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Preview: FC Bayern vs. SSC Napoli (Updated)

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In the fourth match of Group Stage play in the UEFA Champions League. It’s been two weeks since our last Champions League match, a 1-1 draw vs. this same Napoli club. In that time, Bayern dropped our first match in over two months, a 2-1 loss to Hannover 96, but then recovered to beat Ingolstadt (in the DFB Pokal) and Nürnberg (in the Bundesliga) by a combined 10-0 score. Tomorrow’s match takes place in the Allianz Arena, and carries great weight in terms of possible advancement into the knock-out stage of the Champions League.

As of now, the Group A table looks like this:

Club

Wins

Draws

Losses

Points

FC Bayern

2

1

0

7

Napoli

1

2

0

5

Manchester City

1

1

1

4

Villarreal

0

0

3

0

As we all know, Villarreal hosts City tomorrow as well, so the outcome of that match will go a long way to determining City’s viability.  It would be great to see Villarreal take some points from that match, but at the end of the day FC Bayern has our fate in our own hands, and a win tomorrow would (1) secure a spot in the knock-out stage and (2) put us in a great position to win the group.

In the last match, a draw was not a big problem, because it was on the road and we were previously undefeated.  The game itself was somewhat disappointing, because I felt we outplayed Napoli for most of the match (Napoli needed the Badstuber own-goal and the weak “maybe I should just shoot it right at him” penalty attempt from Gomez just to draw), but getting 1 point from that match wasn’t a catastrophe.  But at home, it would be disappointing to not get a W tomorrow.

The Line-up

Bastian Schweinsteiger was doubtful after Saturday’s Nürnberg match, but he supposedly has made a quick recovery and will be fit for tomorrow.  So, with the expectation that Robben is still out, our front 6 will probably look as follows:

Gomez

Ribery - Kroos - Müller

Bastian - Gustavo?

Olic got a few minutes in the last two matches.  Although he appears to be running smoothly, his ball skills are not at their peak.  But … let’s all lay off him a bit.  He hasn’t played a full game in a while.  And we might still need him - he remains one of our best options for several forward positions as a back-up or emergency replacement.

Defensively, Jerome Boateng is still suspended in Bundesliga play, which makes it extra likely that he’ll start in this CL clash.  The goal.com article linked above says that van Buyten is expected to “feature” against Napoli, but I don’t think they have any particular reason to think that.  It could just as easily be Badstuber next to Boateng, or it could be both Bads and DvB in the middle, with Lahm and Boateng on either side.  We’ll get the line-ups to you as soon as they’re available.

The Opponent

Everything we said about Napoli before the last match still applies.  They’re quick, they can counter-attack very effectively, and they love to bitch and complain every time someone comes within 8 inches of touching them.

ESPN’s Game Cast for the last match (the Oct. 18 game between Bayern and Napoli) lists Napoli’s formation as this:

Lavezzi - Cavani - Hamsik

Zuniga - Inler - Gargano - Maggio

Aronica - Cannavaro - Campagnaro

De Sanctis

*  *  *  *

I remember now that Cannavaro was suspended, but I had no idea that Gargano was hurt.  Thanks, guys.  Looks like Fideleff, an Argentine-Russian with a background in English football, fills in on the back line.  In the midfield, the Gargano absence leaves a big hole.  Dzemaili is the most likely fill-in.  Definitely opens up some opportunities for Bayern.

*  *  *  *

Either way, Napoli didn’t create much sustained offense and didn’t even have a shot on goal.  But their run forward that created the OG, as well as their few other good chances and half-chances, seemed to mostly come from the right side (the left, looking at it from our defensive side).  So if Lahm was planning on regaining his form, this would be a good time to start.

It’s also worth noting that we had the “3-CB” line-up last time, with Boateng, a natural CB, playing at a fullback spot.  In my opinion, we generate more speed on defense with Rafinha in there and only one of our tortoise defenders (Badstuber and van Buyten) on the pitch, rather than both.  Especially in a situation where a quick counter-attack is the opponent’s best chance, I hope we put Boateng in one of those middle spots tomorrow.  But we’ll see.

Final Notes

- The match kicks off at 3:45 PM on the East Coast.  Fox Soccer Channel is not running this one tomorrow, not even on a replay.  Most pubs that are at all soccer-centric will have it (a few in DC will be showing it), so it’s to the bar once again.  We’ll be back after the match with a recap and video highlights.

- Today, Dortmund beat Olympiakos to keep their hopes alive - BVB is still in third, but they’re within striking distance of Marseilles.  Also today, Bayer Leverkusen lost to Valencia in Spain.  Thanks to a Chelsea draw, Leverkusen is still within 2 points of the top of Group E, but Valencia sits behind them by only a single point.  Aside from Barca, the E through H side of the bracket is crap.  Practically all the good teams are playing tomorrow.

- Despite Napoli taking a point off of us last match, the book-makers like Bayern to pick up the win tomorrow.  The best price for a Bayern win is 1/3, while a draw would pay 4/1 and a Napoli win 10/1.

- Going into the Group Stage, this was thought to be the Group of Death.  So it would be an excellent statement to secure a spot in the knock-out stage after only 4 games.  Only Barcelona has clinched a spot as of yet, although Real Madrid and (surprisingly) Benfica can also do the same tomorrow (along with us).

I’m not one for suspense.  Let’s wrap it up early, boys, and give your home fans something to celebrate.  Thanks for reading.