Bayern Munich had the perfect tune-up game before their Cup game this week. But Schalke, despite their struggles, have made it hard on Bayern in the Bundesliga this season, which could mean they could do so in the German Cup as well.
Here are some things to watch for in Bayern’s quarterfinal match against Schalke.
Was Bayern’s 8-0 result against Hamburg in Munich (their second in three seasons) important for their season form? It’s hard to take anything from a disenchanted opponent performance, but big scorelines don’t happen by accident. Here is what Bayern have performed in the next three games (excluding long breaks) since the 2010-11 season:
|Result||5-0 win vs. Hamburg||8-0 win vs. Hamburg||3-1 win vs. Hamburg||9-2 win vs. Hamburg||5-0 win vs. Hamburg||6-0 win vs. Hamburg|
|Next Game||2-1 win @ Hoffenheim*||0-0 draw @ Shakhtar Donetsk˚||3-0 win vs. Guangzhou Evergrande‡||2-0 win vs. Juventus˚||1-0 win vs. Zurich˚||2-3 loss vs. Inter˚|
|Game After||3-0 win vs. Bayer Leverkusen*||6-0 win @ Paderborn*||2-0 win vs. Raja Casablanca‡||1-0 win @ Eintracht Frankfurt*||3-0 win @ Kaiserslautern*||2-1 win @ Freiburg*|
|Game After That||International Break||4-1 win vs. Köln*||Winter Break||2-0 win @ Juventus˚||7-0 win vs. Freiburg*||1-0 win vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach*|
˚ Champions League
‡ Club World Cup
They have struggled on the road, but outside a let-down against Inter Milan under Louis Van Gaal, Bayern have been very solid at home. That trend could continue against Schalke who, after all, are in the bottom half of the table.
A three-man midfield
Markus Weinzierl has tried to outnumber teams in midfield and defense, including in Schalke’s last trip to Munich at the end of January, a tactic that has worked well as he has tried to stabilize the ship. He will likely do so again on Wednesday, which means Bayern need to revert back to the three-man midfield, the one that dominated Arsenal and Leipzig, as a counter-tactic.
Xabi Alonso was part of the midfield in both of those games, but there are still questions around his fitness after missing the game over the weekend with an injury. Such a midfield could also remove Thomas Müller, who arguably had his best game of the season, out of midfield. But Thiago and Arturo Vidal are going to be constantly pestered by Nabil Bentaleb and Leon Goretzka if they have to fend for themselves in midfield.
Guido Burgstaller at full-gas
The newly acquired striker had already matched his career high in goals in a season even before he joined Schalke in January. He has continued to score since, scoring three goals in eight starts for Schalke. He is relentless in the final third and an above-average finisher, two qualities that already make him better than most of the strikers Schalke has acquired in the last five years. If Schalke do score against Bayern, he will likely be heavily involved.
A goal from a midfielder
Outside of a few exceptions, most of the goals Schalke have conceded from open play this season have come from strikers – only seven of the 23 goals they have conceded in the Bundesliga have come from midfielders. But their recent draw with Hoffenheim showed how quickly disorganized their three-man defense (now without Naldo, arguably their best defender) can get, evidenced by Sebastian Rudy’s first goal of the season. Bayern are also one of two teams that have six players with at least three Bundesliga goals this season (the other of which is Hoffenheim), and former teammate Holger Badstuber isn’t necessarily the best at chasing anyone down. Robert Lewandowski will certainly be a strong bet to get on the score sheet, but don’t be surprised if someone else finds the back of the net.
One would expect the substitution practice to be different for a cup game than a league game, but Carlo Ancelotti will not be hasty with his substitutions against Schalke. Bayern’s last two cup games were not necessarily tense affairs, but with one-goal leads for the most of both contests, Ancelotti elected to wait until the last 15 minutes of the game to make his changes. That was not the case under Guardiola, who often brought on at least one player around the hour mark – or not at all, which was the case in the German Cup final. Schalke has not been a team Bayern have put away early this season, which makes it more likely for Ancelotti to save his substitutions with extra time in mind.