When it comes to a form check, Bayern Munich do not really have one after just one friendly in January. The one they had did not go very well, and it is a result the players are trying to quickly move past.
Will a lack of competition matter when the Bundesliga kicks off for the defending champions on Friday? Well, it cannot be much worse than last year’s 1-4 spanking they got from Wolfsburg at the start of last season. The first half of the season ended with several injuries though, so Bayern have used the break well to get back to full health.
Hamburg may be a welcome first challenge, especially after opening the season with a 5-0 victory after underwhelming performances in the DFL-Supercup and the first round of the DFB-Pokal. The Red Shorts have more punch than earlier this season, knocking Borussia Dortmund down a peg near the end of the first half. The clash between the two most tenured Bundesliga clubs may be more though this time, and Bayern could have an underwhelming second-half start if they are not careful.
The Match (114th Meeting)
Location: Imtech Arena, Hamburg, Germany
Time converter at worldtimebuddy.com
Television and Streaming:
US: Fox Sports 1 | HD, Fox Sports GO, Fox Soccer 2Go, GolTV
Canada: Sportsnet One, Sportsnet World Now
UK: BT Sport 2
Germany: ARD Das Erste, Sky Bundesliga 1 | HD, Sky Go, TeleClub Sport Live
FC Bayern: WWWWL
Bundesliga: 60 W, 22 D, 19 L
DFB Pokal: 7 W, 1 D, 2 L
DFL Supercup: 1 W, 0 L
Ligapokal: 0 W, 1 L
Largest Victory: 8-0 (Bundesliga: February 14, 2015, Munich)
Largest Defeat: 0-5 (Bundesliga: April 1, 1977, Hamburg)
Rest was a very important thing for this Bayern team, and that is what they got. They missed the alarm before their friendly against Karlsruhe, but Robert Lewandowski insisted on Wednesday Bayern are now awake.
Having key players back will be a nice adrenaline jolt to a stretched squad too. Lefties David Alaba, Douglas Costa and Arjen Robben all are supposed to be back in the squad, important returns at both ends of the pitch. Bayern will be back to being unpredictable in the final third, which means only good things for Thomas Müller and Lewandowski.
With all of Bayern’s panting into the winter break, the center of the park was where the foundation of their results were. It will be a necessary construct against Hamburg, who now have more quality going up the middle. Wanting to disrupt improved buildup from Hamburg, Pep Guardiola may be tempted in starting Arturo Vidal, but Thiago’s passing will be better for taking advantage of Hamburg’s defensive mistakes.
An eight point cushion is a good one to start with, but it could also be a false comfort going into a relatively tough road test
Projected Lineup (4-1-4-1):
Douglas Costa – Thiago Alcantara – Thomas Müller – Arjen Robben
David Alaba – Jerome Boateng – Javi Martinez – Philipp Lahm
Bench: Tom Starke, Holger Badstuber, Sebastian Rode, Joshua Kimmich, Arturo Vidal, Kinglsey Coman, Julian Green
Out/Suspended: Medhi Benatia (thigh), Juan Bernat (groin), Mario Götze (groin), Rafinha (knee), Franck Ribery (calf), Sven Ulreich (ankle)
Relegation was a big storyline for Hamburg the last two seasons, but the new squad roaming Imtech Arena has a completely different identity this season. Bruno Labbadia has brought the best out of his squad, improving several players who have been culprits in Hamburg’s demise.
Hamburg’s midfield is where Labbadia’s success is most prevalent. With the addition of Aaron Hunt, Hamburg has much more command in possession than they did before, and they are able to better execute their ideas. Lewis Holtby has finally taken a big step at the top level to the point where he is now one of the best midfielders in the Bundesliga.
Their defense is still where they are weakest, though the amount of goals they have let in this season has improved. René Adler has not only retaken command of the goalkeeper position, but also command of the Hamburg defense. Their positioning choices still make them vulnerable, though having Dennis Diekmeier back healthy is a major plus.
Bayern is the fixture Hamburg fans have dreaded, but hosting the defending champions at home after a long break is a great chance to repair their reputation in the fixture.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Ivo Ilicevic – Aaron Hunt – Nicolai Müller
Lewis Holtby – Gojko Kacar
Matthias Ostrzolek – Cleber Reis – Johan Djourou – Dennis Diekmeier
Bench: Jaroslav Drobny, Kerim Carolus, Hiroki Sakai, Gideon Jung, Michael Gregoritsch, Ivica Olic, Artjoms Rudnevs
Out/Suspended: Albin Ekdal (knee), Emir Spahic (stomach)
Bayern have tended to blow this fixture open in very quick fashion, and Douglas Costa helped them do that in the reverse fixture earlier this season. That said, if Holtby can release players quickly and efficiently, Hamburg will be able to put pressure on Bayern’s defense. Hamburg still won’t have an answer for Douglas and Arjen Robben though, and Bayern do not tend to drop points against lower-tier opposition.
The Other Action
Köln vs. Stuttgart (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Hannover vs. Darmstadt (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Hertha Berlin vs. Augsburg (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Hoffenheim vs. Bayer Leverkusen (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Ingolstadt vs. Mainz 05 (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Borussia Dortmund (Saturday, 12:30 PM ET)
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Wolfsburg (Sunday, 9:30 AM ET)
Schalke 04 vs. Werder Bremen (Sunday, 11:30 AM ET)
UEFA Champions League Opponent
Team vs. Team (Day, Time ET)
|Hertha Berliner SC||10||2||5||26||18||+8||32|
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||8||3||6||25||20||+5||27|
|FC Schalke 04||8||3||6||23||23||0||27|
|1. FSV Mainz 05||7||3||7||23||23||0||24|
|1. FC Köln||6||6||5||18||21||-3||24|
|FC Ingolstadt 04||5||5||7||11||18||-7||20|
|SV Darmstadt 98||4||6||7||17||26||-9||18|
|SV Werder Bremen||4||3||10||17||32||-15||15|
|TSG 1899 Hoffenheim||2||7||8||17||25||-8||13|