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Preview: FC Bayern vs. VfB Stuttgart

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In the quarter-finals of the DFB Pokal. BVB just finished off Holstein Kiel 4-0, meaning they’ll be into the semi-finals. FC Bayern’s match is the last of 3 that take place tomorrow, and will be broadcast live in North American in ESPN 3. The match kicks off at 8:30 PM local time (2:30 PM Eastern in the USA) from the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Baden-Württemberg.

Our last Pokal match was in December, just before the winter break.  On that day, we took on a hard-fighting VfL Bochum club that pushed us to the edge, and only a late Robben winner allowed us to move on.  Jupp Heynckes has stressed the importance of tomorrow’s match, and tells the club’s official site that he has no intention in bringing in a lot of changes to the line-up: “I don't think this is the right moment in time for such considerations … Wednesday's match is crucial. We want to go through, so I'll be sending out a team geared towards winning the match.”  I guess I’d sort of expect him to say that, though, so I wouldn’t rule out some changes to the starting squad.

The Line-Up

Rafinha returns from his one-game suspension from accumulated yellow cards.  With van Buyten still out, the logical move would be to reinstate Rafinha at RB and keep Boateng and Badstuber at the two CB spots (where they played last week).  Breno’s availability is up in the air - he missed the Hamburg match over the weekend with an aggravated ligament injury, but the club was hopeful that he’d be ready by tomorrow (I can’t find any information as to whether he practiced yesterday).

Up front, former Bayern man Mario Basler has weighed in on the formation: he thinks Arjen Robben isn’t deserving of a starting spot, and would be better used off the bench.  Interestingly, I though Ribery looked just as stale this past weekend (if not more so), but Robben has been taken more criticism lately.  You also have to note that Olic started the last Pokal match vs. Bochum (though Gomez cam on at half time).

I’ll go ahead and make a wildly off-base prediction:

Last week, I guessed that the Kroos-Bastian duo would start at midfield, but got it totally wrong on the back line.  We’ll find out tomorrow if I fared any better - Match Day Thread will be up and running from around noon, and we’ll update the line-ups as they become available.

The Opponent

VfB got to this point in the Pokal with a 2-1 home win over HSV on the eve of the winter break.  Since then, though, they’ve been in poor form, losing two and drawing one while being outscored 8-3 in total (though, to be fair, these were against three tough teams - Schalke, ‘Gladbach and Leverkusen).  This past weekend, at the BayArena, they fought to a 2-2 draw in a match marred by two sendings-off, 10 total cards, and some generally sloppy play.  Cacau still leads the line for VfB, and he’s still getting it done (sort of) - 4 goals in the Bundesliga this season, plus another 3 in the Pokal, despite missing a couple matches due to injury.  But equally threatening has been Martin Harnik.  The young Austrian wing has 7 goals to go along with 3 assists this season, including the last-gasp shot that earned Stuttgart a draw this past weekend.

VfB hasn’t looked great this year, but they are decent at home (4 wins, 4 losses, 2 draws, a solid +3 goal differential) and have scored 15 times in their 10 home matches in Bundesliga play.  I wish I felt more confident in this match … but I’ve learned to always expect to be surprised.

Final Notes

- Xherdan Shaqiri was spotted arriving in Munich for a physical today.  Looks like this is going to happen, although nothing official as of the time I’m writing this.

- Some snow is falling right now in Stuttgart, and it looks like we’re going to have clear skies but cold temperatures tomorrow.  It’s a late start, so I’ll be curious to see whether one or both of the teams comes out slowly.  An early goal can be devastating in a 1-off-match situation, especially against Bayern, as we’ve had trouble getting past defensive-minded opponents.

- I’m not sure if I can do the chat-an-go box, it being a week day and all, but I’ll see what I can do.  If not, I’ll put up a new post to at least be a Match Day Thread.  Thanks for reading.