This is a trip Bayern is very used to, a quick 45 minute drive in December to Augsburg to take on the Fuggerstädter. The last two Achtelfinale Bayern have played in the DFB-Pokal have been in SGL Arena, and two of the three Rückrunde matches Bayern have played against Augsburg since their promotion have been there as well. This trip, however, will be unlike any other.
For the first time since 2010, Bayern will undertake a meaningful Bavarian derby. Under the management of Markus Weinzierl, Augsburg has shot up the table, and they will take on Bayern for the first time as a Champions League contender.
Bayern's trips to Augsburg have not been as easy as one would think. Bayern have never scored more than two goals in SGL Arena since Augsburg got promoted, and Weinzierl will do his best to contain Pep Guardiola's swarm of attackers. This Bavarian showcase is bound to be a hard-fought battle as both hope to continue their impressive run of form.
The Match (10th Meeting)
Location: SGL Arena, Augsburg, Germany
Head: Tobias Stieler
FC Bayern: 5 W, 0 D, 0 L – 4 YC
Assistants: Patrick Ittrich, Sascha Thielert
Fourth Official: Wolfgang Waltz
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Television and Streaming:
Germany: Sky Bundesliga 4 | HD, Sky Go
FC Bayern: WWWLW
Bundesliga: 5 W, 0 D, 1 L
DFB Pokal: 3 W, 0 D, 0 L
Largest Victory: 6-0 (DFB Pokal: October 10, 1983, Augsburg)
Largest Defeat: 0-1 (Bundesliga: April 5, 2014, Augsburg)
Bayern's form at this point of the season is the movie sequel that never gets old. They are dominant, they are relentless, and even with eight players on the shelf, they are adaptable and interchangeable. All that is great, but why is Bayern struggling to find the back of the net?
Guardiola has deployed the five-attacker system each of the last three games. The buildup play has not flowed nearly as well, and they have not created the scoring chances the past two matches that they have in previous stretches this season. If only there was a divine influence of some kind to provide a different dynamic... Wait a minute! The Fußballgott!
Bastian Schweinsteiger returned at midweek to play a full 90 minute for the first time since his injury troubles. It was the perfect low pressure situation for Guardiola to test him in, and he passed with flying colors. He was at both ends of the pitch, directing the play and recovering for his defenders when the pacy CSKA attackers pulled them out of position. The pairing of him and Xabi Alonso will restore the midfield balance Bayern needs, allowing the forwards to focus on the finishing chances rather than starting them.
After sitting at midweek, Mehdi Benatia and Rafinha should return to defense, one that has not allowed a goal in 429 minutes. Benatia has started against Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund, and Bayern's first five Champions League matches, a sign he has leapfrogged Dante in the pecking order. Bayern has seemingly solved the defensive issues that arose at the end of last season, Guardiola even going so far as only putting one center back in the penalty area on corner kicks.
Based on their comments on their Bavarian rivals, the Bayern players are going into this match with respect for Augsburg, which will lead to an effort that will be a great spectacle.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Franck Ribéry – Mario Götze – Arjen Robben
Bastian Schweinsteiger – Xabi Alonso
Juan Bernat – Mehdi Benatia – Jérôme Boateng – Rafinha
Bench: Leopold Zingerle, Dante, Sebastian Rode, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Gianluca Gaudino, Xherdan Shaqiri, Thomas Müller
Out/Suspended: David Alaba (knee), Thiago Alcântara (knee), Holger Badstuber (thigh), Philipp Lahm (ankle), Javi Martínez (knee), Claudio Pizarro (thigh), Pepe Reina (calf), Tom Starke (ankle)
As far as narratives go, Augsburg wins the prize for the most fascinating one of the Rückrunde so far. A club whose membership is currently around 12,500 is knocking out the big boys, and the punches they have landed have been pretty big.
Weinzierl has this squad playing with passion and heart, something that radiates from the pitch like a stove top when they play. Their movement has been clinical, Tobias Werner and Raul Bobadilla getting in terrific attacking positions as veteran Daniel Baier and loanee Dominik Kohr direct the play. Paul Verhaegh and Abdul Rahman Baba has provided top-class service from the flanks, giving their forward progressions several different dimensions.
Their one major flaw thus far has been on the scoresheet. They are in the middle of the pack in goals scored, but half of their goals have come from Werner and Verhaegh, perhaps not the most sustainable source. Nikola Djurdjić's return to the Bundesliga has not gone very well, Weinzierl relying on him because of his limited options up top.
Weinzierl has been able to lean on his defense thanks to spectacular years from Ragnar Klavan and Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker thus far. Baier and Kohr provide a nice shield, but the stone wall lies in that center back pairing.
The will that Augsburg has played with so far is what Weinzierl believes is the key to getting a result. Based on how they have performed thus far, one should not count them out in any match no matter who the opponent is.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Tobias Werner – Halil Altintop – Raul Bobadilla
Daniel Baier – Dominik Kohr
Abdul Rahman Baba – Ragnar Klavan – Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker – Paul Verhaegh
Bench: Ioannis Gelios, Marcel de Jong, Hong Jeong-Ho, Caiuby, Alexander Esswein, Marcus Feulner, Sascha Mölders
Out/Suspended: Marwin Hitz (knee), Tim Matavz (leg), Jan Morávek (knee), Shawn Parker (knee), Ronny Philp (tendon tear)
This match is going to be like watching an old fashion sand wheel pick apart a two-by-four. Augsburg will find a way to frustrate the Bayern attackers, and hold their ground even when the Rekordmeister find a way to the back of the net. Unless Bobadilla finds his way in space, Augsburg will have a tough time manufacturing goal scoring chances on the best ball-winning team in Europe. Half the matches Bayern have played in Augsburg over the last three seasons have resulted in 2-0 victories, making it a strong bet that the result could happen again.
The Other Action
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim vs. Eintracht Frankfurt (Friday, 2:30 PM EST)
FC Schalke 04 vs. 1. FC Köln (Saturday, 9:30 AM EST)
Hertha Berliner SC vs. Borussia Dortmund (Saturday, 9:30 AM EST)
SV Werder Bremen vs. Hannover 96 (Saturday, 9:30 AM EST)
SC Freiburg vs. Hamburger SV (Saturday, 9:30 AM EST)
1. FSV Mainz 05 vs. VfB Stuttgart (Saturday, 12:30 PM EST)
Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach (Sunday, 9:30 AM EST)
VfL Wolfsburg vs. SC Paderborn 07 (Sunday, 9:30 AM EST)
|FC Bayern München||11||3||0||33||3||+30||36|
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||6||5||3||25||18||+7||23|
|FC Schalke 04||7||2||3||25||18||+7||23|
|TSG 1899 Hoffenheim||5||5||4||21||22||-1||20|
|SC Paderborn 07||4||5||5||19||23||-4||17|
|1. FSV Mainz 05||3||7||4||17||20||-3||16|
|1. FC Köln||4||3||7||14||20||-6||15|
|Hertha Berliner SC||4||2||8||19||26||-7||14|
|SV Werder Bremen||3||4||7||20||31||-11||13|