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Preview: FC Bayern vs. Borussia Monchengladbach (Updated)

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The wait is over. This where all the hard work, sacrifice, and painful scaldings pay off - FC Bayern opens the 1. Bundesliga 2011-2012 season this Sunday, at home in the Allianz Arena, versus Borussia Monchengladbach. The match kicks off at 5:30 PM local time, 4:30 PM Greenwich mean time, 11:30 AM Eastern USA time. Several viewing options abound: in the USA, the match is carried both on cable TV through ESPN Deportes and online on ESPN 3. In England, ESPN UK will be covering the match live, with this ominous trailer: The hosts finished a disappointing third last season and will be aiming to make amends. And, needless to say, we’ll be on hand running the Match Day thread.

FC Bayern’s line-up

The most important question is still whether Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben will be fit.  As we discussed yesterday, both have been doing individual training this week, and both were able to run and go through drills yesterday.  Robben seemed more game-ready at the time (doing cuts and lateral drills), but I haven’t been able to get any further information since then, aside from the club’s official pronouncements that both are working hard to get ready in time.  My hunch is that Robben will start and Ribery will not.  In such a case, we would probably line up in the traditional 4-2-3-1, with Kroos starting behind Gomez in the middle of the “3” line and Müller moving to the left to take Ribery’s spot:

Very tentative - check back Sunday morning and I may have changed it

Very tentative - check back Sunday morning and I may have changed it

But this could all change in the next two days.  We’ll keep an eye out and update this spot as necessary.  Like it or not, Tymoschuk appears to have locked down the second CDM spot (alongside Bastian), so Gustavo will probably start the game on the bench.  But Goose can come in for either of those two at CDM or for either of the starting CBs, so there’s a good chance we’ll see him before the day is over.

The Opponent

‘Gladbach seemed like a lock for relegation throughout much of last year, firmly planted in the bottom two for most of the season.  Over the final six weeks, they made a strong run to claw their way up into 16th place, then defeated VfL Bochum over two legs in the subsequent play-off to retain their membership in the 1. Bundesliga.  Last week, they defeated a rather punchless SSV Jahn Regensburg club in their first round Pokal match, 3-1.  It’s always hard to draw any meaningful conclusions from a first round minnow match, but at the very least we know the Foals are awake.

Last season, ‘Gladbach’s offense wasn’t as sorry as you would expect from a team that picked up only 36 points from 34 games - they found the net 48 times in the Bundeliga season, including 12 goals over their last 8 games as they sprinted out of the bottom two.  Their top goal-scorers last season were Dortmund-born youngster Marco Reus and Brazilian-born Igor de Camargo.  Both of these two are still on board, and both were on target last week vs. Regensburg, so our rebuilt back will have to be on its toes.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga

As I’m writing this, BvB just finished mopping the floor with a decent Hamburg squad, despite the fact that Subotic and Lucas Barrios aren’t even playing.  I’m telling you, this Dortmund squad is for real.  Maybe we can have a Barca/Real-style “4 matches in 3 competitions in 1 month” deal with them later this year, if we can both advance deep into the Champions League and the Pokal.  In order for that to happen, I guess our return match vs. Dortmund would have to line up in the same time frame as the quarter-finals or semi-finals of the CL, and I don’t feel like looking it up right now to determine whether that’s actually the case.  But I do think they will be a team to watch out for in all three competitions.

In other BL action this weekend, Schalke opens the post-Neuer era on the road vs. Stuttgart, Bayer Leverkusen travels to Mainz in Sunday’s early game, and my already-ruined pick for surprisingly good club, VfL Wolfsburg, travels to Köln.  I can’t remember ever having been so excited for the start of a Bundesliga campaign.  Not just because Bayern has made some really good moves, and not just because I’m writing this blog at the start of the season (though that certainly helps) - this is shaping up to be a really fun BL year, especially because there are now 4 Champions League spots to fight for.  Literally half of the 18 clubs playing in the 1. Bundesliga could argue that they have at least some potential chance at grabbing one of those spots.

The obligatory final notes

- For those who haven’t seen, Bayern drew Zurich in the Champions League play-in round.  This will be contested over the course of two legs later in August.

- Jupp Heynckes has come out to say that Breno is “definitely” staying with the club.  Unless there was another plan afoot to bring in a different CB, we would have been really thin at that spot if we let Breno walk.  Hell, we’re kind of thin there even with him.

- Sunday’s forecast calls for rain and lightning.  So take care if you’re headed to the match.

- After this match, we’re on the road next week vs. Wolfburg.  I still think they might end up having a solid year.  Then, we’re home again vs. Hamburg SV, who looked respectable in the Liga Total! preseason tournament.  So we need all three points vs. ‘Gladbach on Sunday.

This post will probably be updated between now and game time, but either way there will definitely be a Match Day Thread on Sunday.  Thanks for reading.

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An update - Manuel Neuer has a belly-ache, but will play anyway.  AFP reports that our 18 million Euro 'keeper missed training yesterday with "gastro-intestinal problems" but will try to make a go of it tomorrow.  Good thing we got the late Sunday game for Week 1.

The same article says that Robben and Frank Ribery were able to return to training, but Jupp Heynckes won't know for sure who is starting until tomorrow - a Game Time Decision, as they would say in the NFL.