Less than a week before the 2015/16 season gets into full gear, Bayern Munich will host the 2015 Audi Cup on their home turf, Allianz Arena. The opponents they have recruited to participate are all European powers who have participated in UEFA Competition frequently in the last several years.
For the Rekordmeister, it comes on the heals of an DFL-Supercup loss in penalty kicks, but manager Pep Guardiola has a lot of pieces to improve on their weekend performance. The club only has two victories this preseason, and the Audi Cup will be the last two test for the Bavarians as they head into their season.
Here is a look at how the 2015 Audi Cup shapes up, as well as a small insight to who Bayern will be stacked up against.
Unlike the Telekom Cup, the Audi Cup will have full, 90 minute matches, with the standard friendly procedures of unlimited substitutions. The competition the standard tournament style; the losers of each semifinal will play in the third place match, and the winners will play in the final on Wednesday. The semifinals will be back-to-back matches on Tuesday, as will the third place match and final on Wednesday.
Having just come off a disappointing loss in the DFL-Supercup, Bayern still have to prove they are ready for the treble competitions they will be undertaking starting later this week. The side was prolific in the attacking end during parts of July, but were unable to score in three of the contests they participated in. The defense conceded four goals in 450 preseason minutes – a decent goals allowed record on paper, but not the best for a team trying to win the Bundesliga a fourth time.
By the same token, Pep Guardiola can now integrate more pieces in his tactical schemes. The important ones are Arjen Robben and Arturo Vidal, two players who made their preseason debut in the DFL-Supercup. The two of them not only provide flexibility, but also better pieces to build up the play, an aspect of Bayern's game Guardiola is not quite satisfied with yet.
After experimenting with a three-man defense once again in preseason, Pep Guardiola should return to a back-four with more defensive depth – Dante practiced on Monday which increases his availability. That opens the door for more midfielders to get an extended look, including players like Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, who was not on the Supercup team sheet.
After playing Borussia Mönchengladbach, Valencia, Inter Milan, and Wolfsburg, the Audi Cup will provide the upper-echelon barometer to help the club ascertain the progression of the first team thus far.
Projected Lineup (4-1-4-1):
Douglas Costa – Arturo Vidal – Thomas Müller – Arjen Robben
David Alaba – Medhi Benatia – Jérôme Boateng – Philipp Lahm
Bench: Sven Ulreich, Tom Starke, Juan Bernat, Dante, Rafinha, Joshua Kimmich, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Sebastian Rode, Thiago Alcântara, Mario Götze
Out: Holger Badstuber, Jan Kirchhoff, Javi Martínez, Franck Ribéry
AC Milan – Semifinal Opponent
On the wave of new financial backing, AC Milan were not shy with their cash like they have been in recent seasons. Their investment included Colombian star Carlos Bacca, rising Italian youngster Andrea Bertolacci, and Champions League poacher Luiz Adriano (Douglas Costa's former teammate). That gives new coach Siniša Mihajlović several new weapons to work with as he tries to make the Rossoneri relevant again. The former Yugoslavian defender has relied mostly on a diamond midfield this preseason, and but has yet to fully integrate Bacca and Luiz Adriano up front. AC Milan will not be a pushover opponent, but with several new players trying to get their feet wet, they may not be as prepared for the season as other teams in the tournament are.
Los Blancos have taken a summer off from trying to collect the best superstars in the world, but newly appointed manager Rafa Benítez has several new interesting pieces to work with. Casemiro, on loan at FC Porto last season, has received an extended run as Real Madrid's holding midfielder, and his teammate at Porto, Danilo, upgrades what is already a formidable set of fullbacks. Even though he will not be able to use Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema in the tournament – both are staying behind in Madrid – Benítez has a lot of talent he has to trial before the season starts.
Audi Cup Squad: Keylor Navas, Kiko Casilla, Ruben Yáñez; Raphaël Varane, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Nacho Fernandez, Marcelo, Daniel Carvajal, Danilo, Alvaro Arbeloa; Toni Kroos, James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale, Casemiro, Luka Modrić, Denis Cheryshev, Isco, Asier Illaramendi, Marco Ascensio, Martin Ødegaard; Jése Rodriguez, Lukas Vázquez, Borja Mayoral
The Audi Cup probably does not come at a great time for Tottenham. While both Tottenham and Bayern have matches to consider at the weekend, Tottenham's is on Saturday midday against Manchester United, while Bayern's is Sunday afternoon against FC Nöttingen. This is Tottenham's biggest preseason activity though, having played a handful of closed-door friendlies and the MLS All-Star Game. Mauricio Pochettino has given several young midfielders – including England U19 players Harry Winks and Joshua Onomah – an extended run, and has a new defensive toy in Kevin Wimmer from Köln. They have to get past Real Madrid to play the hosts, but with Harry Kane's continued form, anything can happen.
Audi Cup Squad: Michel Vorm, Hugo Lloris, Luke McGee; Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Ben Davies, Eric Dier, Federico Fazio, Toby Alderweireld, Kevin Wimmer, Jan Vertonghen; Nabil Bentaleb, Ryan Mason, Harry Winks, Dele Alli, Mousa Dembélé, Tom Carroll, Joshua Onomah, Christian Erikson, Erik Lamela, Nacer Chadli; Harry Kane
Semifinal 1: Real Madrid vs. Tottenham Hotspur – August 4, 18:15 CET (12:15 PM EDT)
Semifinal 2: Bayern Munich vs. AC Milan – August 4, 20:45 CET (2:45 PM EDT)
Third Place Match: Loser of Semifinal 1 vs. Loser of Semifinal 2 – August 5, 18:15 CET (12:15 PM EDT)
Final: Winner of Semifinal 1 vs. Winner of Semifinal 2 – August 5, 20:45 CET (2:45 PM EDT)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
How to Watch
US: ESPN 2, ESPN Deportes, WatchESPN
UK: Premier Sports