The Bundesliga campaign is still in the grassroots level, but the word "trap game" is written all over this fixture.
Bayern Munich have struggled with this kind of match in the past, looking beyond the domestic league in the shadow of the UEFA Champions League. With Manchester City on the docket, Bayern could take a single-point VfB Stuttgart for granted.
Stuttgart gave Bayern two good run-ins last season, the Reds needing extra-time magic to squeeze out a three point result. If Guardiola saves his punches for the heavyweight bout at midweek, Bayern could be required to muster similar magic again.
This mis-match could turn out to be a lot closer than initially expected, giving the neutrals plenty of entertainment to witness.
The Match (133rd Meeting)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Head: Thorsten Kinhöfer
FC Bayern: 30 W, 8 D, 8 L – 77 YC, 1 Y/R, 3 RC
Assistants: Christian Fischer, Frederick Assmuth
Fourth Official: Harm Osmers
Time converter at worldtimebuddy.com
Television and Streaming:
Germany: Sky Bundesliga 1 | HD, SkyGo
FC Bayern: DWWL
VfB Stuttgart: LDL
Bundesliga: 58 W, 19 D, 17 L
DFB Pokal: 9 W, 0 D, 1 L
Ligapokal: 3 W, 1 L
Largest Victory: 6-1 (Bundesliga: September 9, 2012, Munich, Germany)
Largest Defeat: 3-0 (Bundesliga: April 4, 1968, Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion, Stuttgart, Germany; March 15, 1969, Stuttgart, Germany; November 14, 1987, Stuttgart, Germany; DFB Pokal: November 9, 1989, Stuttgart, Germany)
Bayern did not have a big representation at the first round of the UEFA Euro Qualifiers, but that was a blessing in disguise. The club's depth before the international break was thin to say the least, but Guardiola's pen is once again filled with a fresh stock.
Franck Ribéry, who has missed the first four competitive matches with a knee injury, is adamant about a return. Xabi Alonso and Arjen Robben, who have been dealing with respective foot problems, returned to team practice. Even Thiago Alcântara (knee) and Mitchell Weiser (ankle) returned to rehab activities, although neither them nor Bastian Schweinsteiger (knee) are still a few weeks away from a return.
With a rejuvenated stable of options, Guardiola's tactics will enter the pitch with its usual creative craft. Bayern have slowly shifted away from the three-back system he deployed in the preseason, the gaffer going so far as to use Philipp Lahm in his "traditional" fullback spot. With four healthy center-backs, the changes could churn again, and Guardiola will have to chose whether Mehdi Benatia makes his debut or not.
What remains clear is that Lewandowski will be central to any attacking progress. Robben's return will be a welcome addition to an attack that has scored just three goals in two Bundesliga matches. Mario Götze and Xherdan Shaqiri are still trying to restore their World Cup form, and a preparation game before the Champions League starts could be the match to help them reinstall it.
Bayern has dominated Stuttgart in several competitions as of late, but they will have to be careful not take the Bundesliga for granted, especially at this stage.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Mario Götze – Thomas Müller – Arjen Robben
Xabi Alonso – Sebastian Rode
Juan Bernat – Jérôme Boateng – Holger Badstuber – Philipp Lahm
Bench: Pepe Reina, David Alaba, Mehdi Benatia, Dante, Franck Ribéry, Xherdan Shaqiri, Claudio Pizarro
For a team that finished 15th in the Bundesliga, VfB Stuttgart do not seem to be headed in the right direction. Second-tier Bochum knocked them out of the DFB-Pokal, and they are still looking for their first victory of the season.
What Armin Veh has done in his first few months in charge is continued their investment in young talent. The big addition was Filip Kostić, although he was invisible in his only start in the DFB-Pokal. They also capitalized on two relegated talents, Daniel Ginczek and Adam Hlousek, but even those additions leave Veh's squad rather thin.
Their defense has remained stringent, although Koln torched it for two goals last week. Antonio Rüdiger has reached Joachim Löw's shortlist of German defensive talent, and Chelsea loanee Oriol Romeu has shielded the back line nicely in his short time. They will be a team that Bayern will have to out-muscle to find the back of the net.
The attack is what is lagging behind. Vedad Ibišević and Martin Harnik are above-average attackers, but they alone cannot carry the front line for Stuttgart. They have scored just one goal in three matches, and they will have a hard time going up against Bayern's reinforcements in defense.
Stuttgart have been a thorn in Bayern's side a few times, but ultimately their talent will not measure up to the German giants.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Alexandru Maxim – Daniel Didavi – Martin Harnik
Oriol Romeu – Christian Gentner
Gotoku Sakai – Antonio Rüdiger – Dominik Maroh – Florian Klein
Bench: Thorsten Kirschenbaum, Georg Niedermeier, Filip Kostić, Carlos Gruezo, Konstantin Rausch, Moritz Leitner, Timo Werner
With more time to prepare than they normally would, Bayern will be more organized as a team. No matter if it is a back three or a back four for the Bavarians, Stuttgart will have a tough time finding the back of the net. Müller's knack for the back of the net will be critical, and one of Ribéry or Robben will have to supply the service against Stuttgart's average fullbacks. It will not be a pretty match to watch, but Bayern will inevitably find themselves on top.
Projected Score: Bayern Munich (2-0) VfB Stuttgart