The 6-2 defeat that VfL Wolfsburg suffered a week ago stamped a negative narrative on a positive story.
The club was flying high after a sluggish Rückrunde start that put its Champions League aspirations in doubt. Die Wolfe then shifted to a higher gear, steaming passed 1. FSV Mainz 05, Hertha BSC, and Bayer 04 Leverkusen to move within two points of FC Schalke 04's proverbial fourth spot.
Now everyone is all supposed to believe TSG 1899 Hoffenheim stalled Wolfsburg's engine by blowing them out, even though Hoffenheim could not handle its first hosting of Wolfsburg in the DFB-Pokal two and a half weeks prior? Pep Guardiola sure does not think so.
"After such a game, a team does not want to lose like that again. The manager [Dieter Hecking] is a big, big character; he had a good time in Nürnberg as well as Wolfsburg. I am certain they analyzed the game and then the players naturally react well. I am one hundred percent sure they will deliver a good performance tomorrow." [Abendzeitung]
FC Bayern München face a similar stretch to that around Oktoberfest, facing Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen with a bout with England's finest in between. The match will be a good tune up for the second leg of the UEFA Champions League against Arsenal, a match that FC Bayern's limits will be tested.
The Match (38th meeting)
Location: Volkswagen Arena, Wolfsburg, Germany
Head: Tobias Welz
FC Bayern: 6 W, 1 D, 0 L – 6 YC
Assistants: Rafael Foltyn, Martin Thomsen
Fourth Official: Norbert Grudzinski
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Television and Streaming
US: GolTV USA, MyGermanTV +
Canada: GolTV Canada
Germany: WDR 2, Sky Go
FC Bayern: WWWWW
Bundesliga: 26 W, 4 D, 3 L
DFB-Pokal: 4 W, 0 L
Biggest Victory: 6-1 (DFB Pokal: April 16, 2013, Munich, Germany)
Biggest Defeat: 1-5 (Bundesliga: April 4, 2009, Wolfsburg, Germany)
Now Pep's fun begins.
For the first time since his appointment in July, Guardiola a lush garden to pick his flowers. His vase is now too small for the amount of blossoms he has to choose from. What is a romantic to do?
The opponent might dictate which way the set up should grow. The revamped, flexible front from Wolfsburg may require the agile, light-footed counterbalance that Philipp Lahm and Thiago provide. The two, along with Toni Kroos, would once again dominate the midfield, a battle Bayern needs to win against Wolfsburg. Bastian Schweinsteiger would be a physical piece of the bench should the match play out a specific way, providing relief for either Thiago or Toni Kroos.
With Franck Ribery's return, Mario Götze will probably return to the bench, with Thomas Müller returning after missing the match against FC Schalke 04. Whether Arjen Robben or Xherdan Shaqiri dress could be a testament to who is more fit, a good barometer for the midweek clash against Arsenal.
Guardiola's garden is in full bloom at just the right time, the toughest stretch of matches of the Rückrunde.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1)
Franck Ribery – Toni Kroos – Thomas Müller
Thiago Alcantara – Philipp Lahm
Motivation is not a word that VfL Wolfsburg needs to concern themselves with.
Kevin De Bruyne, who returned permanently to North Germany in January, has already shined in his return to the Bundesliga. Perhaps that is a byproduct of Jose Mourinho allegedly denied permission to transfer to Borussia Dortmund before the season.
A return to Champions League contention is also almost complete, Hecking's side grasping at the fourth spot with eleven matches to play. A 2-6 road thrashing in Hoffenheim has cast doubt on die Wolfe's European credentials, what could be a pin for bulletin board material rather than a pin in a balloon (even 99 red ones).
What could be the biggest fortifying boost for the up and coming club was the 1-0 result in Allianz Arena, the least convincing victory the Rekordmeisters have registered in its unbeaten campaign thus far.
Unfortunately for Hecking, two key pieces of his squad are both banned due to referee discipline. Luiz Gustavo collected his fifth yellow card against Hoffenheim, while Christian Träsch will have to faces the consequences of his red card.
What Hecking has up is sleeve is Bas Dost. The Dutch striker has scored four times in the last five matches, supplanting the seasoned Ivica Olic in the Starting XI.
Robin Knoche and Naldo are one of the better center back pairings in Germany, but have trouble once teams get in behind. Their biggest support is Luiz Gustavo, and his absence will likely reverberate through the defense when Bayern comes to town.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1)
Ivan Perišić – Kevin De Bruyne – Maximilian Arnold
Jan Polak – Slobodan Medojević
Ricardo Rodriguez – Robin Knoche – Naldo – Patrick Ochs
Bench: Max Grün, Timm Klose, Marcel Schäfer, Junior Malanda, Paul Seguin, Daniel Caligiuri, Ivica Olić
For a neutral, the match will be a showcase for Bundesliga quality. Not having a cinder block in midfield will drop Wolfsburg winning odds, but a motivated team is always dangerous. With a full squad, Bayern München should be able to fully commit their efforts to other parts of a tough stretch.
Projected Score: VfL Wolfsburg (1-3) Bayern Munich