A bruising loss to FC Porto and a shakeup in the front office make this Bundesliga match for Bayern Munich a back page story. This match is full importance though, for it could spawn the turnaround the Rekordmeister need to keep their season aspirations alive.
They are certainly not facing the easiest opponent either. Trying to build a reputation in Germany, Hoffenheim were a tough out for Bayern ever since their promotion, especially when Hoffenheim are playing in front of their own fans. While they struggle to get into Europe for the first time in club history, Hoffenheim are still a worthy adversary for the top teams in Germany, and certainly will give Bayern a tough run in.
Pep Guardiola is now tasked with managing his priorities: helping seal Bayern's 25th Bundesliga title and building up his squad to make a miraculous comeback against Porto. No matter what the balance is, Bayern's trip to Hoffenheim is bound to be a rough one.
The Match (14th Meeting)
Location: Rhein-Neckar-Arena, Hoffenheim, Germany
Head: Tobias Stieler
FC Bayern: 6 W, 0 D, 0 L – 4 YC
Time converter at worldtimebuddy.com
Television and Streaming:
US: GolTV, MyGermanyTV +, Fubo TV
Germany: Sky Bundesliga 2 | HD, Sky Go, TeleClub Sport Live
FC Bayern: LWWWW
Bundesliga: 9 W, 4 D, 0 L
Largest Victory: score (Bundesliga: December 2, 2011, Munich; November 22, 2014, Munich)
Tuning up with another bout against Porto, Guardiola desperately needs to rotate Bayern's squad. For the second consecutive week, he will have a hard time doing so. Having a four-man bench may have seemed drastic a week ago, but with more players unfit and ill, he might have to do a similar selection this week.
The lack of squad depth also means Robert Lewandowski (1289 minutes in the Rückrunde in all competition, 75.82 per match) and Thomas Müller (1189 minutes in the Rückrunde in all competition, 69.9 per match) will have no other choice than to suit up at the weekend. Those are not necessarily two players who are upset with their playing time, but they are two players Guardiola has not been able to rotate as much as players in other positions. More unnerving is Thiago Alcantara, who will be forced to play his third match in eight days since returning from a knee injury which knocked him out for a year.
The silver lining to Bayern's squad issues is they still have a team they can field that can take on anyone in the Bundesliga. Sebastian Rode will likely get his chance with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm both out ill. His work rate could be the energy drink Bayern need in a match like this, able to take run from goal line to goal line to help Guardiola's schemes. With Mario Götze's fitness in question with a possible knee injury, Rode's presence in the final third will be as necessary as ever.
Bayern's attitude in this match will be an interesting follow, for if they are distracted, they could end up losing their first match ever to Hoffenheim.
Projected Lineup (4-3-3):
Thomas Müller – Robert Lewandowski – Mario Götze
Sebastian Rode – Xabi Alonso
Juan Bernat – Dante – Jérôme Boateng – Rafinha
Bench: Pepe Reina, Holger Badstuber, Gianluca Gaudino, Mitchell Weiser, Sinan Kurt, Claudio Pizarro
Out/Suspended: David Alaba (knee), Mehdi Benatia (hamstring), Philipp Lahm (illness), Javi Martínez (knee), Franck Ribéry (ankle), Arjen Robben (abdomen), Bastian Schweinsteiger (illness), Tom Starke (ankle)
So many narratives have shot around the Bundesliga season, and many forget perhaps one of the more turbulent ones: Hoffenheim. A financially fortunate club with European aspirations, Hoffenheim have appeared so close to being the next big Bundesliga team, but end up dropping key results that make them fall short.
With one of the deeper squads in the Bundesliga, third-year manager Markus Gisdol has done a respectable job keeping Hoffenheim competitive on multiple fronts. The additions of Ermin Bičkačić and Oliver Baumann, while not the finest defender and goalkeeper in all the land, have made their defense from an insufferable one to a mediocre one. The difference is big enough to make them the most competitive they have ever been.
Hoffenheim can also thank Roberto Firmino and Kevin Volland, two of the better attackers in the Bundesliga. Both of them have taken a giant step forward in their development, building a partnership that can fit with whatever squad changed Gisdol chooses to make. While others have contributed a handful of goals as well, the attack starts and ends with them, for it is their movement and playmaking that creates the chances Hoffenheim can capitalize on.
Two points outside of sixth with six matches remaining, now is the time for Hoffenheim to use their turbo boost to get them into Europe. If their defense can hold their own against a beleaguered Bayern team, three points against the defending champions will go a long way.
Projected Lineup (4-3-2-1):
Roberto Firmino – Kevin Volland
Pirmin Schwegler – Eugen Polanski – Sebastian Rudy
Kim Jin-Su – Ermin Bičkačić – Tobias Strobl – Andreas Beck
Bench: Jens Grahl, David Abraham, Nadiem Amiri, Tarik Elyounoussi, Sejad Salihović, Steven Zuber, Anthony Modeste
Out/Suspended: Niklas Süle (knee)
The match will be a very unattractive match to watch. Hoffenheim will do their best to close down the passing avenues in the final third, as Bayern's defenders hope to contain the elusive and powerful Roberto Firmino and Volland. Müller and Lewandowski are going to have to manufacture chances, and how much Rode helps in the attacking third could be the major factor of the match. Bayern are not very well set up to win this match, but being who they are, they might anyways.
The Other Action
UEFA Champions League Opponent
FC Porto vs. Académica (Saturday, 1:00 PM ET)
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach (Friday, 2:30 PM ET)
Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs. Hannover 96 (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Hertha Berliner SC vs. 1. FC Köln (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
SC Freiburg vs. 1. FSV Mainz 05 (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
FC Augsburg vs. VfB Stuttgart (Saturday, 12:30 PM ET)
SV Werder Bremen vs. Hamburger SV (Sunday, 9:30 AM ET)
VfL Wolfsburg vs. FC Schalke 04 (Sunday, 11:30 AM ET)
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||14||9||5||52||31||+21||51|
|FC Schalke 04||11||8||9||37||31||+6||41|
|TSG 1899 Hoffenheim||10||7||11||43||45||-2||37|
|SV Werder Bremen||9||8||11||43||57||-14||35|
|1. FC Köln||8||9||11||29||35||-6||33|
|Hertha Berliner SC||9||6||13||34||45||-11||33|
|1. FSV Mainz 05||6||13||9||37||39||-2||31|
|SC Paderborn 07||6||9||13||25||53||-28||27|