Bayern Munich's match against Hoffenheim will be the 500th match played within the walls of Allianz Arena. The defending Bundesliga champions know how to protect their house, but doing so may be a little tougher over the next few months.
Hoffenheim will be the first opponent Bayern will face without Jerome Boateng. Fortunately for the Rekordmeister, they are going up against one of the worst attacks in Germany, but that attack did only need nine seconds to open the scoring in the reverse fixture. Change is never easy, but Bayern still have a lot of experienced players who know the adjustments they need to make.
In a locker room that is reportedly coming apart, can Bayern get a good result to maintain their dominance in the Bundesliga? How the team adjusts will be worth a watch, even if this is a Sunday match between clubs with very different fortunes.
The Match (16th Meeting)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Referee: Dr. Jochen Drees
FC Bayern: 15 W, 3 D, 2 L – 21 YC, 0 Y/R, 1 RC
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Bundesliga: 11 W, 4 D, 0 L
Largest Victory: 7-1 (Bundesliga: March 10, 2012, Munich)
How does Bayern deal with the loss of Boateng? That monumental question has a simple answer right now: Holger Badstuber. He is the only healthy defender left to quickly replace Boateng's shoes, an ironic situation made easier by his strong efforts off the bench since his return.
The solution to Boateng's loss is more complex than that of course. David Alaba and Philipp Lahm will probably have a bigger midfield presence to help with the buildup play, although Badstuber and Javi Martinez are no slouches when it comes to advancing the ball forward. Xabi Alonso's defensive presence also needs to be on point against a club who has scored against the run of play in recent weeks.
Though Boateng contributed a bit to the attack, Bayern should be ok going forward. Hoffenheim's inexperienced defense should fall easy pray to play-stretchers Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman, and Bayern's dynamic duo up top have the movement to maneuver the penalty area with ease. Thiago Alcantara may have a difficult time operating through Hoffenheim's decent defensive midfield, but if he is able to create space for himself, he may manufacture a chance or two for his clinical comrades.
Bayern's last match against Hoffenheim did not start off very well, but they controlled the match nonetheless and got the result they needed. Playing at home will shift the scales more in their favor, and they should not sink much without their Boateng.
Projected Lineup (4-4-2):
Robert Lewandowski – Thomas Müller
Douglas Costa – Thiago Alcantara – Xabi Alonso – Kingsley Coman
David Alaba – Holger Badstuber – Javi Martinez – Philipp Lahm
Bench: Tom Starke, Juan Bernat, Sebastian Rode, Joshua Kimmich, Arturo Vidal, Arjen Robben
Out/Suspended: Sven Ulreich (ankle), Medhi Benatia (thigh), Jérôme Boateng (groin), Mario Götze (groin), Rafinha (knee), Franck Ribéry (calf)
No doubt, Hoffenheim are a shell of their former selves, stalled in their progression up the table with the loss of their best player, Roberto Firmino. A slow start cost Marcus Gisdol his job, and Huub Stevens's survival tactics have not advanced them out of danger quite yet.
Their predicament is strange considering the talent in the squad. Eduardo Vargas is one of Chile's best forwards, but he has not impacted Hoffenheim's attack the way Roberto Firmino did. Fabian Schär was a highly touted defender from Basel, but he has yet to establish himself in the Bundesliga. Kevin Volland and Sebastian Rudy are German internationals – deservedly so as the World Cup champions transition towards the next generation – but neither have been able to keep their Hoffenheim out of trouble.
Stevens has thus had to rely on Rudy and Tobias Strobl, both defensive players, to control the tempo of matches in midfield. The quality in attack is not high enough to keep up with opponents though, Stevens having to rely on wild cards like Jonathan Schmid and Jiloan Hamad. What Stevens does have in his back pocket is Nadiem Amiri, an 18-year-old adrenaline injection that can create chances quickly.
Hoffenheim have showed an ability to remain in matches, but has not shown an ability to win them under Stevens. An early momentum-shifting goal is what Hoffenheim may need again or else this match could run away from them quickly.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Jonathan Schmid – Jiloan Hamad – Kevin Volland
Sebastian Rudy – Tobias Strobl
Jin-Su Kim – Fabian Schär – Niklas Süle – Pavel Kaderabek
Bench: Jens Grahl, Ermin Bičakčić, Eugen Polanski, Mark Uth, Stefan Zuber, Nadiem Amiri, Andrej Kramarić
Out/Suspended: Kai Herding (knee), Pirmin Schwegler (thigh)
Anyone can guess what will happen when Bayern play a club in the relegation zone they have never lost to at home. This one may not be the grind other results have been in recent rounds, especially if Müller and Lewandowski can break free on their own. Hoffenheim showed a lot of resolve back in August, but that resolve may be fading with every point they drop. At the end of the day, Bayern are not going to lose such a milestone match for the Allianz Arena.
Projected Score: Bayern Munich (3-1) Hoffenheim
The Other Action
1. FSV Mainz 05 vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach (Friday, 2:30 PM ET)
Borussia Dortmund vs. FC Ingolstadt 04 (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hannover 96 (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
FC Augsburg vs. Eintracht Frankfurt (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
SV Werder Bremen vs. Hertha Berliner SC (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
SV Darmstadt 98 vs. FC Schalke 04 (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
VfB Stuttgart vs. Hamburger SV (Saturday, 12:30 PM ET)
VfL Wolfsburg vs. 1. FC Köln (Sunday, 9:30 AM ET)
UEFA Champions League Opponent
Chievo Verona vs. Juventus (Sunday, 6:30 AM ET)
|Hertha Berliner SC||10||3||5||26||18||+8||33|
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||8||4||6||26||21||+5||28|
|FC Schalke 04||8||3||7||24||26||-2||27|
|1. FSV Mainz 05||7||3||8||23||24||-1||24|
|1. FC Köln||6||6||6||19||24||-5||24|
|FC Ingolstadt 04||6||5||7||12||18||-6||23|
|SV Darmstadt 98||5||6||7||19||27||-8||21|
|SV Werder Bremen||5||3||10||20||33||-13||18|
|TSG 1899 Hoffenheim||2||8||8||18||26||-8||14|