Four titles in four years? That is enough for any club to celebrate, and that is what Bayern Munich will do on Saturday. As Pep Guardiola said in his press conference on Friday, this team deserves to celebrate because they have earned it.
Bayern's season is not over yet though. The DFB-Pokal is not the glamorous of the three major trophies, but it is still the trophy that will complete Bayern's domestic double. Playing-for-pride Hannover is the perfect tune-up for the Bundesliga champions as they prepare for their cup date with Borussia Dortmund, and it is one they do not want to waste.
Guardiola said he cares less about the three points and more about the performance for the crowd. That is what a coach can provide spectators when the title race is over.
The Match (57th Meeting)
Location: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Referee: Knut Kircher
Bayern: 32 W, 13 D, 5 L – 68 YC, 1 Y/R, 3 RC
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Bundesliga: 36 W, 8 D, 9 L
DFB Pokal: 3 W, 0 D, 0 L
Largest Victory: 7-0 (Bundesliga: April 17, 2010, Munich)
Largest Defeat: 1-3 (Bundesliga: September 22, 1973, Hannover; March 5, 2011)
Guardiola does not have as much of his spine as he probably likes to have at his disposal – Javi Martinez and Xabi Alonso are unavailable due to injuries. A spine will not him break down the barricade Hannover is going to construct in front of him though. He can therefore have a little more fun, playing all of his favorite attackers in his last match on the touchline in the Allianz Arena.
The Spaniard has stuffed attackers into his side before, but the results have not always produced the goal margins one would suggest. That may change on Saturday for the shear fact most of Bayern's attackers have experience playing with each other. The attacking service may be able to return as well, though Robert Lewandowski is going against some aerially-strong defenders.
Without Martinez, Benatia may finally get a chance to play, but it is just as likely Guardiola plays David Alaba in the center of defense while he still can. That said, having Alaba on the left makes it easier for Bayern to switch to a back three, and Philipp Lahm can fill some of the void left behind by Xabi Alonso when he tucks into midfield.
Saturday is going to be fun for Bayern and their fans, and their jubilance might manifest itself in a very interesting Bayern performance.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Franck Ribery – Douglas Costa – Thomas Muller – Kingsley Coman
David Alaba – Jerome Boateng – Medhi Benatia – Philipp Lahm
Bench: Sven Ulreich, Juan Bernat, Serdar Tasci, Joshua Kimmich, Sebastian Rode, Thiago Alcantara, Mario Gotze
Out/Suspended: Xabi Alonso (ribs), Holger Badstuber (ankle), Javi Martinez (calf), Arjen Robben (groin)
Everything that could have gone wrong in Hannover has. Their first coach, Tyfun Korkut, quit before Christmas due to the lack of motivation in the team. Thomas Schaaf did not provide much relief either, losing 10 of 11 games before receiving the ax.
Daniel Stendel has provided new life to the Reds, unfortunately after Hannover's relegation fate was already secure. The interim manager, who was promoted from the reserve team, has disrupted the European race with a win against Borussia Mönchengladbach and a draw against Hertha Berlin. He has restored some of the core of the club – Artur Sobiech, Salif Sané, Manuel Schmiedebach – and given a chance to some new faces from the reserve team.
Stendel's task was not difficult, but the rash of injuries made it difficult. The total number of players injured is greater than the total number of wins they have, and it is hard for anyone to manage a squad under those conditions. Whatever Stendel seems to be doing is working though, and Hannover might be able to but in a good performance when they play the best team in Germany for the last time.
Projected Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Felix Klaus – Kenan Karaman – Noah-Joel Sarenren-Bazee
Iver Fossum – Manuel Schmiedebach
Miiko Albornoz – Salif Sané – Waldemir Anton – Lynn Arkenberg
Bench: Philipp Tschauner, Christian Schulz, Oliver Sorg, Tim Dierßen, Ceyhun Gülselam, Edgar Prib, Valmir Sulejmani
Out/Suspended: Leon Andreasen (foot), Uffe Bech (knee), Charlison Benschop (pelvis), Felipe (groin), Hiroshi Kiyotake (thigh), Alexander Milosevic (knee), Hiroki Sakai (muscle problems), Marius Wolf (hip), Hotaro Yamaguchi (face)
The storylines about this game mean absolutely nothing, but the players surely won't play that way. If Guardiola does pack a bunch of attackers onto the field, they will easily be able to force Hannover into some marking mistakes. The Bayern coach has to be careful in his last Bayern home game, and he may make a few substitutions at the hour mark to keep his players fresh. Bayern should handle this game with ease, and then celebrate their title like they know how.
The Other Action
Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs. FC Ingolstadt 04 (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
VfL Wolfsburg vs. VfB Stuttgart (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
FC Augsburg vs. Hamburger SV (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
SV Werder Bremen vs. Eintracht Frankfurt (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim vs. FC Schalke 04 (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
1. FSV Mainz 05 vs. Hertha Berliner SC (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
SV Darmstadt 98 vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach (Saturday, 9:30 AM ET)
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||17||6||10||53||38||+15||57|
|Hertha Berliner SC||14||7||12||42||42||+0||49|
|1. FSV Mainz 05||14||7||12||46||42||+4||49|
|FC Schalke 04||14||7||12||47||48||-1||49|
|1. FC Köln||10||12||11||36||40||-4||42|
|FC Ingolstadt 04||10||10||13||31||39||-8||40|
|SV Darmstadt 98||9||11||13||38||51||-13||38|
|TSG 1899 Hoffenheim||9||10||14||38||50||-12||37|
|SV Werder Bremen||9||8||16||49||65||-16||35|