reading.