The spectacles that Bayern Munich displayed over the past two weeks are entrancing, and yet there is still a degree of inconsistency when it comes to the bigger picture.
To expect them to be the finely tuned machine is probably ludicrous, but to overreact to big results against relegation candidates is as well. Bayern have looked this clinical before, and have come up short when it matters most. With all their success, they have yet to put two back-to-back solid results in 2015.
A convincing victory against a motivated promoted side could change that. Köln have stifled better teams so far this season, and are not a club to be trifled with. This is the perfect match to turn up the confidence meter, especially before a knockout DFB-Pokal match at midweek.
The Match (88th Meeting)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Head: Daniel Siebert
FC Bayern: 2 W, 0 D, 0 L – 1 YC
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1. FC Köln (0-2) Bayern Munich | Bundesliga (RheinEnergieStadion)
FCB: Mario Götze (19'), Daniel Halfar (OG 66')
Bundesliga: 37 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: 1-6 (Bundesliga: December 11, 1965, Köln)
Bombarding lower division sides with goals is a wonderful thing, but as Thomas Müller said following Bayern's match to Hamburg, ascertaining a point for the club to progress from is difficult. How does one evaluate a dominant performance when the defense on the opposite side of the field is so inept? Does barraging Hamburg and Paderborn to the tune of 14 goals translate in the grand scheme of things?
While one could dive into that topic, the fact Bayern are returning home makes the plunge unnecessary at the moment. Die Roten are impervious in their own arena this season, needing to go down to ten men to even drop a point. The attack appears more fluid and the defense more stout in the confines of the curved walls, and Bayern do not disappoint in front of their own crowd.
Once again trying to break down defense who boards up its entryways to weather the storm, Pep Guardiola has several tactical options. One he has relied upon consistently as of late is pairing David Alaba with either Xabi Alonso or Bastian Schweinsteiger, allowing the Austrian to impose his will on the midfield. However, with a cup competition at midweek and two fullbacks to maintain, Guardiola could sit one of them in favor of packing his attackers onto the field.
Using his fab five up front did not always work the way Guardiola would have hoped this season, but the fact remains Bayern has not lost with Mario Götze, Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Müller, Franck Ribéry, and Arjen Robben in the starting XI. Such teams do not score as prolifically as other teams do, but they can get the three points in the end. Köln's bunker will be hard to crack, and having those five weaving around the attacking third will rumble the foundation enough to shake some space free.
Bayern are in the soft spot of their fixture list, which is the perfect time for Guardiola to ensure his top players are in form.
Projected Lineup (4-1-4-1):
Franck Ribéry – Mario Götze – Thomas Müller – Arjen Robben
David Alaba – Holger Badstuber – Jérôme Boateng – Rafinha
Bench: Pepe Reina, Juan Bernat, Dante, Mitchell Weiser, Xabi Alonso, Sebastian Rode, Claudio Pizarro
Out/Suspended: Medhi Benatia (muscle cramps), Philipp Lahm (ankle), Javi Martínez (knee), Thiago Alcantara (knee)
Survival is always a struggle, and struggle is the verbalization of what Köln season has been. Manager Peter Stöger has put the Geißböcke in a decent position going into the Rückrunde, but three points in the club's last four matches has frozen their momentum towards the mid table.
Stöger does not have much to work with, either. Both of his 2. Bundesliga striker projects – Simon Zoller and Yuya Osako – have failed to raise their game, forcing the Austrian to solely rely on Anthony Ujah without a playmaker behind him. As a result, Köln has trouble putting away their chances the few times they get some.
That does not help a team who plays mostly in its own half. Their defense is a sturdy foundation off which Köln can lean on, but every structure is bound to break with enough pressure. They can hold off opposition that are below them, a crucial attribute to their survival, but teams vying for Europe have breached their hulls on several occasions.
Köln's task against Bayern is steep to say the least, and with the fixture in Allianz Arena, they will have to prepare for a long day at the office.
Projected Lineup (4-4-2):
Anthony Ujah – Bård Finne
Slawomir Peszko – Kevin Vogt – Matthias Lehmann – Marcel Risse
Jonas Hector – Dominik Maroh – Kevin Wimmer – Pawel Ołkowski
Bench: Thomas Kessler, Mergim Mavraj, Miso Brečko, Adam Matuschyk, Daniel Halfar, Dusan Švento, Yuya Osako
Out/Suspended: Yannick Gerhart (fever), Partick Helmes (cartilage)
This Bundesliga match will not come as easy to Bayern as their previous two, but that is a safe assumption after averaging seven goals a match. Köln had surrendered more than two goals in a match just twice this season, and has allowed just two goals in 2015. Both have cup ties at midweek, so whoever takes this match more seriously could end up being the victor.
Projected Score: Bayern Munich (3-0) 1. FC Köln
The Other Action
Borussia Dortmund vs. FC Schalke 04 (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs. SC Freiburg (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim vs. 1. FSV Mainz 05 (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Hannover 96 vs. VfB Stuttgart (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Hertha Berliner SC vs. FC Augsburg (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Hamburger SV (Saturday, 12:30 PM ET)
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. SC Paderborn 07 (Sunday, 9:30 AM ET)
SV Werder Bremen vs. VfL Wolfsburg (Sunday, 11:30 AM ET)
UEFA Champions League Opponent
Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Vorskla (Saturday, 10:00 ET)
Darmstadt 98 vs. Eintracht Braunschweig (Friday, 12:30 ET)
|FC Schalke 04||10||5||7||32||24||+8||35|
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||8||9||5||36||29||+7||33|
|TSG 1899 Hoffenheim||8||6||8||34||35||-1||30|
|SV Werder Bremen||8||6||8||36||44||-8||30|
|1. FSV Mainz 05||5||10||7||30||31||-1||25|
|1. FC Köln||6||7||9||20||25||-5||25|
|SC Paderborn 07||5||8||9||23||41||-18||23|
|Hertha Berliner SC||6||3||13||27||42||-15||21|