To see Bayern Munich break a Bundesliga record is hard to see nowadays, for they have a large number already in the bank. The four consecutive Bundesliga titles is certainly a big one to have, but this opportunity is even harder to attain: Bayern have a chance to win nine straight Bundesliga matches, the best start in league history.
The match on paper is droll, for Bayern have won their last ten matches against Werder Bremen. This fixture is not even close to a heated rivalry anymore, and the way the current Bremen squad looks, it will not be for a long time. That said, besting their own best start is pretty significant, especially since the Rekordmeister do not even have their best players.
The match Champions League match at midweek will surely be on the Bayern players' minds, but their manager never likes to drop points. Luckily for Bayern, Bremen are trending in the exact opposite direction as Bayern, which will make this road fixture easier to handle no matter who plays.
The Match (110th Meeting)
Location: Weserstadion, Bremen, Germany
Head: Christian Dingert
FC Bayern: 6 W, 2 D, 1 L – 14 YC
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Bundesliga: 47 W, 25 D, 26 L
DFB Pokal: 5 W, 0 D, 1 L
DFL Supercup: 1 W, 0 L
Ligapokal: 3 W, 1 L
Largest Victory: 7-0 (Bundesliga: August 12, 1980, Munich; December 7, 2013, Bremen)
Largest Defeat: 2-5 (Bundesliga: September 20, 2008, Munich)
Perhaps not even a cement building will stop the roll they are on, but an international break has taken the wind out of their sails before. The injury bug has tried to cripple the Rekordmeister so they do not run away with the Bundesliga again, but this time Bayern have come more prepared.
Guardiola does not usually play with Thomas Müller on the wing, especially since he can take away a lot of the attention Robert Lewandowski gets. The gaffer may not have a choice though, unless he wants to trot out Arjen Robben from the start after the Dutchman missed the last month with a groin injury. Müller out wide would work pretty well though against Bremen, for the way he plays the position mitigates the strength Bremen have with Santiago Garcia.
Central midfield will be one of the bigger puzzles for Guardiola to solve. Though Arturo Vidal played both World Cup qualifiers for Chile, he left with a limp after 65 minutes against Peru, and may not be available for Saturday's match. Without Sebastian Rode or Mario Götze to replace him, Philipp Lahm will have to move back to midfield unless Guardiola was impressed enough with Kimmich to give him a run in. Rafinha will be able to handle the right flank in defense no matter what, for Bremen are not going to be using it very often.
One option would be to play with the diamond defense again, for that could prove valuable against a team that plays with two up front. Bremen presents a unique opportunity though, for their setup usually leaves a lot of space open on the flanks. Douglas Costa will certainly thrive there, but David Alaba could too, and having him come forward is a prospect Bayern will want.
The Bayern short on personnel, maybe even enough to prevent filling a whole team sheet, but the quality they can still field will be very daunting for Bremen to handle.
Projected Lineup (4-3-3):
Douglas Costa – Robert Lewandowski – Thomas Müller
Thiago Alcantara – Xabi Alonso – Philipp Lahm
David Alaba – Jerome Boateng – Javi Martinez – Rafinha
Bench: Sven Ulreich, Juan Bernat, Jan Kirchhoff, Joshua Kimmich, Arturo Vidal
Out/Suspended: Holger Badstuber (thigh), Medhi Benatia (thigh), Kingsley Coman (thigh), Mario Götze (groin), Franck Ribéry (ankle), Arjen Robben (groin), Sebastian Rode (thigh)
Werder Bremen rode a strong Rückrunde start all the way to mid-table last season, but they have restored their downward trend that started a few seasons ago. A team that is below average at the back is even worse at the front, and not even a loyal, vigilant manager like Viktor Skripnik can rekindle the magic from last season.
Anthony Ujah was an aggressive signing, but the buildup interplay around him is not as good as when he was at Köln. The attack is certainly more designed for a player like Franco Di Santo, one who can create on his own and doesn't rely on others to create scoring chances. Di Santo plays for Schalke now though, and Ujah has not filled his shoes very well. The last goal they scored was against Darmstadt in mid-September, and the player who scored it, Aron Johannsson, is out
It is not entirely his fault of course, for the buildup play is more insufferable as it as ever been. Seeing Werder Bremen string five passes together in their opponent's half of the field is like seeing a deer in your back yard: it's amazing when it happens, but it runs away at the slightest distraction. It doesn't help when Skripnik has had to constantly rotate his diamond due to suspensions and injuries.
Bremen cannot keep possession very well, so it is not good that they cannot win the ball back well either. The strength of their defense comes in numbers, and even Ujah tracks back to help out. They do not defend as a group though, which leaves several pockets of space for teams to exploit. The one player that has held things together is Jannik Vestergaard, and he may have to sit out Saturday with an illness. Without his intangible know-how and guidance, Alejandro Galvéz and Assai Lukimya – who have paired together just four times in defense – may have to team up, a very unpleasant scenario for the Weserstadion crowd.
Bremen have a lot of problems they need to fix, and facing Bayern will not solve any of them.
Projected Lineup (4-4-2 Diamond):
Fin Bartels – Anthony Ujah
Levin Öztunali – Clemens Fritz
Santiago Garcia – Alejandro Gálvez – Assani Lukimya – Theodor Gebre Selassie
Bench: Michael Zetterer, Jannik Sternberg, Ulisses Garcia, Felix Kroos, Maximillian Eggestein, Fabian Grillitsch, Claudio Pizarro
Out/Suspended: Aron Johannsson (gain), Jannik Vestergaard (illness), Raphael Wolf (hip), Özkan Yildirim (knee)
Bayern will lead Bremen 1-0 even before Christian Dingert blows his whistle; Bayern have one Lewandowski, and Bremen have none. Without Vestegaard, Bayern will have a field day in Bremen's penalty area, and with Lahm and Alonso potentially winning the ball in midfield, the pressure will be relentless. Bayern have scored at least four goals in each of their last four meetings against Bremen, and with the Bundesliga's top two goal scorers, four should be a minimum.
The Other Action
1. FSV Mainz 05 vs. Borussia Dortmund (Friday, 2:30 PM ET)
FC Schalke 04 vs. Hertha Berliner SC (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Hamburger SV vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
FC Augsburg vs. SV Darmstadt 98 (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach (Saturday, 12:30 PM ET)
1. FC Köln vs. Hannover 96 (Sunday, 9:30 AM ET)
VfB Stuttgart vs. FC Ingolstadt 04 (Sunday, 11:30 AM ET)
UEFA Champions League Opponent
Dinamo Zagreb vs. NK Zagreb (Friday, 12:00 PM ET)
Watford vs. Arsenal (Saturday, 12:30 PM ET)
Olympiacos vs. AEK Athens (Saturday, 1:30 PM ET)
|FC Schalke 04||5||1||2||10||8||+2||16|
|Hertha Berliner SC||4||2||2||11||8||+3||14|
|1. FC Köln||4||2||2||13||12||+1||14|
|FC Ingolstadt 04||4||2||2||6||6||0||14|
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||4||1||3||8||9||-1||13|
|1. FSV Mainz 05||4||0||4||12||11||+1||12|
|SV Darmstadt 98||2||4||2||10||12||-2||10|
|SV Werder Bremen||2||1||5||7||13||-6||7|
|TSG 1899 Hoffenheim||1||3||4||10||14||-4||6|