Bayern Munich are once again playing on an uncontrollable high level, one that no other club can hope to contain. The three stains that Bayern have on their fixture list are draws on the road, and Pep Guardiola did not have some of his regulars available for all three matches.
The Spanish gaffer has relied on similar personnel groupings, even with injuries peppered through the squad. The question is then, when is the right time to rotate the squad? His previous attempt to bring mass change to his side has resulted in embarrassing dropped points, but he has a duty to some of his players to at least try to get them involved.
Their trip to Frankfurt looks like a good opportunity, especially since Eintracht Frankfurt currently sits 12th in the table. The pitfall is that Frankfurt has one of the best attacks in the Bundesliga, and switching too many personnel could take away the chemistry that fortified Bayern's defense. Even though the match seems winnable on paper no matter who plays, Guardiola will have to tread lightly when it comes to squad changes.
The Match (95th Meeting)
Location: Commerzbank Arena, Frankfurt, Germany
Head: Florian Meyer
FC Bayern: 36 W, 8 D, 13 L – 96 YC, 2 RC
Assistants: Frank Willenborg, Kal Voss
Fourth Official: Peter Gagelmann
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Television and Streaming:
US: GolTV, MyGermanTV+
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FC Bayern: WWDWW
Bundesliga: 44 W, 21 D, 21 L
DFB Pokal: 3 W, 0 D, 1 L
UEFA Cup (Europa League): 1 W, 0 D, 3 L
Largest Victory: 7-2 (Bundesliga: May 30, 1981, Munich)
Largest Defeat: 0-6 (Bundesliga: November 22, 1975, Frankfurt)
The Bayern engine is roaring in high gear once again, but even finely tuned machine has parts that go bad. Guardiola had a consistent set of personnel in place, but now he will have to go back to the drawing board.
The gaffer has lost perhaps the single most important left-sided player so far this season when David Alaba had to exit midweek early after an MCL strain. The good news is that, at least in the short term, not much will change in the side. Guardiola does not even have to use the two other holding midfielder he has at his disposal, but rather plug in the former Best Player in Europe, Franck Ribéry, to interchange on the flank with Juan Bernat instead.
With Alaba's absence is probably the end of the three-back system Guardiola has continued to dabble with. With attackers returning to health and form, that is not a bad thing. Sure, Bernat and Rafinha could not necessarily participate in the buildup as before, but against a team like Eintracht Frankfurt, they might not have to. Instead Guardiola can focus on reintegrating Ribéry and Arjen Robben back in the same side after not playing together for over six months.
After taking the midweek match off, Thomas Müller will add another finisher to Guardiola's side, which means this match could get out of hand pretty quickly. The tank is still full and the integrity of the engine is still there, so it will likely churn out another impressive result.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Franck Ribéry – Mario Götze – Thomas Müller
Xabi Alonso – Philipp Lahm
Juan Bernat – Dante – Jérôme Boateng – Rafinha
Bench: Leopold Zingerle, Mehdi Benatia, Mitchell Weiser, Sebastian Rode, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Xherdan Shaqiri, Arjen Robben
Eintracht Frankfut has changed their attack, changed their manager, and has constantly changed their setup. What happened? Nothing has changed.
Haris Seferović, the Swiss striker who came from Real Sociedad in the summer, has been a good battering ram up front, but his three goals and three assists have been negated by defensive shortcomings. That was best exemplified in their 4-5 loss against VfB Stuttgart, who increased their goal production by more than 50 percent against Frankfurt's defense.
Eintracht Frankfurt has mostly weathered the loss of Sebastian Rode – especially considering he missed most of last season's Rückrunde due to injury – but have not been able to replace what he brought to the midfield. Marco Russ and Slobodan Medojević are not the box-to-box players Rode was, and Alexander Meier has had to sit deeper because of it. Now a team that is middle in the pack in passing and possession will have to host a team that is once again dominant in both of those categories.
Unless Thomas Schaaf's team can shield mediocre Felix Wiewald, Bayern will get several chances to finish, which is bad news for a club trying to find their way back into Europe.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Marc Stendera – Alexander Meier – Makoto Hasebe
Slobodan Medojević – Marco Russ
Bastian Oczipka – Anderson – Alexander Madlung – Timothy Chandler
Bench: Timo Hildebrand, Aleksandar Ignjovski, David Kinsombi, Takashi Inui, Stefan Aigner, Lukas Paizon, Vaclav Kadlec
Eintracht Frankfurt has quietly been one of the Bundesliga's best attacks, but they might be a little preoccupied with whatever swarm Guardiola chooses to unleash. Unless Seferović or Meier are let loose on a counterattack, the form that Bayern's defense has displayed will make it difficult to challenge Neuer. Looking at betting odds (Frankfurt has 13-1 odds to win the match), it looks more and more like a predetermined three points.
Projected Score: Eintracht Frankfurt (0-3) Bayern Munich