Rematches are always fun, but FC Bayern München and VfB Stuttgart are...well...let's just say different places.
FC Bayern dropped two more records with its 2-0 defeat of Borussia Mönchengladbach, its 42nd second unbeaten match. The victory gave the Rekordmeister 27 consecutive unbeaten away matches, and gave FC Bayern 47 points out of a possible 51, the most points through 17 matches.
VfB Stuttgart are trending in the wrong direction, clinging onto the 12th spot in the league for the second year in a row. Die Schwaben are tied for the third worst goal differential, and sit three points above the relegation playoff spot.
Not the DFB Pokal rematch that German football fans were hoping for, but a midweek, prime time match nonetheless.
The Match (131st meeting)
Location: Mercedes-Benz-Arena, Stuttgart, Germany
Head: Manuel Gräfe
FC Bayern: 15 W, 7 D, 6 L – 59 YC, 2 Y-R, 1 R
Assistants: Guido Kleve, Mike Pickel
Fourth Official: Tobias Stieler
Time converter at worldtimebuddy.com
Television and Streaming
UK: ESPN UK | HD
Germany: Sky Bundesliga 1&2 | HD, Sky Go, Liga Total, Liga Total Mobile TV
FC Bayern: WWWWW
Bundesliga: 56 W, 19 D, 17 L
DFB Pokal: 9 W, 1 L
Ligapokal: 3 W, 1 L
Biggest Victory: 6-1 (Bundesliga: September 9, 2012, Allianz Arena, München, Germany)
Biggest Defeat: 3-0 (Bundesliga: April 4, 1968, Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion, Stuttgart, Germany; March 15, 1969, Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion, Stuttgart, Germany; November 14, 1987, Neckarstadion, Stuttgart, Germany; DFB Pokal: November 9, 1989, Neckarstadion, Stuttgart, Germany)
The rising Mario Mandžukić narrative to this match is one not expected when FC Bayern fans tuned in to the clubs match against Mönchengladbach. Having sat out the match at the weekend, who knows how long his stay will be in the doghouse.
Director of Sport Matthias Sammer told Sky that he wants to see the Croatian "work like an animal" again. The midweek match could reveal whether Mandžukić's absence was a one time statement or a deeper clubhouse issue. Reports (Abendzeitung, tz-online) have Mandžukić with the team in Stuttgart, so he will at least be on the team sheet.
Besides the trouble at the top, Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben will not make the trip to Stuttgart; despite the fact both are in full training, their fitness is not quite there. Daniel van Buyten and Bastian Schweinsteiger have not graduated to full training yet and are ruled out as well.
If Mandžukić does suit up, manager Pep Guardiola will have to juggle the striker and wing positions between him, Xherdan Shaqiri, Mario Götze, and Thomas Müller. Götze and Müller have started seven of the last night FC Bayern matches together, only alternating during the FIFA Club World Cup.
With the defensive and midfield consistent as the weather in Hawaii, the only variable is how much of a spanking Mandžukić will still be getting come Wednesday.
Projected Lineup (4-1-4-1)
Shaqiri – Kroos – Thiago – Müller
Alaba – Dante – Boateng – Rafinha
Bench: Starke, Contento, Højbjerg, Sallahi, Weiser, Pizarro, Mandžukić
While remaining in the exact same position as a season ago, the feeling around the club is a much more negative one. Sport Director Fredi Bobic knows that the teams below him are catching up fast, and Alexandru Maxim admitted "right now, it is better not to look at the table."
The best part of the squad is the relatively good health it has maintained. Daniel Didavi and Marco Rojas are the only two still rehabbing of the possible selections, and neither have played a single minute all season.
The biggest addition for Bobic's pool of players might be Timo Werner, a 17-year-old called up from the youth system. His production is replacing that of departed Shinji Okazaki, although it was Okazaki that helped 1. FSV Mainz 05 equalize and eventually down Stuttgart at the weekend. Vedad Ibišević is one of the top scorers in the league with nine goals, while Martin Harnik continues to contribute in ways he always has.
Although Thomas Schneider has committed to a lone striker up front for most of the season, he has recently decided to put two up top, although the results have not changed thus far. What has changed is Maxim's role, as he plays more on the wing than as a No. 10.
Stuttgart tend to concede possession, but their counterattacking ability is one of the best in the Bundesliga. Die Schwaben are among the best in the Bundesliga in finishing ability, averaging 6.6 shots per goal, and have the same amount of set piece goals as FC Bayern and Borussia Dortmund.
Projected Lineup (4-4-2)
Ibišević – Werner
Traoré – Leitner – Gentner – Harnik
Rausch – Rüdiger – Schwaab – Sakai
Bench: Kirschbaum, Haggui, Niedermeier, Kvist, Khedira, Maxim, Abdellaoue
FC Bayern have won the last nine matches against Stuttgart in all competitions, so a 16th victory is already predetermined. The manner of which the three points may come about might change, for the defending champions have surrendered a counterattacking goal or two. The best that Stuttgart can hope for is escape with a Bayer Leverkusen-esque draw, although considering FC Bayern outclassed die Fohlen in their own building, Stuttgart will not be as lucky.
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