Bayern's dominance has made a few of their matches bland, but that has not been the case when Hoffenheim stand on the opposite side of the field.
In the previous two seasons, Bayern only have a +3 goal differential their four results against Hoffenheim, a remarkable trend given the inconsistent nature of the plastic club. Now the narratives of these two clubs have reached all-time highs, with Bayern having to account for crucial injuries and Hoffenheim having to prove their worth.
Bayern have never lost to Hoffenheim, but with squad and Champions League distractions, this is a match that Hoffenheim could snatch away from them, adding zesty flavor to what looks like a run-of-the-mill match.
The Match (13th Meeting)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Head: Peter Gagelmann
FC Bayern: 22 W, 3 D, 3 L – 25 YC, 2 Y/R
Assistants: Sven Jablonski, Thomas Gorniak
Fourth Official: Robert Kampka
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Television and Streaming:
US: GolTV, MyGermanTV +
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FC Bayern: WWWWD
Bundesliga: 8 W, 4 D, 0 L
Largest Victory: 7-1 (Bundesliga: March 10, 2012, Munich)
Back to the drawing board. Losing David Alaba? That could be fine. Philipp Lahm? Sure, for a few weeks. Losing Alaba and Lahm? Time to brainstorm.
Pencilling in Sebastian Rode or Pierre-Emile Højbjerg may seem like the answer, but a system change could be coming. Alaba and Lahm were quick, agile midfielders that won balls high up the pitch. Rode's lankiness and Højbjerg's naiveté eliminates the possibility of a pair of one-to-one swaps.
Regardless, Xabi Alonso needs a partner on Saturday to hold down the midfield, especially with the strong Hoffenheim attacking midfielders coming to town. After his three-month absence, Bastian Schweinsteiger is not the option to put money on. Gianluca Gaudino could come up from the U19 team like he did at the beginning of the season, but Rode is the short-term solution that Guardiola can plug in and get the results he wants.
Rode would allow Alonso to link play to attack, on that could have some real fire power. Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben could finally play on the same pitch after a six month wait. Thomas Müller left practice early on Thursday, and he is questionable to play at the weekend with a glut bruise. Robbery's return to the pitch could mean more width in Bayern's attack, but Guardiola has stuck with a central approach thus far.
Bayern struggled with Hoffenheim a year ago, but that was after the Bundesliga was already assured. With points still to play for, the Rekordmeister will not mess around.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Franck Ribéry – Mario Götze – Arjen Robben
Sebastian Rode – Xabi Alonso
Juan Bernat – Dante – Jérôme Boateng – Rafinha
Bench: Leopold Zingerle, Mehdi Benatia, Mitchell Weiser, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Xherdan Shaqiri, Thomas Müller
A year ago, Hoffenheim was the worst defensive team in the Bundesliga. They have started the 2014/15 campaign unbeaten in nine matches, giving up just seven goals in that span.
Was it an alteration or an aberration? The last two match days would suggest the latter. Hoffenheim doubled their goal concessions thanks to a 1-3 loss to Borussia Mönchengladbach and a 3-4 loss to 1. FC Köln. A bit misfortune is a significant factor, but the results speak for themselves.
The question is which side shows up in Munich on Saturday. Niklas Süle and Ermin Bičakčić are having terrific campaign in defense, and Sebastian Rudy's transition into a fullback has been a successful experiment. Still, Bayern is a team that has already shredded some of the top defenses in the league, so the defense needs to remain in high form to keep the match from getting out of hand.
If Hoffenheim do fall behind, Roberto Firmino is the one that will get them back into the match. The 23-year-old is coming of age as an attacker, combining a relentless finishing ability and adaptive runs with an above-average playmaking skill. He is the focal point of the team, and many of the players feed off of his performances. With Bayern expected to control the match, he can unravel the Rekordmeister against the run of play.
Sitting in fifth, the long-term spending project might finally pay off, and points in Allianz Arena would go a long way to proving their viability.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Tarik Elyounoussi – Roberto Firmino – Kevin Volland
Eugen Polanski – Pirmin Schwegler
Andreas Beck – Tobias Strobl – Niklas Süle – Sebastian Rudy
Bench: Jens Grahl, Jannik Vestergaard, Ermin Bičakičić, Sejad Salihović, Kai Herding, Sven Schipplock, Adam Szalai
The fascination in this match lies in the nature of which they have exchanged blows the past few meetings. Hoffenheim has stood tall in the ring with Bayern, and injuries to the German champions could provide the window for a knockout punch. That said, the movement and interplay of Bayern's attackers make them a hard heavyweight to drop, and they have gotten ahead early in three of the last four matches. The home advantage will be a big plus, and the Rekordmeister can drop another title contender.
Projected Score: Bayern Munich (3-1) TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
FC Schalke 04 vs. VfL Wolfsburg (Saturday, 9:30 EST)
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Eintracht Frankfurt (Saturday, 9:30 EST)
1. FSV Mainz 05 vs. SC Freiburg (Saturday, 9:30 EST)
Hannover 96 vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen (Saturday, 9:30 EST)
SC Paderborn 07 vs. Borussia Dortmund (Saturday, 9:30 EST)
1. FC Köln vs. Hertha Berlin (Saturday, 12:30 EST)
Hamburger SV vs. Werder Bremen (Sunday, 9:30 EST)
VfB Stuttgart vs. FC Augsburg (Sunday, 11:30 EST)
Champions League Opponents
Manchester City vs. Swansea City (Saturday, 10:00 EST)
Krasnodar vs. CSKA Moskva (Saturday, 8:30 EST)
FSV Frankfurt vs. Eintracht Braunschweig (Saturday, 7:00 EST)
|TSG 1899 Hoffenheim||11||4||5||2||17||14||+3||17|
|1. FSV Mainz 05||11||3||6||2||13||12||+1||15|
|SC Paderborn 07||11||4||3||4||16||16||0||15|
|1. FC Köln||11||4||3||4||11||11||0||15|
|FC Schalke 04||11||4||2||5||14||15||-1||14|
|Hertha Berliner SC||11||3||2||6||15||21||-6||11|