After the photo finish in Stuttgart, FC Bayern München will return home with their four next opponents in the bottom five of the table.
With the tendency to play down to their opponents, complacency is bound to be a topic of discussion over the next three weeks. Does it need to be?
The Stern des Südens was not shining so bright in Stuttgart, and there were points were Bayern would be lucky to escape with a draw. The players still kept pushing, though, hoping for a breakthrough to present itself. The bench was not running from the bench because of Thiago Alcântara's acrobatic feat, but because of what it meant to the club being three points closer to another Bundesliga championship.
It was on April 6 of last year that FC Bayern clinched it 23rd title, making the last rounds of European and Cup competition were much easier to bear. The club is 36 points away from winning its 24th, so the victories the players fight tooth and nail for makes the campaign easier to finish. What better motivation is that?
The Match (128th meeting)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Head: Florian Meyer
FC Bayern: 27 W, 8 D, 11 L – 73 YC, 2 RC
Assistants: Frank Willenborg, Christoph Bornhorst
Fourth Official: Stefan Trautmann
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Television and Streaming
US: GolTV USA
Canada: GolTV Canada
UK: BT Sport 1
Germany: Sky Bundesliga 1&2 | HD, Liga Total, Liga Total Mobile TV
FC Bayern: WWWWW
Bundesliga: 43 W, 21 D, 21 L
DFB Pokal: 3 W, 1 L
UEFA Cup: 1 W, 3 L
1. Gerhard "Gerd" Müller, FCB – 19
2. Bernd Hölzenbein, FFM – 13
3. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, FCB – 12
4. Bernd Nickel, FFM – 10
5. Roland Wohlfarth, FCB; Jürgen Grabowski, FFM – 8
Biggest Victory: 7-2 (May 30, 1981, Munich, Germany)
Biggest Defeat: 0-6 (November 22, 1975, Frankfurt, Germany)
To false nine, or not to false nine. That is the question.
Forget the Mario Mandžukić situation for the next two paragraphs. Manager Pep Guardiola has started Mario Götze as his forward four times, three Bundesliga matches and the UEFA Champions League trip to Moscow. FC Bayern has scored seven goals from open play in those matches, and Götze owns two of them.
Another interesting variable will be Franck Ribéry, who has expressed his aspirations to return on Sunday. Ribéry has yet to play in the false nine system, perhaps by design or bad timing. His finishing ability is similar to Thomas Müller's, though the two go about it in slightly different ways, and the service he provides is on a different plateau than the other wingers who have occupied the left flank in his stead.
Now add Mandžukić back into the equation. Sport director Matthias Sammer told Sky on Wednesday: "He showed a reaction, but there must be even more that comes." Guardiola used his Croatian striker as a substitute in the 59th minute as a tactical switch in Stuttgart. Hopefully the choice comes down to a match-up Guardiola wants to exploit rather than a narrative he wants to add to.
On a brighter note, Arjen Robben, Daniel van Buyten, and Javier Martínez all returned to first team training this week, increasing their availability Sunday. Bastian Schweinsteiger, the next return to root for, is still in rehab training for his knee.
The rest of the spine of the team will likely not vary from starting XI's past, so what happens up top reveal the direction of the club both on and off the field.
Projected Lineup (4-1-4-1)
Ribéry – Kroos – Thiago – Müller
Alaba – Dante – Boateng – Rafinha
Bench: Starke, Contento, van Buyten, Martínez, Robben, Mandžukić, Pizarro
To say that Eintrach Frankfurt is an undisciplined side might be inaccurate, but one can not argue with the 40 yellow cards and 2 yellow/red cards, second in the Bundesliga in both categories.
The card trouble has completely changed the side that manager Armin Veh will field on Sunday. Veh has elected not to pick Sebastian Rode and Carlos Zambrano considering both are a yellow card infraction away from missing the club's next match against Eintracht Braunschweig.
"Both threaten a suspension after their next yellow card," said Veh. "We need them more necessarily next matchday against Eintracht Braunschweig. The match has a different value for us." [fcbayern.de]
New defensive addition Alexander Madlung will be the one to play in Zambrano's spot next to Marco Russ, while Johannes Flum will return from his own yellow-card suspension to come in for Rode. The loss of both will likely weaken die Adler's defense, who concede the sixth-fewest shots per match in the Bundesliga despite being rank with injuries.
While his spine has stayed relatively the same, the top has lead to some interesting combinations. Youngster Vaclav Kadlec has carried most of the load, with Joselu getting a run in most of the while. However, the flavor of the month is Jan Rosenthal, who played mostly as a play maker than a center forward. Paired with Alexander Meier, Veh now has a more flexible front that helps in defense, something that will help against FC Bayern's disorganized defense.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1)
Barnetta – Meier – Aigner
Flum – Schwegler
Djakpa – Russ – Madlung – Jung
Bench: Wiedwald, Anderson, Kempf, Schröck, Inui, Lanig, Joselu
After a suspect performance in Stuttgart, FC Bayern will want to make an imprint on their home ground. If Eintracht Frankfurt consider Eintracht Braunschweig a more important tie, then one can only imagine how they are going to treat this match. The Rekordmeister could be in for a big victory, a nice welcome home gift for the Allianz crowd.
Projected Score: FC Bayern München 4-0 Eintracht Frankfurt