The Hinrunde of the Bundesliga did not bring any real tough stretches of games for FC Bayern München. That allowed the defending treble champions to not only set the Bundesliga unbeaten record at 41 matches but also setting the UEFA Champions League record for most consecutive victories with 10.
With the Hinrunde fully in the books, FC Bayern are now set up in the Rückrunde to continue its three-front campaign. The lack of international breaks has given the fixture list a little more breathing room, although once again there are only four weeks throughout the next four months that do not contain a possible midweek fixture. Here's the full 28 possible match fixture list, with competitions, dates and opponents:
Bundesliga Matchday 25 vs. Bayer Leverkusen
March 15, 2014 – Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
With 37 points through 17 matches, Bayer are the only club left to challenge FC Bayern for the 51st Bundesliga title barring a cataclysmic collapse from the Stern des Südens. Matchday 25 will be Leverkusen's only chance to directly affect a six-point swing.
FC Bayern may have dominated the first meeting in October, but Leverkusen were able to get just enough to force a 1-1 draw. One would assume that the Bavarians fortunes may have been different at home, but lest we all forget that FC Bayern's last Bundesliga defeat came at the hands of Leverkusen in Allianz Arena. Sidney Sam, who scored in two of the last three matches between these two clubs, has not changed jerseys yet, and Emre Can will docket his best performance against his former club.
If Leverkusen's league form does not suffer from the three club and international matches, the somewhat stagnant Bundesliga race will become more scintillating, climaxing to this match in mid-March.
Tougher Stretches of Matches
@ VfL Wolfsburg, vs. Arsenal (Leg 2), vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Even if Bayer Leverkusen is further from the top of the Bundesliga by mid-March, the fact remains that FC Bayern have dropped points at home in two of the last four home matches against Leverkusen. Add a trip to an improved VfL Wolfsburg and a visit from the top team in the Barclays Premier League and Bayern has its hands full before spring begins. It is also worth noting that FIFA's last friendly date before the World Cup is before this patch of games originates, although who will suit up for their respective countries is unclear at the moment.
UEFA CL Quarter Final (Leg 1), Borussia Dortmund, DFB Pokal Semifinal
This bundle of matches assumes that FC Bayern clear both Arsenal and Hamburg in the Champions League and German Cup respectively. While contingent on the draw, FC Bayern could face three Champions League caliber sides in a week time-span. Even if the Bundesliga is decided before the second Klassiker, both Bayern and Dortmund will have bragging rights at stake, and ramifications could affect multiple competitions at once.
Simpler Stretch of Matches
Eintracht Frankfurt, 1. FC Nürnberg, Hamburger SV, SC Freiburg
Of all the Champions League eligible clubs, FC Bayern has the easiest schedule to begin the Rückrunde. Four of the six teams FC Bayern play are in the bottom five, and all of them come one after the other across two competitions. As SC Freiburg showed, FC Bayern need to field a legitimate team or else the result will be one less desired. However without a UEFA Super Cup or UEFA Champions League match to distract them, 100 percent of the focus will be on these bottom dwellers.
- A year ago, FC Bayern were sitting atop the Bundesliga on 42 points through 17 matches, which preceded a record point total. The 44 points through 16 matches not only tops that pace, but could also end the Bundesliga early for the second consecutive year. If FC Bayern beats Bayer Leverkusen, that makes April 26 match against SV Werder Bremen the finishing line in the league, which could appear closer or farther away depending on Bayern's and Leverkusen's results along the way. The Rekordmeister clinched the league in the first match in April last season. If that is the same victorious time frame, that would make the second Klassiker a meaningless match, and the cup quarter and semifinals will have a little more breathing room around it.
- The schedule could be packed with a three-front campaign, but the load could lighten significantly with an early knockout in the UEFA Champions League. While obvious, there is the potential for existential April matches, as well as less opportunities for Pep Guardiola to rotate his squad. With the Champions League, Guardiola can mix and match much like Jupp Heynckes did a year ago down the stretch, but without international competition, a deep squad becomes superfluous.
- The fixture list in German football is historically lighter with a single elimination cup and two less teams than the other top UEFA coefficient countries. That being said, the extended break makes these matches more compact, making the workload similar to the rest of the Champions League Round of 16 clubs. Here is a list of the amount of potential matches for the Round of 16 field once FC Bayern commence the Rückrunde:
Galatasaray SK – 23 (Süper Lig, Türkiye Kupası)
Manchester City – 23 (Barclays Premier League, Capital One Cup, FA Cup)*
Arsenal/ Chelsea – 22 (Barclays Premier League, FA Cup)*
Atlético Madrid/ Barcelona/ Real Madrid – 22 (Liga BBVA, Copa del Rey)
Olympiakos CFP – 22 (Superleague Greece, Greek Cup)
FC Bayern München – 21 (Bundesliga, DFB Pokal)
Bayer 04 Leverkusen/ Borussia Dortmund – 20 (Bundesliga, DFB Pokal)
Paris Saint-Germain – 19 (Ligue 1, Coupe de la Ligue)
AC Milan – 18 (Serie A)
FC Schalke 04 – 17 (Bundesliga)
Manchester United – 17 (Barclays Premier League)
FK Zenit St. Petersburg – 11 (Russian Premier League)
* amount could increase with FA Cup replays
Most of these numbers will inevitably decrease considering the amount of teams from the same country, thus reemphasizing the point that the workload for FC Bayern will not be as lighter than its opponents as one would think. The extended winter break is the only scheduling advantage that the German clubs receive, although that benefit could prove substantial.
- While still subject to change, FC Bayern will play its only two Sunday matches of the season in the Rückrunde, against Hannover 96 and Eintracht Frankfurt. That would be the least amount of Sunday matches since the Bundesliga began playing them in the 2005/06 season. The Adler are the only German club left in the UEFA Europa League, so FC Bayern would not have to cater to a big Thursday midweek crowd like years past. The two Sunday matches come during weeks where the Bavarians do not have midweek obligations as well, allowing them to take advantage of their opponents before and after each match.
Fixture list as according to bundesliga.de. Eventual schedule is subject to change.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images and UEFA.com
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