Match week 5 of the 2012-2013 UEFA Champions League. Bayern has won outright 15 of our 18 competitive matches this season, and looked like the better team in probably 16. Nonetheless, a loss vs. Valencia would threaten the ability to win our group, and maybe even endanger our Champions League campaign. I don't think it's an exaggeration to call this out biggest match since ... you know.
Mario Gomez has been added to the squad list (and, as we already know, he appears to be ready to go when we need him). Mario could still be a late-spark substitute option, but either way, I think we'll see him play. Ribery, having missed this past weekend's match, is also on the squad list and expected to play.
The only confirmed absences are Gustavo, Arjen Robben, and Jerome Boateng, who is probably out until at least the end of the month. Holger Badstuber is fit and travelling with the club, so he, Dante, and van Buyten are the fit CBs - 2 of those 3 will start.
Here's my line-up guess:
Ribery - Kroos - Müller
Martinez - Schweinsteiger
Alaba - Dante - van Buyten - Lahm
Nothing against Gomez, I think he'll play in the 2d half, it's just that the long-term injured are often brought on as subs at first. And Mandzukic has been finding the net. With Robben and Goose out, the midfield and wing spots are pretty clear. The question comes at CB. I actually think Badstuber might be the most skilled of the 3, but with Dante and DvB having played pretty well this past weekend, and Badstuber not having played for a while, I have a hunch Jupp Heynckes might want to stick with what he's been doing.
When the groups were first drawn, Valencia was seen as the biggest threat in the group. In the first match, Bayern controlled the game and eventually took a deserved 2-1 win, but Valencia's late goal and several botched possessions from our side showed that they can hang with us if they get a few breaks and create the right match-ups. Since that match, Valencia has proven they belong in the CL discussion, with 3 straight wins to draw even with Bayern atop the group.
Los Murcielagos are also currently on a 5-match undefeated streak across all competitions. Now, this run includes a 1-1 draw vs. lowly Valladolid and a controversial 2-1 win over Espanyol that needed a close penalty call to go their way; still, they're generally tough at home, where they haven't been clean-sheeted all year.
Valencia has also mixed up their line-up a bit since the last meeting. When we faced them in Match Week 1, Andres Guardado was starting at LW, and they had more of a wide 4-4-2 - slash - 4-4-1-1 approach, with Soldado up top. More recently, they've moved towards more of a 4-2-3-1, with Soldado still at striker, but their wings getting forward and trying to become more of an offensive threat. And, as part of that change, Jonathan Viera, a short, quick-footed Spaniard who played a few games with Spain's U21s, is now favored at LW. Lahm can certainly handle the guy, but it will be interesting to see whether our CDMs have to lay back a bit more to worry about Valencia's attack - in the last match, we were pressing forward from the midfield every chance we got.
Elsewhere in the Competition
In an exciting week in Champions League play (I mean, they're pretty much all exciting), Bayern vs. Valencia is probably the best of the Tuesday matches. But Chelsea vs. Juventus is also a huge battle; with Shakhtar playing so well in that group, the loser of this one stands a real chance at getting left behind at the end of the group stage. Also, Celtic has earned some accolades for their win over Barca and their strong campaign in general. But they now have a tough trip to Lisboa to face Benfica - if the Hoops lose that one, they are still in real danger our missing out on the knock-out stage.
On Wednesday, the two other remaining German sides will face big matches. BVB and Schalke are both in first place in their groups, and both can actually stamp their tickets to the next stage one match early if they can win. Real Madrid crosses the Bay of Biscay and tries to crush the Man City CL campaign once and for all, while AC Milan and Anderlecht (currently in 2d and 3d place in their group) battle in Belgium. That one is basically an early knock-out game.
- Our match kicks off at 8:45 PM local time - check the following graphic to see the time in your current area. Click the AM/PM button if it doesn't show up right away:
Time converter at worldtimebuddy.com
- There are 2 early games tomorrow, with Russia and Belarus both hosting, and Barcelona is involved in one of them. So if ever you wanted to take a whole day off to watch CL ball, this would be a good time.
- If you're interested in the CL Bracket Challenge, the latest post from Kate L is up - you can check it out here.
- I hope Bayern goes in looking to attack (as we usually do), and I think we have enough to get a result. It's worth noting, though, that a draw is still a decent outcome for us. In fact, if we draw the next 2, we automatically advance, and if we draw 1 and win 1 of our next 2, we automatically get 1st place in the group. I'm not saying we should play for a draw; just that, if we give up an early goal, we only need 1 equalizer to make it right. Thanks for reading.