The fixture between Bayern Munich and Hamburg is infamous for its frequent blowouts, one that resulted in a barbecue for Hamburg employees in 2013. But Hamburg seem to have a little life in them after collecting seven points in their last three league games and advancing to the quarterfinals of the German Cup. Bayern are also at a point where every fixture matters due to their underwhelming league form and their new adversaries RB Leipzig.
Here is what you should watch for in Bayern’s game against Hamburg.
How Bayern showcase their individual skill
Hamburg’s defense has improved drastically after the recruitment of Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Mergim Mavraj and Walace, not to mention Markus Gisdol’s commitment to Gideon Jung in midfield. But Hamburg still have a problem closing players down. Douglas Costa and Arjen Robben thrive in those situations, especially if able to combine with clever passers like Philipp Lahm and Thiago.
Eyes remain on Thomas Müller
He seems a topic of conversation every week, but that’s what happens when a top player loses his form. Hamburg is a team he tends to perform better against – he has 7 goals and 10 assists in 17 games against them. Ancelotti may want another man in the middle with Hamburg’s sturdier spine, and Müller performed significantly better the last time he was paired with Lewandowski (in Ingolstadt).
Who wins the aerial battle
Neither Hamburg nor Bayern are particularly strong in the air, but half of Hamburg’s goals in their last three league games have come from a set-piece header. But their main man behind the recent success, Papadopoulos, will most likely miss the trip to Hamburg after coming off injured against Freiburg. But Mavraj, Walace and Jung are also solid aerial targets, likely why Gisdol has committed to consisting using all three of them. Mats Hummels is the only player who is good in the air, which could make set-pieces a problem area for Bayern.
Franck Ribery’s return
Ancelotti confirmed in his Friday press conference that Ribery is ready to go and will start the game on the bench. He has missed the entire month of February due to various injuries, but could get a decent cameo off the bench. Even at his old age, he is both a scoring and passing threat on the left wing, something that Douglas is not. How much he plays will be interesting to follow, especially if Bayern are not leading when he comes into the game.
Carlo Ancelotti’s 1000th game as a coach
He has won everything a coach can win at the club level and did so in multiple countries. On Saturday Ancelotti will reach the four-digit milestone as his marvelous coaching career continues. Not all of those games came as a head coach of course, but every milestone in the thousands is an accomplishment.