Bayern Munich have torn up the Bundesliga over the last month and a half, but their honeymoon has come to an end. Now they need to get back to regular life, where the top Bundesliga is waiting to grapple the Rekordmeister back down to earth.
The "Monday" after their honeymoon is Borussia Mönchengladbach, one of only three clubs to hold Bayern scoreless. However, the form of the Fohlen is not at the same level as it was when the two clubs met in the fall. Mönchengladbach is going to have to swat away clubs wanting their Champions League spots after crashing out of the Round of 32 of the Europa League.
The fixture was tricky for Bayern in the past, but normally in the Allianz Arena. Both teams will get a nice rest for the international break, so neither have anything to hold back. Even though VfL Wolfsburg is sufficiently behind in the table, Bayern could really use the three points to wrap up the Bundesliga and focus on other competitions.
The Match (101st Meeting)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Head: Florian Meyer
FC Bayern: 38 W, 8 D, 13 L – 98 YC, 2 RC
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Borussia Monchengladbach (0-0) Bayern Munich | Bundesliga (Borussia Park)
Bundesliga: 45 W, 28 D, 20 L
DFB Pokal: 6 W, 1 D, 0 L
Largest Victory: 7-1 (Bundesliga: March 24, 1979, Mönchengladbach)
Largest Defeat: 0-5 (Bundesliga: May 18, 1974 Mönchengladbach)
Bayern have received a gift they will not receive again for the rest of the season: a midweek break. Once the international break is done and dusted, it is two-match weeks until the finish line.
However, Pep Guardiola has the deepest pool of talent to pick from in a while, with more people than ever this season able to make the team sheet. Only Javi Martínez did not practice on Friday, creating an endless list of team sheet possibilities.
With the two-striker system of M'Gladbach, the way Bayern looks likely will not change. Guardiola will have to lock the single-pivot system in place in order to out-number the Fohlen in Bayern's third of the field. The return of some of Bayern's midfielders, Guardiola does not have David Alaba win the ball in the center of the park, restoring him to the flanks where he has played the last few matches.
Bastian Schweinsteiger and Xabi Alonso have put up mixed showings performing as a tandem, but Bayern will need both of them to begin the play through a condensed final third. Lewandowski is now the poacher Bayern brought him to Munich to become, and Mario Götze and Thomas Müller are having their best season with him leading the line.
The Bayern machine is chugging a long, and this group is set to prove this is not a troublesome fixture anymore.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Mario Götze – Thomas Müller – Arjen Robben
Bastian Schweinsteiger – Xabi Alonso
David Alaba – Holger Badstuber – Jérôme Boateng – Rafinha
Bench: Pepe Reina, Juan Bernat, Dante, Philipp Lahm, Sebastian Rode, Franck Ribéry, Claudio Pizarro
Out/Suspended: Medhi Benatia (yellow card), Javi Martínez (knee), Thiago Alcântara (knee)
Seasons of frustration for Borussia Mönchengladbach have finally led to one of fortune. The squad has stayed healthy the entire season, making team selection the only dilemma for Lucien Favre. The task ahead of them is tricky though, having to tip-toe to the Champions League on a tightrope with troublesome antagonists trying to take their place.
Favre has stuck to his bread and butter, a consistency which has payed off in fluidity. The Fohlen may not have the best talent in Germany, but the talent the do have has shown through. Granit Xhaka has continued his solid breakout campaign, while Thorgan Hazard has given Max Eberl ambitions to make his move to Germany permanent.
Their defensive situation is tenuous though, the one are of the field they do not have a convincing presence. Yann Sommer is a top keeper, but the line in front of him is not. Oscar Wendt and Tony Jantschke are very beatable fullbacks, which makes Christoph Kramer's presence in midfield all the more important for Álvaro Dominguez and Martin Stranzl.
The Fohlen have come up with a few surprises already this season, and another against Bayern will go a long way towards their Champions League hopes.
Projected Lineup (4-4-2):
Max Kruse – Raffael
Patrick Hermann – Christoph Kramer – Granit Xhaka – Thorgan Hazard
Oscar Wendt – Álvaro Dominguez – Martin Stranzl – Tony Jantschke
Bench: Christofer Heimeroth, Roel Brouwers, Fabian Johnson, Julian Korb, Mahmoud Dahoud, Thorgan Hazard, Branimir Hrgota
Mönchengladbach will undoubtedly take the game to Bayern, even if it tires them out later in the match. The conquistador Max Kruse will be the one to stop, for much of the attack runs through him. Robben's return will create more space for Müller, and the German will help find Bayern the breakthrough they need this time around. Keeping M'Gladbach of the scoresheet will be difficult, but Germany's great center back pair will be able to handle Bayern's penalty area.
The Other Action
Hamburger SV vs. Hertha Berliner SC (Friday, 2:30 PM ET)
Hannover 96 vs. Borussia Dortmund (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
SC Freiburg vs. FC Augsburg (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
VfB Stuttgart vs. Eintracht Frankfurt (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
1. FC Köln vs. SV Werder Bremen (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
SC Paderborn 07 vs. TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
1. FSV Mainz 05 vs. VfL Wolfsburg (Sunday, 9:30 AM ET)
UEFA Champions League Opponent
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||11||9||5||44||25||+19||42|
|FC Schalke 04||11||6||8||37||30||+7||39|
|TSG 1899 Hoffenheim||10||6||9||40||38||+2||36|
|SV Werder Bremen||9||6||10||40||53||-13||33|
|1. FSV Mainz 05||6||11||8||34||35||-1||29|
|1. FC Köln||7||8||10||25||31||-6||29|
|Hertha Berliner SC||7||5||13||30||44||-14||26|
|SC Paderborn 07||5||8||12||23||50||-27||23|