Bayern Munich have had a tough run of fixtures of late, but they finally get a breather from the Bundesliga's best. It is more of a gasp than a deep breath, though, for Eintracht Frankfurt is one of the clubs scratching for a European spot.
Injury problems have gone from bad to worse, Pep Guardiola unable to rotate his squad with only 14 senior players he can count on. The fact Bayern has to play FC Porto at midweek does not help either, a critical stretch which will also stretch Bayern's squad.
Bayern have gotten by grinding out clean sheets, even if it means going to penalty kicks, but they should have a little better run of it going against one of the worst defenses in the Bundesliga. Topping the table by 10 points, another three would go a long way sealing their 25th Bundesliga title.
The Match (96th Meeting)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Head: Markus Schmidt
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Television and Streaming:
US: GolTV, MyGermanTV +, Fubo TV
Germany: Sky Bundesliga 3 | HD, Sky Go
FC Bayern: WWLWW
Bundesliga: 45 W, 21 D, 21 L
DFB Pokal: 3 W, 0 D, 1 L
UEFA Europa League: 1 W, 0 D, 3 L
Largest Victory: 7-2 (Bundesliga: May 30, 1981, Munich)
Largest Defeat: 0-6 (Bundesliga: November 22, 1975, Frankfurt)
Two very tough road fixtures, two hard fought victories the last two weeks. Pep Guardiola is not ecstatic with the way Bayern are playing at the moment – judging by the tone at his presser on Friday – but he understands it is what the club needs to do in order to win.
With just 14 players he can rely on, Guardiola does not really have the option of changing his tactics. With three fit center backs left after Benatia's hamstring tear, he might be forced to use all of them once again. Although Rode has come on the last few matches to fill in for the hobbled, the gaffer has yet to show the confidence to play him in a match of any magnitude, and that trend is likely to continue at least for this Saturday.
Fortunately for Guardiola, the three at the back is the perfect formula to attack Frankfurt. Only one player, Stefan Aigner, provides width for Frankfurt, so Holger Badstuber, Jérôme Boateng, and Dante – with the help of Xabi Alonso – can out-man and contain Frankfurt's explosive attack.
This iteration of the three-back system though will allow for Juan Bernat and Rafinha to venture forward a bit more, adding sharp service for Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Müller, and Mario Götze in attack. Without a central playmaker in the final third, Bayern is going to have to rely on long balls to move the ball forward, and it will be Lewandowski's and Müller's ability to hold up the ball that will create the attacking momentum.
This period in Bayern's season is not going to be pretty to watch, but it is certainly one Bayern can overcome on the domestic front.
Projected Lineup (3-4-2-1):
Mario Götze – Thomas Müller
Juan Bernat – Xabi Alonso – Philipp Lahm – Rafinha
Dante – Holger Badstuber – Jérôme Boateng
Bench: Pepe Reina, Sebastian Rode, Gianluca Gaudino, Thiago Alcântara, Mitchell Weiser, Sinan Kurt, Claudio Pizarro
Out/Suspended: David Alaba (knee), Medhi Benatia (thigh), Javi Martínez (knee), Franck Ribéry (ankle), Arjen Robben (abdomin), Bastian Schweinsteiger (ankle), Tom Starke (ankle)
Eintracht Frankfurt certainly do not look like a team that belongs in the mid-table, and yet they find a way to get the points they need to stay competitive. No matter how far they fall behind, they have knack of making the game competitive.
That will be a little harder without Bundesliga top scorer Alexander Meier, out with knee problems. Thomas Schaaf has usually given a partner to new arrival Haris Seferović, but Frankfurt may need to rely more on their attacking midfield and the flank play from Stefan Aigner.
Their downfall more often than not is their defense, one that does not have many things that it is good at. They are prone to strong interplay and counterattacks, and their midfield does not assist the defense much. It does not help that Carlos Zambrano and Marco Russ are not fit, leaving softer options Bamba Anderson and Alexander Madlung to fend against some of the world's best attackers.
Frankfurt will not be able to take the match to Bayern like Dortmund and Leverkusen will. They can deliver a blow when Bayern are least expecting it though. No matter how far down they get, you cannot count Frankfurt out until the final whistle sounds.
Projected Lineup (4-4-2):
Haris Seferović – Nelson Valdez
Sonny Kittel – Marc Stendera – Makoto Hasebe – Stefan Aigner
Bastian Oczipka – Bamba Anderson – Alexander Madlung – Timothy Chandler
Bench: Felix Wiedwald, Constant Djakpa, Johannes Flum, Aleksandar Ignjovski, Takashi Inui, Lucas Paizon, Slobodan Medojević
Out/Suspended: Joel Gerezgiher (thigh), Alexander Meier (knee), Marco Russ (knee), Carlos Zambrano (thigh)
Bayern certainly have the tactical edge against Frankfurt, but this is an Adler team that forced a draw against the very potent Wolfsburg. Frankfurt's defense will not be able to contain Bayern's attackers though, an opportunity for Götze, Lewandowski, and Müller to show their class. Injuries will not prevent Bayern from getting an encouraging three points.
The Other Action
Hannover 96 vs. Hertha Berliner SC (Friday, 2:30 PM ET)
FC Schalke 04 vs. SC Freiburg (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
1. FSV Mainz 05 vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
SC Paderborn 07 vs. FC Augsburg (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Hamburger SV vs. VfL Wolfsburg (Saturday, 12:30 PM ET)
1. FC Köln vs. TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (Sunday, 9:30 AM ET)
VfB Stuttgart vs. SV Werder Bremen (Sunday, 11:30 AM ET)
UEFA Champions League Opponent
Rio Ave vs. FC Porto (Saturday, 1:00 ET)
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||13||9||5||49||29||+20||48|
|FC Schalke 04||11||7||9||37||31||+6||40|
|TSG 1899 Hoffenheim||10||7||10||41||42||-1||37|
|SV Werder Bremen||9||8||10||41||54||-13||35|
|Hertha Berliner SC||9||5||13||33||44||-11||32|
|1. FSV Mainz 05||6||13||8||35||36||-1||31|
|1. FC Köln||7||9||11||26||33||-7||30|
|SC Paderborn 07||5||9||13||23||52||-29||24|