It was bound to be a stress-free game for Bayern, having secured the Meisterschale on Tuesday after defeating Werder Bremen 1-0. That said, it was also a game that was full of talking points, starting right from the lineup. BFW takes a look.
A lineup full of surprises
Hansi Flick was half-forced into making a number of changes to his lineup for several reasons. For one, star left-back Alphonso Davies was suspended because of his red card on Tuesday, and David Alaba’s ankle problem meant that Flick’s usual back four was literally split in half. As a result, Bayern lined up with an experience-laden center-back pairing of Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez, the latter returning to the starting eleven for the first time since December. Lucas Hernandez, meanwhile, slotted in at left-back in Davies’ place.
The midfield boasted the usual German trident of Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, and Thomas Müller, but the attack also saw a number of changes. Michael Cuisance started out of position on the right wing, while Sarpreet Singh started his first ever game for Bayern’s first team on the left. Finally, backup goalkeeper Sven Ulreich, who had not played a single second of the season so far, manned the sticks in place of captain Manuel Neuer. The result was a lineup bound to raise a few eyebrows, but one that would deliver nonetheless.
Experience pays off
Bayern may have put a couple of young guns in the starting lineup, but it was the old guard that delivered. Although the Boateng-Martinez pairing was not perfect, the two defenders made a number of crucial challenges that frustrated Freiburg all game. Apart from his mistake in the buildup to Freiburg’s goal, Martinez put in a solid performance, while his partner Boateng carried on his good form from the last few weeks. Sven Ulreich also had a decent game, making two great saves in the second half, particularly a last minute effort that blocked a one-on-one chance with Freiburg midfielder Changhoon Kwon.
In attack, Lewandowski was on fire, assisting Kimmich’s opening goal before grabbing a brace himself. The Pole’s double takes him to 33 league goals for the season, surpassing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s previous record of most goals by a non-German in the Bundesliga (31). Right behind Lewandowski, Müller also put in a good performance and was unlucky not to score or assist, particularly with a curling shot in the first half that would have made the highlights of the entire season had it hit the back of the net. It was thanks to these experienced players that Bayern were able to grab a win in style, taking their tally of wins to 15 in a row in all competitions, a new club record.
The kids are all right
That being said, Flick’s decision to bring on some fresh blood paid off as well. Both Cuisance and Singh had a decent run-out today, the latter being surprisingly composed on his first start. The New Zealander got into a number of good spaces and also played some good passes. Cuisance, meanwhile, was not bad despite playing in an unfamiliar position. The young midfielder switched frequently between the flanks and the center, getting on the edge of a few chances that he might have done better with. Yes, both players need fine tuning, but they put in two performances that they could be proud of.
Flick also brought on Chris Richards and Jamal Musiala late on in the second half, and although they were not on the pitch that long, they showed glimpses of their talent. Richards ended up winning a goal kick with a good tackle after being left one-on-one with a Freiburg attacker near the corner, and Musiala showed that he isn’t half bad at keeping possession. Again, a couple of minutes do not fully represent these players, but from what we’ve seen today, Bayern’s future looks bright.
The only downside of the game was that Flick only used four out of his five available substitutes, so Wooyeong Jeong and Oliver Batista Meier had to sit out the entire game. Maybe next week...
Freiburg now is a completely different side from Freiburg in December
Earlier in the season, Freiburg were having a great season, even putting in a bid for top four at one or more points. Forcing both Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen to draws and even defeating RB Leipzig, the men from the Black Forest were on a mission to go further beyond where they had ever gone before. It took a last minute winner from Joshua Zirkzee for even a rejuvenated Bayern to beat them at the Schwarzwald Stadion in December. In the Hinrunde, some fans were cautiously predicting that Freiburg would at least make the Europa League, if not the Champions League.
Fast forward to now, and Freiburg are a shadow of the team they were. Gone are the days they used to bring a fight to the best teams in Germany. Instead, they ended up losing to all three relegation-zone teams: Werder Bremen, Fortuna Dusseldorf, and even rock bottom SC Paderborn. What’s more, Werder and Paderborn each had a player sent off when they played Freiburg! As a result, Freiburg now sit in eighth place, four points off sixth-placed Wolfsburg. No European football for them next season.
Indeed, it was evident that Freiburg were not at their best today, even when playing a Bayern side relatively lacking in motivation. Manager Christian Streich looked audibly frustrated seeing his team concede goal after goal, and it was remarkable how much easier the game was for Bayern compared to six months ago when the two sides met before. It’s a shame to see Freiburg’s campaign for Europe end in failure, but the question is: where do they go from here? Do they put in another decent run next season, or will they sink even further? Only time will tell.