Bayern Munich and Werder Bremen will be playing each other in the Bundesliga for the 100th time, and both have their eyes set on the matches ahead rather than the match at hand. Bayern will try to avoid getting knocked out of the Champions League in midweek, and Werder Bremen have a relegation battle on their hands.
Bremen will not have to same mentality Mainz had when they came to Munich, and Clemens Fritz and Zlatko Junuzovic are the prove. Both picked up yellow cards intentionally to avoid the match to ensure they are available to the six-pointers Werder Bremen have on their fixture list. However, it is the same pre-match concession Darmstadt made when they returned to the Allianz Arena in February, and Darmstadt were the team leading at halftime, not Bayern.
The defending champions have to avoid dropping points though in order to achieve their historic target of a fourth-straight Bundesliga title. Many key players for Bayern will still be involved, and Pep Guardiola now has more squad depth to play with. Each team may have other fixtures in their sights, but with nine rounds left, they still have an important Bundesliga match to play.
The Match (111th Meeting)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Referee: Guido Winkmann
Bayern: 10 W, 0 D, 0 L – 14 YC, 1 Y/R
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Television and Streaming:
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Bundesliga: 48 W, 25 D, 26 L
DFB Pokal: 5 W, 0 D, 1 L
DFL Supercup: 0 W, 1 L
Ligapokal: 3 W, 1 L
Largest Victory: 7-0 (Bundesliga: August 12, 1980, Munich; December 7, 2013, Bremen)
Largest Defeat: 2-5 (Bundesliga: September 20, 2008, Munich)
Playing a team who was in the relegation zone not too long ago seems like the perfect opportunity for Pep Guardiola to rotate his squad. However, Bayern may not be able to afford to after dropping points in their last two matches, even with a big match against Juventus in midweek. Guardiola does not tend to rotate in the league either until a title is in his hands, and with the options at his disposal, it will not seem like he will even if he does.
One player who falls in this obscure rotation category Franck Ribery, a star who is itching to prove he deserves to stay in Munich despite his recent injury issues. Going up against Bremen's defense will be a good test for him considering they will move out of position to try to close him down. Guardiola may be able to get creative with the attack if Ribéry is on the field as well, and could put together a plan that includes Mario Götze.
The defense may have had more than they could handle against a Bremen team who has scored eight goals in their last two games, but with Bremen's injuries, Guardiola can trot out almost whatever defense he wants. This may be another match to let Serdar Tasci integrate into the side, but may not have gotten up to speed quite yet. He may have real competition to with Javi Martinez returning to team training, though Guardiola believes the Spaniard is still a few weeks away from a return.
Thomas Muller has criticized Bayern for leaking points over the past few weeks, but the teams that have leaked points to Bremen this season are no where close to where Bayern is in the table.
Projected Lineup (4-1-4-1):
Franck Ribery – Thiago Alcantara – Thomas Müller – Arjen Robben
Juan Bernat – David Alaba – Joshua Kimmich – Rafinha
Bench: Sven Ulreich, Medhi Benatia, Serdar Tasci, Arturo Vidal, Sebastian Rode, Douglas Costa, Mario Götze
Out/Suspended: Holger Badstuber (ankle), Jerome Boateng (groin), Javi Martinez (knee)
Fritz and Junuzović's tactics may make sense in the long run, but it gives Viktor Skripnik a very thin squad for Bremen's trip to Bayern. For a team trying to distance themselves from the relegation zone, the strategy may backfire in the end if Bayern run them off the field, something well within the realm of possibility with their goal concessions so far this season.
To make matters worse for Skripnik, two of his best players – Claudio Pizarro and Fin Bartels – will miss the match with muscle injuries. Pizarro was in perfect form to make his Munich return – five goals in his last three games – but he will not be able to challenge his old mates in front of a familiar crowd. That leaves Ujah leading the line by himself, something he is capable of doing with his holdup ability but not the best position to put him in.
Behind him will be a very inexperienced core of midfielders, the most experienced of which is 19-year-old Levin Öztunali. Bremen have trouble stringing passes together to begin with, which makes for a nightmarish situation in midfield. That means Jannik Vestegaard and Papy Djilobodji will have to launch balls for Ujah to run into, not the best formula for success against a team that can dominate possession.
Considering their yellow card approach, Bremen will definitely not being expecting to win. Their next goal involves not being completely embarrassed out of the Bundesliga with a motivation-sucking result.
Projected Lineup (4-4-2 Diamond):
Laszlo Kleinheisrer – Milos Veljkovic – Sambou Yatabare
Florian Grillitsch – Levin Öztunali
Santiago Garcia – Jannik Vestergaard – Papy Djilobodji – Theodor Gebre-Selassie
Bench: Gerhard Tremmel, Alejandro Galvez, Michael Eggestein, Lukas Fröde, Leon Guwara, Ulisses Garcia, Melvyn Lorenzen
Out/Suspended: Philipp Bargfrede (knee), Clemens Fritz (yellow card suspension), Aron Johannsson (hip), Zlatko Junuzovic (yellow card suspension), Janek Sternberg (ankle), Raphael Wolf (hip), Michael Zetterer (leg)
This match will not compare with the cup semifinal these teams will play in a month's time, but with each club's extracurriculars at the moment, it should not be. Bremen will do their best to sit and counter like most teams do against Bayern in the Allianz, but they have to keep the ball somewhat in order to launch it forward. With players fighting for squad positions in Bayern's team, the defending champions should win most of the second balls, and that will create an overwhelming amount of chances to play with.
The Other Action
Hertha Berliner SC vs. FC Schalke 04 (Friday, 2:30 PM ET)
Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Eintracht Frankfurt (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
Hannover 96 vs. 1. FC Köln (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim vs. VfL Wolfsburg (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
FC Ingolstadt 04 vs. VfB Stuttgart (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
SV Darmstadt 98 vs. FC Augsburg (Saturday, 9:30 PM ET)
Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs. Hamburger SV (Sunday, 9:30 AM ET)
Borussia Dortmund vs. Mainz 05 (Sunday, 11:30 AM ET)
UEFA Champions League Opponent
|Hertha Berliner SC||12||6||7||33||26||+7||42|
|1. FSV Mainz 05||12||4||9||34||30||+4||40|
|FC Schalke 04||12||3||10||50||42||+8||39|
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||10||7||8||38||32||+6||37|
|FC Ingolstadt 04||8||8||9||19||26||-7||32|
|1. FC Köln||7||9||9||26||33||-7||30|
|SV Werder Bremen||7||6||12||35||48||-13||27|
|SV Darmstadt 98||6||8||11||25||38||-13||26|
|TSG 1899 Hoffenheim||4||9||12||26||42||-16||21|