In case you were waiting for Bayern Munich to go up against an aggressive team, you will have to wait another week.
The Rekordmeister will face their fourth-consecutive Bundesliga opponent who will decide not to have the ball, Hannover 96. The Roten of the north is in the middle of the pack when it comes to possession, but that is because two of the teams they have faced, 1. FC Köln and Paderborn, are at the very bottom.
Bayern have scored more than two goals only twice this season, against the promoted Paderborn and against third-tier cup opponent Preußen Münster. The lack of scoring has not hindered their Bundesliga progression, sitting atop the table with 14 points through six matches.
Pep Guardiola will continue to scheme to solve this baffling issue, and with the international break on the horizon, he will not have to pull any punches with his team sheet.
The Match (54th Meeting)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Head: Daniel Siebert
Assistants: Markus Hacker, Jan Seidel
Fourth Official: Markus Wingenbach
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Television and Streaming:
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Bundesliga: 33 W, 8 D, 9 L
DFB Pokal: 3 W, 0 D, 0 L
Largest Victory: 7-0 (Bundesliga: April 17, 2010, Munich, Germany)
Largest Defeat: 1-3 (Bundesliga: September 22, 1973, Hannover, Germany; March 5, 2011, Hannover, Germany)
Watching teams pack men behind the ball against Bayern has been vexing, but what Bayern can hang their lederhosen straps on is the fact that they have found a breakthrough in every match but one – the 0-0 draw against Hamburg SV.
The condensed space has affected some while others look immune to the tactic. Thomas Müller is able to make the same diagonal runs that he always can, but Robert Lewandowski has not figured out a way to shrug off the constant pressure around him. The explanation of the difference in shots – Müller has 21 shots (3.5 per match) and Lewandowski has 16 (2.7 per match) – could simply be that Lewandowski is drawing the attention away from Müller, allowing the German international to find space in behind.
Regardless, Lewandowski and Müller have combined for just two goals in the Bundesliga all season. The lack of production from the two is systemic to Bayern's modest goal tally, but that has not stopped them from dragging away points from their opponents. Guardiola's amoeba tactics have acted as a moat between their opponents and Manuel Neuer's palace gates, Bayern going 558 minutes in all competition without conceding a goal.
The only question in defense is who will take part in it. The dynamic between Juan Bernat and David Alaba is too effective to ignore on the right flank, and Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso will undoubtedly be partners in crime in some regard. Dante sat at midweek, and considering the fitness questions surrounding Jérôme Boateng and Mehdi Benatia, the Brazilian could easily break into the starting XI once again.
Guardiola will continue to find ways for his waves of pressure to do more than just wash up against the wall of defenders, but if he can help his team keep the ball out of the back of the net, one breakthrough might do the trick.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Mario Götze – Thomas Müller – Arjen Robben
David Alaba – Xabi Alonso
Juan Bernat – Dante – Jérôme Boateng – Philipp Lahm
Bench: Pepe Reina, Mehdi Benatia, Rafinha, Sebastian Rode, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Xherdan Shaqiri, Claudio Pizarro
Easily the most boring and uninteresting team in the Bundesliga, Hannover 96 have gotten the points that spectators probably expected them to get. They have pulled away with impressive results and gifted points away, but all-in-all 10 points through six matches is not a huge surprise.
Half of the results came from Köln, Paderborn, and Hamburg though, three clubs part of the relegation/promotion picture last season.
Second-year manager Tyfun Korkut has allowed his team to skate by with only one true goalscorer, Joselu. The transfer window acquisition has driven the attack for Hannover, but he is the only one doing so. Korkut has isolated him in the last few matches, one where Hannover's opponents have easily been able to cut off the supply to the Spaniard. The opposition has forced Joselu to win a lot of balls in the air in order to create something for himself, something he has not really done in the past.
Korkut has blanketed his mediocre center backs, Christian Schulz and Marcelo, with defensive midfielders comprising much of the center of the park. Ceyhun Gülselam, Manuel Schmiedebach, and Leon Andreasen have condensed the middle tighter than meat in a sausage, which has hampered any build-up play what-so-ever. Andreasen will not be available Saturday, so Maurice Hirsch could get his first career start at the weekend.
Korkut's conservative tactics against VfB Stuttgart may mean that he simply does not have the personnel to mount an effective attack. Instead, his team will have to board up the windows in which Bayern can operate in order to wait out the storm.
Projected Lineup (4-1-4-1):
Hiroshi Kiyotake – Maurice Hirsch – Manuel Schmiedebach – Leonardo Bittencourt
Miiko Albornoz – Christian Schulz – Marcelo – Hiroki Sakai
Bench: Robert Almer, Felipe, Marius Stankevičius, Jan Schlaudraff, Kenan Karaman, Jimmy Brand, Artur Sobiech
Of all the matches on Bayern's fixture list, this will likely be the least entertaining to watch. Getting Hannover to concede will be as tough as getting a child to do his homework. Bayern could have a huge advantage on the flanks, but Hannover's record in the air will make it incredibly hard to score. Mario Götze will have to expose Hannover's sluggish midfielders, and once the windows open Bayern could sneak a few past Ron-Robert Zieler.