This matchup is one that everyone should circle on the fixture list every season until further notice. Over the past three seasons, Bayer Leverkusen has gone toe-to-toe with Bayern Munich, despite the Rekordmeister embarrassing the rest of the Bundesliga.
Leverkusen has reascended to the top of the Bundesliga, but the next two matches could drastically affect the course of their season. Bayern continue to fire on al cylinders, only a red card keeping them from remaining unbeaten on the year.
A direct, double-barreled attack for Leverkusen will fight blow-for-blow with the shifty, elusive power in Munich. Two managers with admitted respect for one-another will scrupulously shift their schemes to try and trounce one another, making for a great prime-time Saturday matchup for Fußball fanatics.
The Match (75th Meeting)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Head: Knut Kircher
FC Bayern: 28 W, 12 D, 5 L – 65 YC, 2 RC
Assistants: Robert Kempter, Thorsten Schiffner
Fourth Official: Mike Pickel
Time converter at worldtimebuddy.com
Television and Streaming:
UK: BT Sport 1
Germany: Sky Bundesliga 1 | HD, SkyGo
FC Bayern: WLWWW
Bayer 04: WLWDW
Bundesliga: 41 W, 14 D, 15 L
DFB Pokal: 3 W, 0 D, 1 L
Largest Victory: 5-0 (Bundesliga: September 4, 1982, Munich)
Largest Defeat: 2-5 (Bundesliga: March 9, 1997, Leverkusen)
What is Pep Guardiola's solution to having all of his top attackers fit and fully loaded? Why he just plays them all!
For the past two Bundesliga matches, the gaffer has elected to drain the midfield to allow all of his forward-minded players to flow in attack. Pulling the plug on the midfield has not worked exactly how he wanted. Bayern passed for a season-low 79 percent against Hoffenheim, and could not knock down the Berlin wall in the Olympiastadion more than once.
Against a club that allowed Werder Bremen to score three goals, the full-blown front might work, but only with a stout foundation in the back. Bayern's defense has only allowed three goals in the Bundesliga, two of which they have allowed in the first two matches of the season. With Mehdi Benatia suspended at midweek, he could get the nod, although Bayern still has a packed slate before the Winterpause.
Even with Bayern's stellar defensive record, putting in another holding midfield alongside the crossing guard Xabi Alonso is not out of the question. Bastian Schweinsteiger now has a few appearances off the bench under his belt, which may mean he could be due for an appearance in the starting XI. Sebastian Rode has gotten an appearance in every match both David Alaba and Philipp Lahm have been absent for as well.
Whoever he uses, Guardiola will throw as much attacking might as he can at Leverkusen's defense, and it will be a good test to see how many goals Bayern can splash in the back of the net against a Champions League team.
Projected Lineup (4-1-4-1):
Franck Ribéry – Mario Götze – Thomas Müller – Arjen Robben
Juan Bernat – Mehdi Benatia – Jérôme Boateng – Rafinha
Bench: Leopold Zingerle, Dante, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sebastian Rode, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Gianluca Gaudino, Xherdan Shaqiri
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)
Bayer 04 Leverkusen has soared back to the top of the table, but the flight has come with a lot of turbulence. Injuries have left an already thin defense starved from players, which has brought inconsistency in the back. One match they are holding the might of Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia, and another they are surrendering a three-goal lead to relegation candidates VfB Stuttgart.
Leverkusen lost two key imposing presences on the defensive side of the pitch – Schalke loanee Kyriakos Papadopoulos and the forceful-yet-undisciplined Stefan Reinartz. Roger Schmidt has relied on Gonzalo Castro in midfield, a position he has not played frequently in the past, who does not have the ball-winning or distribution skills to play the position effectively. His defense still comprises of a mediocre core and much to be desired on the flanks, but the attacking might has done its job on the other end of the pitch.
It has been an up and down year for the newly appointed Schmidt, but he has created a potent, double-barrelled attack that is turning a lot of heads. Hakan Çalhanoğlu has developed one of the best right feet in Germany, and Karim Bellarabi has gotten the attention on the international level. Both, along with Son Heung-Min, are effective in one-on-one situation, but the group as a whole is not as well-oiled as last week's 5-1 result against Köln showed.
The issue in attack that is responsible for their inconsistency is the predictability the players build-up the play and use their space. There are times when the players clearly telegraph their intensions with the ball, making them an easy team to intercept. When the game opens up, that predictability does not seem to matter, but Leverkusen are not a side that can break down an opponent.
Leverkusen will have to score against the run of play, but that is something that might play right into their wheelhouse.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Son Heung-Min – Hakan Çalhanoğlu – Karim Bellarabi
Lars Bender – Simon Rolfes
Sebastian Boenisch – Emir Spahić – Ömer Toprak – Tin Jedvaj
Bench: Dario Kresić, Roberto Hilbert, Levin Öztunali, Gonzalo Castro, Robbie Kruse, Julian Brandt, Stefan Kießling
Out/Suspended: Guido Donati (ligament tear), Kyriakos Papadopoulos (shoulder), Stefan Reinartz (eye socket)
Leverkusen will undoubtedly try to catch Bayern on the counterattack, but that is a facet of their play that is much improved from this season to last. Spahić and Toprak will have to have the matches of their lives, for the Bayern attacking pressure will be unbearable. There will be blows back and forth, but Bayern's clowder of class will eventually shine through.
Projected Score: Bayern Munich (2-0) Bayer Leverkusen
The Other Action
Borussia Dortmund vs. TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (Friday, 2:30 PM EST)
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Hertha Berliner SC (Saturday, 9:30 AM EST)
Hannover 96 vs. VfL Wolfsburg (Saturday, 9:30 AM EST)
VfB Stuttgart vs. FC Schalke 04 (Saturday, 9:30 AM EST)
1. FC Köln vs. FC Augsburg (Saturday, 9:30 AM EST)
SC Paderborn 07 vs. SC Freiburg (Saturday, 9:30 AM EST)
Hamburger SV vs. 1. FSV Mainz 05 (Sunday, 9:30 AM EST)
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Werder Bremen (Sunday, 11:30 AM EST)
Champions League Opponent
Kuban' Krasnodar vs. CSKA Moskva (Saturday, 11:00 AM EST)
Karlsruher SC vs. Eintracht Braunschweig (Sunday, 7:30 AM EST)
|FC Bayern München||10||3||0||32||3||+29||33|
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||6||5||2||25||17||+8||23|
|FC Schalke 04||6||2||5||21||18||+3||20|
|TSG 1899 Hoffenheim||5||5||3||21||21||+0||20|
|1. FSV Mainz 05||3||7||3||16||18||-2||16|
|SC Paderborn 07||4||4||5||18||22||-4||16|
|1. FC Köln||4||3||6||13||18||-5||15|
|Hertha Berliner SC||4||2||7||17||23||-6||14|
|SV Werder Bremen||3||4||6||18||26||-8||13|