Bayern vs. Barça. It was going to be a simple reunion of two of the Champions League semifinalists. Now, it has turned into much more.
Pep Guardiola got things going, calling out Barcelona president Sandro Rosell. Good friend and former head coach Tito Vilanova responded to his former superior, publicly questioning the relationship with his old friend.
The petty public war of words is now moot, ever since Vilanova decided to resign from his post due to more cancer trouble. It was a moment that once again brought sports to a humane level, showing how insignificant competition can be in the grand scheme of things.
Gerardo "Tata" Martino is now the new man in charge, the third Barcelona coach in three years. The changes he will make to the squad will likely come later, considering he was hired on Monday, so the team tactically will be under Tito's influence.
There is yet to be word on whether Rosell plans on making the trip to Munich, although the scenario seems rather unlikely. If he does come, it may be an opportunity for him and Guardiola to hash out their differences without recorders and notepads in front of their faces.
The modern drama has made the Uli Hoeneß Cup more than a friendly between two big European sides, but leave it to the players on the pitch to appease and problems.
The center of attention in the Telekom Cup last weekend was Thiago Alcântara. The young Spaniard played right in front of the back four and shined with his sharp passes and his pin-point projectiles to the five attackers in front of him. With his form in fine shape, expect Guardiola to place him once again in the center of the park, at least for a half.
The 4-1-4-1 formation has been a hot topic, but Guardiola also debuted a 4-3-3 in Sunday's match against Borussia Mönchengladbach. Thomas Mueller played up top, with Ribéry and Robben playing on the wings, likening the formation to the Louis Van Gaal days. Phillip Lahm also played higher up the pitch than usual, scooting up to the midfield next to Thiago and Toni Kroos.
The absences are likely to be similar to that of the weekend. Mario Götze is the obvious hold out, but also be very surprised if Bastian Schweinsteiger and Emre Can suit up for a friendly, especially with the DFL Supercup on Friday. The question will be whether Javier Martinez, Dante, and Luiz Gustavo get minutes, and if they do/do not, what their availability will be against Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.
Projected Starting XI:
1st half (4-1-4-1):
Shaqiri – Ribéry – Kroos – Müller
Alaba – Boateng – van Buyten – Lahm
2nd half (4-3-3):
Shaqiri – Pizarro – Robben
Kroos – Højbjerg –Weiser
Contento – Kirchhoff – van Buyten – Rafinha
Coach aside, the Blaugrana that came to Allianz Arena last year is not that different from the Barcelona that lost 7-0 on aggregate to the Champions of Europe. The big difference is actually 1.75 meters tall, their new left winger named Neymar (have you heard of him?).
This is the first pre-season fixture for Barcelona, so there really is no word on their form, their tactics, or who decided to let their beard grow out. What we do know is that Gerard Piqué, Dani Alves, Jordi Alba, Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniésta, Pedro Rodriguez Ledesma, Neymar and Cesc Fabregas are still on break following the Confederations Cup. That means that Barça look to be fielding more of a B-team, with Lionel Messi still the center of attention.
For more of an extended preview on the Barcelona side, we turn to Arron Ducking and our friends at Barca Blaugranes:
Barcelona (4-3-3): Pinto; Montoya, Bartra, Mascherano, Adriano; Song, JDS, Roberto; Alexis, Messi, Tello
Barcelona (4-3-3): Oier; Patric, Sergi Gomez, Mascherano, Planas; Samper, Ilie, Espinosa; Nieto, Dongou, Roman
Bayern is in form, winning every preseason match put in front of them, whether fan dream teams or actual Bundesliga sides. Barcelona, meanwhile, have yet to organize themselves under the new regime, the new circumstances, and the new projections. Multiple goals is a definite outcome, and odds-makers would smart to put that proposition on the Bayern side rather than the Barcelona side.
Projected Score: FC Bayern 4, FC Barcelona 1
Time: 18:30 local, 12:30 PM Eastern
Television: Gol TV (USA & Canada), Sky Sports 1 (UK), Sky Sports 1 (Germany)