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Preview: FC Bayern vs. Bayer Leverkusen

In Week 7 of the 2011-2012 Bundesliga season. Bayern’s run of stellar form continued with a comfortable win over Schalke last weekend, and the club has an unblemished record since our season-opening loss to ‘Gladbach. Leverkusen lost their opening Pokal match to Dresden and then in Bundi Week 1 to Mainz, but then pulled it together to go undefeated in their next four matches. For most of the month of August, Leverkusen looked to be replicated their solid form of last season, and the loss of talented young middie Arturo Vidal didn’t appear to be hurting them. They’ve crashed pretty hard over the past two weeks, though, as they were beaten 2-0 in a visit to Stamford Bridge in the Champions League, then got demolished by Köln, 4-1, in last weekend’s Rhineland Derby.

We have the late Saturday game, kicking off at 6:30 PM local time, 12:30 PM Eastern in the USA.  This one is on ESPN 3, but Gol! TV is taking a pass for some reason (they’ll be running Sevilla - Valencia).  The Bayern Offside’s Match Day Thread will be up and running, so stop by before the game to catch up on any last-minute updates and chatter.

The Line-Up

Today’s papers have Gomez as an unqualified “maybe.”  With his groin injury already having been re-aggravated once due to his being rushed back into action, hopefully the club will be cautious, but supposedly he’s felt better and was able to train today.  Meanwhile, Chelsea is lurking in the bushes, with Crunch Sports claiming they want him to replace ‘Nando.  I’m going to go ahead and ignore these ridiculous transfer rumors until at least October, if that’s cool with everyone.

Arjen Robben, though, is set to return: the venerable says that Robben is a “yes” and should get the start.  So Ribery and Robben are ready to go on each wing, and if Gomez is truly healed, Müller returns to second-striker duty and Kroos hits the bench.  But, with Manchester City looming this week, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one or two of the guys who have played practically all year (Müller, Lahm, Ribery, Bastian) be given a rest, perhaps in the form of an early substitution.

The Opponent

As mentioned above, Leverkusen comes into the Allianz looking to break a two-match losing streak.  Their 2-0 loss to Chelsea wasn’t any sort of embarrassment, especially considering they were on the road and actually outplayed Chelsea for much of the first half.  But last week’s 4-1 loss to Köln definitely sent alarm bells ringing.  Leverkusen controlled a majority of the possession and created a number of chances; defensively, though, their CB duo of Toprak and Reinartz simply failed to hang with Podolski and crew.

Interestingly, young German forward Sidney Sam, started the match on the bench.  I always thought he was one of Leverkusen’s best weapons, but maybe that was a misconception on my part (I’ve only seen them play maybe 4 or 5 times in my life).  At any rate, Michael Ballack and Simon Rolfes continue to be their most versatile weapons, with Sidney Sam joining them if he starts.  They run the standard 4-2-3-1, with the “2” and “3” lines forming the strength of the formation.  The back line probably doesn’t have enough to shut down a Bayern offense that’s running on all cylinders (of course, now that I said that, they’ll surely shut us out).

Final Notes

- As far as both Robben and Gomez, even today’s reports that they’re ready to go could change at the last second.  It’s good to be cautious with the CL match coming up mid-week, but it’s also better to get them back on the pitch to get their legs back under them (rather than waiting until our biggest match of the year so far and throwing them out there cold).  So Kroos and Petersen will probably still get some minutes, either if one of the two starters is a late scratch, or off the bench.

- The weather report for Munich calls for a mild, partly cloudy day on Saturday, but also carries this warning at the top of the page: “Fog Gebietsweise Sichtweite unter 150 m.”  Anyone?

- Manuel Neuer and the Bayern defense have now gone over 12 hours of on-field game time without allowing a goal.  I don’t want to say too much more, lest I jinx them.

- We’ll probably be back tonight or tomorrow with updates, I just wanted to get the Preview up to give everyone a starting point.  Also, typing “Bayer” (without adding the “N” at the end) has become practically impossible.  So, I apologize if I mis-wrote that, or for any other mistakes.  Thanks for reading.

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