Preview: FC Bayern vs. TSG Hoffenheim

Martin Rose

After recent wins over fairly tough competition, FC Bayern is finally in a position to seriously start sizing up the race for silverware. Sure, Arsenal and Dortmund might not be having the best years, but they're still talented, well-coached teams that don't make anything easy. And Bayern took both of them apart. With a 17-point lead in the Bundesliga standings, the domestic race seems pretty well sewn up - will we see a bit of rotation in the line-up?

The Line-Up

Rafinha and Pizarro are out sick. Ribery is available and, after missing the last match, will surely figure. I don't think anyone is on an accumulated-yellow suspension, so we should have a full group to choose from. Here's my guess:

Mandzukic

Ribery - Mueller - Robben

Gustavo - Schweinsteiger

Alaba - Boateng - van Buyten - Lahm

Neuer

With Kroos and Dante being the guys getting a rest. Both had been playing great, but both have also been playing in every match. No mid-week work this coming frame, though, so maybe we'll see a Best XI. But then, who knows what that even entails these days. And, of course, Gustavo gets a start over Javi Martinez against his old club.

The Opponent

Hoffenheim has been struggling all year, but they've really hit rock bottom of recent: 3 straight losses, and only a single win in their last 13 matches. They've also allowed 48 goals this season (worst in the league), and allowed multiple goals in 15 of their 23 matches league matches (not even counting their shock 4-0 loss against Berliner AK in the opening round of the Pokal).

One of those multi-goal-allowed losses was the first run against Bayern, a 2-0 Oktoberfest Bayern win. But surprisingly that wasn't a massive whomping, as Bayern took our foot off the gas in the second half. I have to think, though, that with our current group of goal-hungry guys eager to prove themselves, we have a good chance to better that tally.

A few reunions, of sorts ... Gustavo facing his old club ... Takashi Usami facing Bayern again ... Igor de Camargo, who I think beat us with a late goal last year when he was with Monchengladbach ... Patrick Ochs, who played with Bayern's youth team and Bayern II. Our man to watch, though, is Roberto Firmino: the young Brazilian midfielder can play on either side and is a pretty good dribbler. And, let's be honest, the "man to watch" pickings are pretty slim here.

Elsewhere in the Competition

BMG got an important win today, bringing themselves into the top 6 (at least temporarily). Dortmund vs. Hannover is probably the highlight of tomorrow, with H96 trying to fight their way into a European spot, and Dortmund trying to regain some balance after the midweek beating at the hands of Bayern. Freiburg travels to Nuernberg - if they win, they'll pull into a tie for the last CL spot.

Final Notes

- We kick off SUNDAY at 3:30 local time, 9:30 AM my time. To see the time in your local area ... you know

Time converter at worldtimebuddy.com

- The Independent has a good summary of the recent back and forth between Uli and the Dortmund board. More on this later.

- Finally, say hello to @sergioe729, our 500th Twitter follower. Thanks to everyone who's followed, commented, liked us on Facebook, or just clicked through to read.

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