How things come for circle. After clinching the title against Hertha Berliner SC in the Olympiastadion a year ago, Bayern Munich have an opportunity to grasp the title once more against the Alte Dame. This time they have the opportunity to do it in front of their own fans, but they will need a little help.
Possessing a 12 point lead at the top the table, a victory for Bayern will assure they win the title, but not allow them to clinch it. They will need to see if Wolfsburg drop points during their trip to Mönchengladbach on Sunday before they can clench the Bundesliga dish. While Bayern's goal difference is more than enough breathing room to help them win the title this weekend, the slim mathematical possibility will keep the title from their grasp a little while longer.
Winning at the weekend would increase the Bayern's likelihood though, and they are coming off of the most pronounced comeback in the Champions League. Hertha BSC may not be the pushovers they have been at times though, currently on a seven match unbeaten streak. With Dortmund at midweek, Pep Guardiola will once again have to be careful with his team selection, and does not have to push to win the title too quickly with bigger fish to fry.
The Match (66th Meeting)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Head: Guido Winkmann
FC Bayern: 3 W, 0 D, 0 L – 4 YC
Time converter at worldtimebuddy.com
Television and Streaming:
US: GolTV, Fubo TV
UK: BT Sport 1
Germany: Sky Bundesliga 1 | HD, Sky Go, TeleClub Sport Live
FC Bayern: WWLWW
Hertha BSC: DDWWD
Bundesliga: 34 W, 16 D, 9 L
DFB Pokal: 2 W, 0 D, 1 L
DFL Supercup: 2 W, 1 L
Largest Victory: 6-0 (Bundesliga: March 17, 2012, Berlin)
Largest Defeat: 1-4 (Bundesliga: February 1, 1975, Berlin)
The emotional high Bayern played with at midweek was palpable, and the class of their players really shone through. It may not show up week in and week out, but Bayern are capable of shifting into sixth gear to bulldoze their way past opponents.
Will Bayern achieve that threshold this weekend? Eh, probably not, even if there is a title to be attained. But what this traumatic stretch of fixtures has done is help Guardiola find players he can feel confident rotating. The biggest ones of course are Sebastian Rode and Mitchell Weiser, two players who could provide much-needed rest to Bayern's midfielders and fullbacks.
Rafinha, after all, has started all 15 matches since returning from injury at the start of the Rückrunde. With Philipp Lahm back in the swing of things and returning to the wing at midweek, he and Weiser could exchange duties on the right flank. Add the support Rode could provide, and Bayern could rest their veteran Brazilian fullback without skipping a beat.
This would be the perfect match to test out the fitness of Bastian Schweinsteiger as well. Returning to the team sheet after an illness, the vice-captain could be poised to roam the center of the park once again, relieving Xabi Alonso from overexertion. Kicker also believes there is an outside chance Arjen Robben returns to the team sheet, but the Dutchman still has not trained with the first team and believed midweek was too early for a return.
Some new faces will try to put Bayern's 25 Bundesliga trophy firmly in their grasp. However, the thin depth will still require Guardiola to rely on his regulars, even with the cup semifinal at midweek.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Mario Götze – Thomas Müller – Philipp Lahm
Bastian Schweinsteiger – Sebastian Rode
Juan Bernat – Dante – Jérôme Boateng – Mitchell Weiser
Bench: Manuel Neuer, Javi Martínez, Rafinha, Xabi Alonso, Gianluca Gaudino, Thiago Alcantara, Claudio Pizarro
Out/Suspended: David Alaba (knee), Holger Badstuber (thigh), Mehdi Benatia (hamstring), Franck Ribéry (ankle), Arjen Robben (abdomen)
Who the heck is Jos Luhukay? Ever since Hertha BSC made a regime change to Pál Dárdai, the new manager bounce has propelled them far away from the relegation zone and into mid table.
So what got them out of their funk? Dárdai has tightened things up even more at the back. Berlin has only allowed 10 goals in 12 matches in the Rückrunde after conceding 35 goals in 17 Hinrunde matches. Hertha BSC's new helmsman has deployed more conservative options in midfield, sacrificing fluidity forward to keep a clean sheet.
It is a tactic many teams trying to survive use, but the Blau-Weißen have benefited from having a timely attack that can finish off important chances. Unfortunately for Dárdai, those finishers are hard to come by these days, with many of them down for the count with injuries. Valentin Stocker and Solomon Kalou have been able to cover some of the cracks, but their presence in the final third has left much to be desired.
If Berlin are going to come up with another strong showing against the giants from the south, it will start in defense, and hopefully their attack can coral one of the balls the launch into the penalty area and slot it into the back of the net.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Nico Schulz – Valentine Stocker – Genki Haraguchi
Fabian Lustenberger – Per Skjelbred
Marvin Plattenhardt – John Anthony Brooks – Sebastian Langkamp – Peter Pekarik
Bench: Marius Gersbeck, Johnny Heitinga, Marcel Ndjeng, Jens Hegeler, Peter Niemeyer, Ronny, Sandro Wagner
Out/Suspended: Alexander Baumjohann (knee), Roy Bereens (ankle), Tolga Cigerci (foot), Hajime Hasogai (foot), Run Jarstein (back), Thomas Kraft (ribs), Julian Schieber (knee)
There is no reason why Bayern should lose this match and put themselves in pole position to clinch the title this weekend. Complacency is certainly an issue with other competitions distracting them, but the home crowd should push their focus and desire on Berlin. Berlin will close off some of the passing lanes, but Bayern's strong three will eventually penetrate the heart of their defense. If Bayern get another early goal, the task will become much easier for them.
The Other Action
1. FSV Mainz 05 vs. FC Schalke 04 (Friday, 2:30 PM ET)
Hannover 96 vs. TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
VfB Stuttgart vs. SC Freiburg (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Hamburger SV vs. FC Augsburg (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
1. FC Köln vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen (Saturday, 9:30 PM ET)
SC Paderborn 07 vs. SV Werder Bremen (Sunday, 9:30 AM ET)
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. VfL Wolfsburg (Sunday, 11:30 AM ET)
UEFA Champions League Opponent
Espanyol vs. Barcelona (Saturday, 10:00 AM ET)
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||15||9||5||56||31||+25||54|
|FC Schalke 04||11||9||9||38||32||+6||42|
|SV Werder Bremen||10||8||11||44||57||-13||38|
|TSG 1899 Hoffenheim||10||7||12||43||47||-4||37|
|1. FSV Mainz 05||7||13||9||40||41||-1||34|
|1. FC Köln||8||10||11||29||35||-6||34|
|Hertha Berliner SC||9||7||13||34||45||-11||34|
|SC Paderborn 07||6||9||14||25||56||-31||27|