The Bundesliga and Champions League seem to be the top priorities, but a treble has to include a DFB-Pokal victory too. Considering the Champions League involves Atlético Madrid and the Bundesliga involves more tough test before the end of the season, a cup match against Werder Bremen seems like a break.
As other top clubs have proven this season, playing the Grünweißen does not have a refreshing feeling at the end. Sure, Bayern rubbed another big victory in their faces a month ago, but Bremen were playing without two key players, including box-to-box engine Clemens Fritz. The way Bremen beat Leverkusen should not be easily dismissed, even if the Werkself tend to underperform in the cup.
One-game elimination is a whole different ballgame, providing an urgency that week-to-week league games certainly cannot. That said, Bayern certainly know how to build a successful team better than Bremen, and with players slowly returning to form, the fish-heads will be swimming up stream in Munich.
The Match (112th Meeting)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Referee: Tobias Stieler
Bayern: 10 W, 1 D, 0 L – 12 YC, 1 Y/R, 0 RC
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Television and Streaming:
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Bundesliga: 49 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)
One could easily assume that, against a club so far down in the Bundesliga, Pep Guardiola does not have to trot out his best team to get a desirable result. The Spanish manager takes the one-game elimination structure seriously though, and he plays to win, not squeak by.
All hands will be on deck, including Douglas Costa, Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller and Franck Ribery. With Arjen Robben still in the recovery stage, those four seem to be in Guardiola's best XI, only the central midfield changing from game-to-game. With Xabi Alonso sitting out with a yellow card suspension over the weekend, he is a prime candidate to be part of that central midfield, and the pace at which Bremen's midfield moves the ball, he should fare just fine.
Bayern's defense is still a work in progress, but Javi Martinez has brought some of that stability back. Though he is not necessarily the best aerial stopper, he is the most healthy one Bayern have. He and Joshua Kimmich also have the ball-winning ability to break up already a poor Bremen passing attack, though the two of them may be tasked with fighting Bremen's forwards to long balls from the defense.
Bayern got the best possible draw in this cup semifinal, and now they have to use it to get to their fourth final in five seasons.
Projected Lineup (4-1-4-1):
Franck Ribery – Thiago Alcantara – Thomas Muller – Douglas Costa
David Alaba – Javi Martínez – Joshua Kimmich – Philipp Lahm
Bench: Sven Ulreich, Juan Bernat, Rafinha, Arturo Vidal, Sebastian Rode, Mario Gotze, Kingsley Coman
Out/Suspended: Holger Badstuber (ankle), Jerome Boateng (groin), Arjen Robben (groin)
Werder Bremen does not have the reputation it used to, but it does have a different one this season: giant killers. They sit firmly ahead of Eintracht Frankfurt and Hannover because of three results: a 3-1 win against Schalke, a 4-1 win against Bayer Leverkusen, and a 3-2 win against Wolfsburg.
What do all three of those results have in common? Claudio Pizarro played – and scored – in all of them. The 37-year-old striker still has something to offer, and he is offering his club a chance to stay in the Bundesliga. The attack moves with a lot more confidence when he is on the pitch, one reason why Bremen lost so many games when he was experiencing back issues. With him back in the side, a 2-1 comeback against Borussia Dortmund is much more likely to stick rather than turn into a 2-3 defeat.
Though his club has overperformed against top opposition, Viktor Skripnik will need to be careful in Munich. He fielded five defenders the last time Bremen were in Munich, and the Bavarians still put five goals past his side. Zlatko Junuzovic and Clemens Fritz will make his side more solid in midfield, and having Papy Djilobodji – whose suspension comes to an end in the Bundesliga this week – back in the fold will make a difference. However, Bremen will need to show the tenacity they did against Leverkusen in the last round if they want to advance past the record champions.
The odds are very much against them, but odds have not had much meaning in Bremen's games this season
Projected Lineup (5-3-2):
Anthony Ujah – Claudio Pizarro
Zlatko Junuzović – Florian Grillitsch – Clemens Fritz
Santiago Garcia – Jannik Vestegaard – Papy Djilobodji – Alejandro Gálvez – Theodor Gebre-Selassie
Bench: Gerhard Tremmel, Ulisses Garcia, Leon Guwara, László Kleinheisler, Levin Öztunali, Sambou Yatabare, Fin Bartels
Out/Suspended: Philipp Bargfrede (knee), Aron Johannsson (hip), Raphael Wolf (hip), Michael Zetterer (leg)
Though the cup is something Bayern seem to not win consistently enough, their semifinal performances tend to be the best ones of the season. If Bayern's attack comes to play, they should have loads of fun pulling Bremen's defense out of position. Ujah will be critical for Bremen on the break, but for a player with his pace, he is not the best breaking player, and Bremen probably wouldn't get him the ball even if he was. Bayern have one foot in the final before the match even starts, and only a colossal screw-up would prevent a return to Berlin.