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Preview: FC Bayern vs. BATE Borisov

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One match to go in Champions League group play, and FC Bayern has already clinched passage to the next round. But either a first- or second-place finish is a possibility; a win this week would earn us a first place finish.

Alexander Hassenstein

Before even getting to line-up possibilities, a pair of preliminary issues. First, I guess you could possibly call this a "revenge" match after BATE threw our CL campaign into turmoil earlier this season. But ... I don't know why, but it doesn't really feel like a "revenge" match to me. Possibly because we've had several pretty big moments (good and bad) since then, possibly because it's more important to get the 3 points now than it is to get back at anyone, and also maybe just because it seems sort of petty for Bayern Munich to be vowing bloody revenge against a relatively unheralded club from Belarus. But, if you're in the mood - sure, a revenge game.

BTW, I was pretty drunk when I came up with the URL for the above link. Sorry.

The second angle is the possibility that finishing 2nd place in the group could conceivably be better than finishing 1st. And this, again, I categorically reject. Just my opinion, but I feel like you do everything you can to win the group as long as that's a possibility, and let the chips fall where they may. As most are probably aware, the winner of our group will be matched up against a runner-up from another group, and vice-versa. This year, Real Madrid has been locked into a runner-up spot, and Arsenal and new-money PSG appears to be headed that way as well. So, you could possibly argue that the winner spots (and the danger of playing one of those 3 clubs) are a little more dangerous than the ordinarily are. But, with Barcelona and Manchester United locked into 1st place spots, there's certainly danger lurking in that direction as well. Of course there's always a possibility of getting a surprisingly tough match-up even from a winner spot. Overall, though, you just have to try to win every match and then worry about match-ups later (especially when you consider home field in the 2d leg during the round of 16, and just the psychological problems that would be raised by dropping points against BATE again).

So - on to the match.

The Line-Up

A moment of silence for Holger Badstuber's 2012-2013 season.

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We'll see you next year, kid.

At striker, Die Zwei Marion are finally both healthy. It doesn't appear that Jupp Heynckes is willing to consider a 2-striker formation. So you need to guess which Mario will play. This week, I'll guess Gomez (Mandzu didn't look great against BATE last time, and I think Gomez is healthy enough to play a full 90).

My line-up prediction:

Gomez

Ribery - Kroos - Shaqiri

Tymoschuk - Schweinsteiger

Alaba - Dante - Boateng - Lahm

Neuer

Some rotation in there, with Shaq and Tymo getting the start, just because we're in the midst of a heavy run of matches. But we're going up against The Clowns of the League this weekend. So most of the regulars should be prepared to go vs. BATE.

The Opponent

Pretty much everything I said about BATE in the last preview still applies. A quick recap: Alyaksander Hleb, the ex-Stuttgart and -Arsenal man, is probably their most dangerous offensive presence. They will certainly look to absorb Bayern's pressure and try to hit us on the counter. I mean, they did that last time, and that was in their home leg (although not on the own ground). At the Allianz, it's pretty safe to say they'll be keeping 7 or 8 guys deep in the defensive zone most of the game.

In their 3 recent Group Stage losses, BATE opponents always managed to get a first-half goal - twice in the first half an hour. If you can force them to come out and play in the middle of the park, they're not going to be that tough to beat. But if they can keep Bayern out of the net for the first half, you know they'll be looking to play for the draw and/or trying to hit us once on the counter.

Elsewhere in the Competition

Many of the spots to advance from the Group Stage have already been sewn up, but a few interesting battles remain. Chelsea or Juventus will advance (along with Shakhtar) from their group, with Chelsea needing a win and a Juve loss. And either Celtic or Benfica will join Barcelona in advancing from Group G. Celtic needs a home win and a Benfica loss or draw against Barcelona - since Barca is already through, it might be easier than usual to see Benfica winning that one, but even Barca's reserves are pretty solid, and will be looking to make an impact.

We'll probably have a viewing thread up for today's matches (in addition to the one tomorrow for the Bayern game, obviously).

Final Notes

The match kicks off at 8:45 Munich time tomorrow (Wednesday), 2:45 my time, your time below:

Time converter at worldtimebuddy.com

- Goal.com has the "Bayern + Dortmund Best XI" up. They have BVB with 6 of the 11 starters, including Piszczek instead of Alaba opposite Lahm. Hmm...

- Die Nationalelf have announced a tour of the USA for the summer of 2013. No word on what Bayern has planned for the summer. But if the national team is already here, it would be easy for FC Bayern to come too. Right?

Thanks for reading.