Playing in Allianz Arena at midweek, Bayern Munich gave a rude "welcome to the Bundesliga" to SC Paderborn 07. Now they do the same against the other promoted side, but this is more of a reluctant reunion than a house-warming party.
1. FC Köln is one of the teams Bayern goes way back with. Köln was one of the 17 opponents Bayern had to face in their first Bundesliga season, and their first trip to Köln remains one of the worst losses in Bayern history. Of the clubs currently in the Bundesliga, Köln is the club that Bayern has the worst league record against.
The Köln team that will take the pitch Saturday is not the Köln team of old, but it will be another team that Bayern could find it hard to score against. They surrendered their first goal in all competition at midweek, and possess one of Germany's promising young goalkeepers in Timo Horn.
With a Champions League match at midweek, Guardiola will once again have to balance the rest of his players and his desire to chase the result. It will be a difficult trip north, but one that Bayern looks more prepared for than ones of the past few weeks.
The Match (87th Meeting)
Location: RheinEnergieStadion, Köln, Germany
Head: Knut Kircher
FC Bayern: 27 W, 12 D, 5 L – 65 YC, 2 RC
Assistants: Robert Kempter, Thorsten Schiffner
Fourth Official: Thorsten Schriever
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Television and Streaming:
US: GolTV, MyGermanTV+
Germany: Sky Bundesliga 3 | HD, Sky Go
FC Bayern: WDWWD
Bundesliga: 36 W, 22 D, 22 L
DFB-Pokal: 5 W, 0 D, 1 L
Largest Victory: 8-0 (DFB-Pokal: February 4, 2003, Munich)
Largest Defeat: 6-1 (Bundesliga: December 11, 1965, Köln)
Scoring five goals in their first four matches, Bayern finally got the blowout that was lurking in their play. The return of Arjen Robben certainly helped, the Dutchman playing a full 90 minutes after missing four matches, but the new catalyst in Bayern's side might be Mario Götze.
Never known as a dominant goalscorer, Götze has quietly found himself among the top goal scorers in the Bundesliga. Perhaps due to his reunion with Robert Lewandowski, Götze has settled back into his best position: a flexible role in behind the striker where he can link up the play in dangerous positions. He has not single-handedly carried Bayern's attack, but once Lewandowski and Robben return to full fitness, he could be morphing into a key player that links all the talent around him together.
Whether or not Götze makes similar contributions this weekend is unclear, for the team sheet becomes a crapshoot once again with the Champions League match at midweek. The reserves Guardiola tried to implement a week ago against Hamburg SV could not get three points, but they did get a point on the road while providing top players with valuable rest. While he may not necessarily need it, Thomas Müller could get the breather he was promised a week ago before Robben needed to be scratched after warmup.
The only enigma that remains with Bayern is how Mehdi Benatia will feature. The €26 million acquisition has started only one match since his arrival from AS Roma, the Champions League bout with Manchester City. Guardiola did not even use him off the bench once Bayern stormed ahead of Paderborn, Guardiola electing to use Rafinha instead of him in Jérôme Boateng's place. There is a chance that he is not 100 percent fit for consistent action, but that assumption does not lead to any long term revelation as to what his role is.
Even without Benatia, Bayern's defense has played up to levels that even the treble team could not achieve. They have not allowed a goal since the international break, which gives them the second best goal record (tied with Borussia Mönchengladbach) behind only 1. FC Köln. Xabi Alonso has been the bouncer in the back, keeping track of all the play going in and out of the center of the park.
For the third consecutive week, Bayern are playing a club with a conservative game plan week-in, week-out. They will need to rely on their attacking superstars to create the necessary space for a breakthrough, which could prove tough again on the road.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Xherdan Shaqiri – Mario Götze – Arjen Robben
Sebastian Rode – Philipp Lahm
David Alaba – Dante – Mehdi Benatia – Rafinha
Bench: Tom Starke, Juan Bernat, Jérôme Boateng, Xabi Alonso , Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Thomas Müller, Claudio Pizarro
You never know what to expect when a club earns promotion, but what especially how their tactics will translate. So far for 1. FC Köln, their transition back to the Bundesliga has not been jarring in the slightest.
That is all thanks to Peter Stöger, who has turned a paper-thin Köln defense into one of the best defensive teams in the Bundesliga. When Köln suffered relegation in 2012, they had given up 75 goals, which was by far the most in the top flight. Stöger's club earned promotion while just allowing 20 goals last season, and Joselu's goal at midweek was the first one Köln had given up all season.
So, why do they only have six points? Their shortcomings are on the opposite end of the pitch. Stöger is relying on 2. Bundesliga players that might not be up to stuff in the Bundesliga. They acquired Yuya Osako and Simon Zoller from TSV 1860 München and Kaiserslautern respectively, two promising young strikers to add to their own Anthony Ujah. The trio have combined for just two goals all season, both of which came in their match against VfB Stuttgart before the international break.
The missing punch in attack has lead to three scoreless draws, and they are second only to Hamburg (who have yet to score) in the goalscoring department. Because their goal concession record is so good, the lack of goals has not been a problem for them, but it will grow as they begin to face the Bundesliga elite, namely Bayern and Borussia Dortmund.
Playing at home may increase their likelihood of holding their own against Bayern, but the increased fitness of Bayern's best will lead to a barrage that the blockade will not be able to hold.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Marcel Risse – Yuya Osako – Daniel Halfar
Kevin Vogt – Matthias Lehmann
Jonas Hector – Kevin Wimmer – Dominic Maroh – Miso Brečko
Bench: Thomas Kessler, Tomaš Kalas, Mergim Mavraj, Adam Matuschyk, Yannick Gebhart, Pawel Olkowski, Simon Zoller
If there is any doubt that Stöger will have his team put every player behind the ball, there should not be. Bayern will have to work in a compressed space, but the added dynamism of Robben will cause more trouble for Köln than they have seen to this point. Eventually, Kölns defense will have to break, and Bayern is the most qualified team to do so.