This matchup on Tuesday is one Bayern Munich should win with their eyes closed, even though they have never played Dinamo Zagreb before. Playing at home, coming off an eight-goal week, and possessing perhaps the best footballer on the planet at this point in time.
Though Bayern have a mixed history against pot four teams – a loss to BATE Borisov and a "mere" 1-0 victory against Viktoria Plzeń in recent seasons – their complacency tends to come on the road. With the Südkurve jumping in front of them, there should be no shortage of goals.
Dinamo Zagreb had a commendable result in the first Champions League match day, but they will need more than a few goals against the run of play to down the Rekordmeister. Pep Guardiola takes these challenges seriously, not good news for a club trying to sneak into the Round of 16.
The Match (1st Meeting)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Head: Aliaksei Kulbakov
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This is another match Bayern should easily win on paper, but recent results would make that preconceived notion easier said than done. Bayern's recent results suggest they should wipe the floor with a low-coefficient domestic stallion, yet the way they started those matches probably gives opponents a fighting chance.
Consider this: in their 10 matches this season, Bayern have scored just seven goals while conceding four. The second half is a completely different story, for Bayern have scored 23 goals and conceded just one. The reason for the drastic difference could just be due to tired legs from the opponent, but Bayern still get chances to score in the first half.
By the same token, Bayern seem to have more success when being more direct rather than trying to interchange in attack. That came about last week, when Javi Martínez and Robert Lewandowski come on as substitutes and David Alaba moved back to the flank. Against a club who may struggle to build up the play, being more straightforward could not have the same downside as it would against other opponents.
Being more straightforward is what Guardiola may have to do with less pieces to get creative with. Sebastian Rode and Arturo Vidal may both miss the match, which requires Thiago Alcântara to play deeper in midfield. Bayern had trouble getting the ball into attack at the weekend with Thiago and Xabi Alonso playing deep, but Guardiola could strengthen the flanks by moving David Alaba more to the outside.
Bayern earned the results even with the slow starts they came out of the gate with. A strong start against Dinamo could allow for a less-strenuous match.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Douglas Costa – Thomas Müller – Mario Götze
Thiago Alcantara – Xabi Alonso
David Alaba – Jérôme Boateng – Javi Martínez – Philipp Lahm
Bench: Sven Ulreich, Juan Bernat, Rafinha, Joshua Kimmich, Gianluca Gaudino, Julian Green, Kingsley Coman
Out/Suspended: Holger Badstuber (thigh), Medhi Benatia (thigh), Jan Kirchhoff (ankle), Franck Ribery (ankle), Arjen Robben (muscle issues), Sebastian Rode, Arturo Vidal (knee)
Even if English clubs have some automatic standard of class, Dinamo Zagreb's victory over Arsenal was nonetheless laudable. Their performance was one many were not expecting, but a club can go pretty far succeeding against the run of play at home.
Their squad will be outmatched again this week, but there are bright spots Zoran Mamić may be able to rely on. Junior Fernandes is already a great addition from Bayer Leverkusen, providing Dinamo with another pacy winger opposite Arbi Hillel al Soudani. The two of them present a legitimate counterattacking threat, although pace may still be their best attribute.
Mamić will have to absorb a lot of pressure, which may be a difficult task for Dinamo's spine. Although Arijan Ademi and Paulo Machado are passable midfielders, neither are really designed to guard the defense. Dinamo's defensive strength may only come in numbers, and they will have an issue building up the play if they do not establish early momentum.
Many picked Dinamo to finish last due to the lack of recent Champions League experience, and the ball will have to bounce the right way in order for them to build on their Match Day 1 success.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Junior Fernandes – Marko Rog – Arbi Hillel al Soudani
Arijan Ademi – Paulo Machado
Mario Musa – Jeremy Taravel – Gonçalo – Alexandru Mätel
Bench: Antonio Jenžia, Filip Benković, Damir Savšić, Domagoj Antolić, Ante Ćorić, Armin Hodžić, Angelo Henriquez
Out/Suspended: Ivan Pinto (hamstring), Domagoj Pavičić (foot), Gordon Schildenfeld (thigh), Leonardo Sigali (ankle)
Though they are having trouble getting the motor started, Bayern will still rev the engine playing at home. That may actually lead to some early goals, taking Dinamo out of the match early. Besides, if Wolfsburg and Mainz cannot contain Lewandowski, how can Mamić hope his team can?
Projected Score: Bayern Munich (5-1) Dinamo Zagreb
The Other Action
Group F Opponents
Arsenal vs. Olympiacos (Tuesday, 2:45 PM ET)
The Rest of the UEFA Champions League
BATE Borisov vs. AS Roma (Tuesday, 2:45 PM ET)
Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Dynamo Kyiv (Tuesday, 2:45 PM ET)
FC Porto vs. Chelsea (Tuesday, 2:45 PM ET)
Olympique Lyonnais vs. Valencia (Tuesday, 2:45 PM ET)
Zenit St. Petersburg vs. KAA Gent (Tuesday, 2:45 PM ET)
Astana vs. Galatasaray (Wednesday, 2:45 PM ET)
Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Paris Saint-Germain (Wednesday, 2:45 PM ET)
Malmö FF vs. Real Madrid (Wednesday, 2:45 PM ET)
CSKA Moscow vs. PSV Eindhoven (Wednesday, 2:45 PM ET)
Atlético Madrid vs. SL Benfica (Wednesday, 2:45 PM ET)
Juventus vs. Sevilla (Wednesday, 2:45 PM ET)