Having survived a grueling match in Siesheim, Bayern Munich returns to their friendly confines to keep their strong early start rolling. Unfortunately for the defending champions, they are welcoming a pretty hot Bayer Leverkusen team to town.
This is a tie that, even in the shiniest golden years of the Rekordmeister, was always a tight contest. Leverkusen, after all, was the only team to beat Bayern in the Bundesliga during their treble year. Every contest but one has only separated the clubs by one goal, that one coming last year when Leverkusen topped Bayern 2-0 late in the season.
Since his appointment, Roger Schmidt has proved a worthy adversary for Pep Guardiola, even if his side looked predictable. Both having six points on the season, this match is perhaps the most important early match of the young Bundesliga season.
The Match (77th Meeting)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Head: Florian Meyer
FC Bayern: 38 W, 8 D, 14 L – 98 YC, 2 RC
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Television and Streaming:
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UK: BT Sport Europe
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FC Bayern: WWWL
Bundesliga: 42 W, 14 D, 16 L
DFB Pokal: 3 W, 0 D, 1 L
Largest Victory: 5-0 (Bundesliga: September 4, 1982, Munich)
Largest Defeat: 2-5 (Bundesliga: March 9, 1997, Leverkusen)
If last week was a queasy performance from Bayern, this week may not be much better. Injuries and suspensions has left Bayern with a waste land in defense, and they are facing a team who just put up three goals at midweek against a three-back system.
Pep Guardiola will be unable to select Jérôme Boateng and Mehdi Benatia to his team sheet, which leaves Xabi Alonso and Dante the only central players who could clog the final third. The good news is Bayern have two players named Arturo Vidal and Philipp Lahm, two players who are very good at taking burdens off of the defense. Leverkusen is not a club that keeps the ball all to well, so if Bayern can play keep away well enough, they may be able to mask any shortcomings they have.
What Bayern does have they didn't have last year is width. Douglas Costa and Arjen Robben can stretch Leverkusen's fullbacks to their limits, which will create many opportunities in the penalty area for runs from Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller. Leverkusen's center backs have performed well, but Bayern should be able to convert chances if they can find a way in behind.
The home field advantage will be key in a match like this, but a messy result is definitely in the cards.
Projected Lineup (3-4-3 Diamond):
Douglas Costa – Robert Lewandowski – Arjen Robben
Arturo Vidal – Xabi Alonso – Philipp Lahm – Thomas Müller
David Alaba – Dante – Rafinha
Bench: Sven Ulreich, Juan Bernat, Joshua Kimmich, Sebastian Rode, Thiago Alcântara, Fabian Benko, Mario Götze
Out/Suspended: Holger Badstuber (thigh), Medhi Benatia (thigh), Jérôme Boateng (red card), Jan Kirchhof (ankle), Javi Martínez (knee), Franck Ribéry (ankle)
Bayer Leverkusen have continuously come close to a big break through, but something always seems to be missing in the big matches. An impressive display at midweek against Lazio indicates they are on the precipice of the European elite, but it is still to early to tell just five matches into their campaign.
The team they are now is very direct, perhaps the most direct team in the Bundesliga. Roger Schmidt does not have Roberto Hilbert to play in the center of the park anymore, so he relies on his wing players to create and combine in the final third. Swapping Son Heung-Min for Admir Mehmedi has put another strong finisher on the field, but Leverkusen has more of a one-dimensional, vertical game because of it.
Leverkusen is very stretched personnel-wise in defense though, having to rely on Jonathan Glao Tah and Ramalho much sooner than perhaps sporting director Rudi Voller would have liked. The two are holding their own though, and having Christoph Kramer and Lars Bender as two-pronged protection helps a lot. Teams have popped their top off a few times though, most notably Stephen Zuber and Keita Baldé Diao.
Leverkusen will be able to suck in Bayern like never before, and with Çalhanoglu, Bellarabi, Mehmedi in form, they will give Bayern a few scares at the very least.
Projected Lineup (4-4-1-1):
Hakan Çalhanoglu – Christoph Kramer – Lars Bender – Karim Bellarabi
Wendell – Kyriakos Papadopoulos – Jonathan Glao Tah – Roberto Hilbert
Bench: David Krešić, Ramalho, Sebastian Boenisch, Vladen Yurchenko, Julian Brandt, Kevin Kampl, Robbie Kruse
Out/Suspended: Carlos Aranguiz (ankle), Tin Jedvaj (thigh), Ömer Toprak (tendon tear)
This fixture is the closest talent-wise as it has been in years. Leverkusen may line up with two banks of four, but they are not shy to take on their opponents either. Kramer and Bender will make it harder for Bayern's deeper playmakers to operate, but Müller is still Bayern's trump card that can change the complexion of the match. Both midfielders are the structurally integral parts of each defense, which means this match could be both high scoring and low scoring depending on how the midfield battle plays out.
The Other Action
VfB Stuttgart vs. Eintracht Frankfurt (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
FC Augsburg vs. FC Ingolstadt 04 (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
1. FC Köln vs. Hamburger SV (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
1. FSV Mainz 05 vs. Hannover 96 (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
SV Darmstadt 98 vs. TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Borussia Dortmund vs. Hertha Berliner SC (Sunday, 9:30 AM ET)
SV Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach (Sunday, 11:30 AM ET)
UEFA Champions League Opponents
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||2||0||0||3||1||+2||6|
|FC Schalke 04||1||1||0||4||1||+3||4|
|1. FC Köln||1||1||0||4||2||+2||4|
|Hertha Berliner SC||1||1||0||2||1||+1||4|
|1. FSV Mainz 05||1||0||1||2||2||0||3|
|FC Ingolstadt 04||1||0||1||1||4||-3||3|
|SV Darmstadt 98||0||2||0||3||3||0||2|
|SV Werder Bremen||0||1||1||1||4||-3||1|
|TSG 1899 Hoffenheim||0||0||2||2||4||-2||0|