Same site and the same opponent as the last Bayern München loss in the Bundesliga. Bayern had won eight consecutive matches before Stefan Kießling and Sidney Sam cut off the club's winning streak.
That kick-started the best Bundesliga campaign ever, which might be followed by, well, the best Bundesliga campaign ever. Bayern are unbeaten in 49 matches since that loss, tied for second in Europe with Arsenal.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen return hanging their heads a bit, win-less in its last seven matches and only seven points during the Rückrunde. A 1-6 aggregate loss to Paris Saint-Germain does not help, and neither does an extra time loss to second tier Kaiserslautern.
Once again two objects with different momentum collide, and Leverkusen will have to add an extra force in order to avoid simple physics.
The Match (74th meeting)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Head: Markus Schmidt
FC Bayern: 9 W, 1 D, 0 L – 12 YC
Assistants: Wolfgang Walz, Kai Voss
Fourth Official: Christian Dingert
Time converter at worldtimebuddy.com
Television and Streaming
US: GolTV USA
Canada: GolTV Canada
UK: BT Sport 2
Germany: Sky Bundesliga 1 | HD, Sky Go, WDR 2
FC Bayern: DWWWW
Bayer 04: LDLLL
Bundesliga: 40 W, 14 D, 15 L
DFB Pokal: 3 W, 1 L
Biggest Victory: 5-0 (September 4, 1982, Munich, Germany)
Biggest Defeat: 2-5 (March 9, 1997, Leverkusen, Germany)
With a full squad and a packed schedule on the docket, one has to wonder whether Pep Guardiola's decisions are due to the match-up, player satisfaction, or cumulative rest. The luxuries of selection have given the Bayern manager a paint brush to which his artistry can flow.
Each case will probably be different. For example, Thomas Müller may start in order to get minutes, or to give Arjen Robben a bit of a breather after he worked two consecutive 90 minute shifts for the first time since his return to full fitness. On the other hand, Mario Mandžukić may start because of how poor Bayern were at finishing during the Hinrunde bout in Leverkusen.
Taking into account how physical Leverkusen's midfield is, Saturday could be the second act of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos, and Philipp Lahm in the midfield. The three had 289 touches combined in Leverkusen, part of the reason for their 27 shots. Thiago will be a great game-changing offensive dynamic off the bench, while Javier Martínez will remain the defensive insurance policy should Guardiola need to see out the result.
If there was ever a match for Daniel van Buyten to start, this might be the one considering Stefan Kießling's aerial ability, but Dante and Jérôme Boateng have teamed up for most of the critical matches during the season.
A physical match-up will probably require physical players, a tool Bayern still has in its vast tool-shed.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1)
Franck Ribéry – Toni Kroos – Thomas Müller
Bastian Schweinsteiger – Philipp Lahm
David Alaba – Dante – Jérôme Boateng – Rafinha
Bench: Tom Starke, Daniel van Buyten, Javier Martínez, Thiago Alcantara, Mario Götze, Xherdan Shaqiri, Claudio Pizarro
An attacking light that was flickering to begin with has gone out. Bayer 04 has scored just eight goals in ten matches after the winter break, aiding in the demise in every competition they are a part of.
The counterattacks that Leverkusen relied on in the Hinrunde have dissipated. Witn injuries in midfield, Sami Hyypiä has employed three holding players that have not created enough going forward, leaving Stefan Kießling, Heung-Min Son, and Ricardo Castro to fend for themselves.
What the side has somewhat restore is a higher workrate, one that reestablished a small amount of pride in their two-legged tie with Paris Saint-Germain. However, the quality throughout the side still lacks, but one would expect that from a limited-budget club.
Emir Saphic will provide a boost in defense after having midweek off due to suspension. He and Ömer Toprak have provided a decent buffer against most of the Bundesliga, but have struggled with the higher levels of competition.
Leverkusen might eventually turn it around enough to stay in Champions League contention with a more manageable schedule, but it likely will not start on Saturday.
Projected Lineup (4-3-3)
Heung Min Son – Stefan Kießling – Gonzalo Castro
Emre Can – Simon Rolfes – Lars Bender
Sebastian Boenisch – Ömer Toprak – Emir Saphic – Roberto Hilbert
Bayer 04 has been somewhat of a kryptonite for the superhuman Bayern team flying around the Bundesliga. A goal or less has decided the last three meetings between these two despite previous domination from the Stern des Südens. The midfield stalwart for Leverkusen will damper the scoring, but a full Bayern squad has few matchable foes.
Projected Score: FC Bayern München 2-0 Bayer 04 Leverkusen