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Preview: FC Bayern vs. Schalke 04 (Plus Fall-out from Yesterday)

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Alright. Back on the horse. After one of the more disheartening performances in recent memory (and that’s saying something), FC Bayern has a chance to make some immediate amends: a home match vs. Schalke 04. The two clubs currently sit in 3rd and 4th places in the Bundesliga table - both safely in Champions League spots for next year, both still somewhat within striking distance of leaders Dortmund, but both also with little room for error. If Bayern can’t get a victory here, it would make any late challenge at the Bundesliga title a very tall order.

The mood was appropriately somber back in München today, as the club struggles for answers following yesterday’s loss.  Manuel Neuer sums up the players’ collective attitude:

“We’re gutted about the result. Everything went wrong for the goal. We didn’t get at the man with the ball … It's not gone according to plan, and we’re stuck in a tricky situation. We have top-class individuals, but it’s not going smoothly or easily at the moment.”

Jupp Heynckes with a slightly more measured take:

“Overall, it was very evenly-matched, and the kind of game with 0-0 written all over it … We ought to have taken a 1-0 lead, which would have allowed us to sit back and let them come at us a little ... For the goal, we weren’t determined enough to close them down, and that shouldn’t be happening. The mistake was made by the defence as a unit, not an individual player. All in all, our attitude and commitment were good. I’m convinced we’ll soon be playing better and more successful football.”

Uli has the following to say:

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, with a more urgent stance (and possibly a warning to Heynckes?):

“It wasn’t a great performance in the 0-0 draw with Freiburg, and today we’ve even managed to lose 1-0. We have to try and turn the corner as fast as possible.”

KHR is also said to have addressed the players directly, telling them to be more aggressive and to stop believing that the problems will solve themselves.

If there’s any silver lining, it’s that Sunday offers a chance to strike an immediate blow.  Since the January re-start, Bayern has had a chance to play only two home matches, and won them both by identical 2-0 lines.  And in fact our home form has been very solid in Bundesliga play this season, with 27 points taken from a possible 33, and only 3 goals allowed.  I know, I’m really digging for positives here … but we have to start somewhere.

As I write this, Schalke just finished off a resilient Viktoria Plzen side in the Europa League, thanks to a KJH hat-trick.  Die Blau und Weiβ actually fielded a strong line-up today: Howedes, Raúl, Fuchs, and Huntelaar all played at least 115 minutes, so maybe they’ll be dealing with a bit of fatigue by the time Sunday’s match rolls around.

Speaking of “The Hunter,” Klaas-Jan is currently level at the top of the 1. Bundesliga scoring list with Mario Gomez.  And Huntelaar warns he’s gunning for the title: “Of course I want to score more than Gomez. I am delighted to be at the top of the scoring charts.”  I would think of some mocking comeback here, but I actually always liked the kid … and, to be honest, Mario isn’t inspiring a lot of confidence these days.

Schalke relies on both Huntelaar and Raúl up top.  Jefferson Farfan is listed as a wing, but he’s been known to press forward, and sometimes they end up running almost a right-side-heavy 4-3-3.  Raul has really refined his game since coming over from Spain, and has turned into a pretty impressive passer-creator-unlocker type with Huntelaar usually venturing further ahead of him.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga

BMG is at home to take on Hamburg SV.  The Hamburgers were rolling after drawing with Bayern and then beating Köln, but then crashed last week with a 3-1 loss at the hands of Werder Bremen (and Bremen has looked energetic recently, quietly passing Leverkusen into 5th place).

Dortmund, meanwhile, is at home against Hannover 96.  Hannover has played well themselves recently, plowing through Brugge today to get into the last 16 of the Europa League and also moving up the Bundesliga table.  So ‘Gladbach and Dortmund will both be considered the favorites in their respective matches, but it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see either HSV or H96 take points away from them.  We can hope, right?

Final Notes

- Still no love from Gol! TV - they’re only showing one Bundesliga match this week (Saturday’s Köln vs. Leverkusen game) despite two great Sunday games.  Apparently Real Sociedad vs. Mallorca gets priority.  Luckily, the Bayern match will be available on ESPN Deportes in North America, as well as the Eurosport network in Europe.  We’ll be here Sunday morning with the Chat-an-go box and a recap + video highlights afterwards.

- A chance of light rain on Sunday, but it won’t be anything crazy and it won’t be cold enough to snow.  So we should have a chance to play on a nice pitch for once.

- I’ll be back tomorrow or Saturday to post line-ups and fill in the details.  I just wanted to get the preview up because the Schalke match just ended, and also because apparently the new comment system starts to cut off/archive comments after we get to 50.  I’m going to look into a fix for that this weekend, but sometime over the next 3 weeks (hopefully before Basel’s visit) other things are going to happen to make the comment system drama completely obsolete.

Why don’t you describe what I just did there, Calvin?

calvin

Thanks for reading.