Preview: Can Dieter Hecking’s overcome table topping Bayern München?
Pep Guardiola’s side remains the envy of Europe, especially Germany. Nobody has been able to match Bayern in the Bundesliga this season. Only Freiburg and Bayer Leverkusen (albeit in slightly lucky fashion) have been able to take a point each off of them. The Champions-elect will take on a team which was largely tipped to be this season’s dark horse. Wolfsburg has the money and the players. They are approaching a top four position. Nonetheless, they are not there just yet.
Preview: Can Schalke stand up to the challenge?
Had Julian Draxler hit the ball either side of Iker Casillas rather than at him, the score might have been so different. The match might have turned. But Schalke was left to rue missed chances and lackadaisical defending as Real toyed with them. Their next task is set to be harder considering that they lost a number of players to injury in the UEFA Champions League. Nonetheless, the exit from Europe this season could help them finish in the top four in the league by allowing the players to rest more.
Bayern’s injury list is not too long. Franck Ribery and Thomas Müller will both be unavailable for selection due to some minor injury problems. Holger Badstuber is making his way back into the game slowly. For Schalke, Marco Höger, Christian Clemens, Dennis Aogo, Atsuto Uchida and Jan Kirchoff are all out of this one. Felipe Santana sustained some problems against Real and is out. Sead Kolasinac is a doubt as well.
Preview: Can Hannover trouble Bayern?
Tayfun Korkut’s side have reason to believe they can trouble the Bavarians. Hannover sides managed to do that quite a few times until Bayern became almost untouchable. Last season, both meetings were utterly one sided. Bayern won in the Allianz Arena, 5-0, and 1-6, at the current HDI, but formerly, AWD Arena. Korkut has managed to turn the side into one of the best home teams in the league since taking over.
He will be without Andre Hoffmann due to an unfortunate case of tonsillitis. Hannover’s inspirational captain, the American Steven Cherundolo, Didier Ya Konan, Felipe and Christian Pander are all out as well. On the other hand, he might have Mame Biram Diouf ready for this one. Bayern meanwhile might use this match to finally give Bastian Schweinsteiger his first ninety minutes since his return to the squad. Pep Guardiola will have to make do without the services of Holger Badstuber, Xherdan Shaqiri and Franck Ribery.
Preview: Gunners hoping to respond after disappointing European outing
Arsene Wenger’s men will consider themselves unlucky after losing out to defending European Champions Bayern Munich at the Emirates on Wednesday. The Gunners began the match brightly forcing Manuel Neuer in making some fine saves early in the match.
However an injury to left back Kieran Gibbs followed by a red card to goalkeeper Wojciech Szenczy turned the tide into Bayern’s favour who punished the North London side by scoring two goals. The match also saw record signing Mesut Ozil produce another disappointing performance in an Arsenal shirt.
Preview: Arsenal welcomes Bayern Munich to the Emirates exactly one year later
Arsenal’s last meeting with Bayern Munich had a positive outcome, despite the English side having been eliminated from the Champions League. The away goal rule placed a dark cloud over a brilliant performance from the Gunners at the Allianz Arena.
That 0-2 victory offered Arsene Wenger’s side a breath of fresh air. They began to believe in themselves, and went on to finish strong in the Premier League.
Bayern Munich now returns to the Emirates, where they defeated the Gunners 1-3 last season. Oddly enough, the first leg last season took place on February 19th, which is the same date of this season’s first leg at the Emirates. But will the result repeat itself?
Many wondered how incoming manager Pep Guardiola could ever improve Jupp Heynckes’ side which recorded an impressive treble last season and on the course of winning the Champions League subjected arguably modern era’s finest side, FC Barcelona to a 7-0 loss on aggregate.
However with over a quarter of a season still left to play we can see just how much Bayern have improved under their new manager. From being the best side in Europe last season they are now manoeuvring over a path which could inevitably make them indestructible, and this is why Arsenal will find it extremely difficult to get the better of a side which has just lost twice this season.
Preview: Will Distractions get in Bayern’s Way?
It is best to start with team news first. Vaclav Pilar, Marco Terrazzino, Vegar Hedenstad and Sebastian Freis are out for Freiburg. Mario Mandzukic is suspended for Bayern while Franck Ribery is out injured. Holger Badstuber is currently in rehab of course.
Freiburg is the only side aside from Leverkusen to take off points from Bayern this season in the Bundesliga. They needed a late goal, four minutes from the end of normal time to be precise, to take a 1-1 draw against a lethargic Bayern inn August. Lethargy however should not be a problem this time. The problem though could be an entirely different one.
Preview: Will Hamburg’s problems come to the forefront once again?
The fans and the players are currently not on the best of terms at Hamburg. Rafael Van der Vaart is no longer the fan favorite he used to be. Defeat after defeat in the Bundesliga has left the club in the relegation zone. The Bundesliga’s dinosaur, the only team in the league to have featured in every Bundesliga season, is in danger of being relegated this season.
Naturally, a manager who knows his team is fighting for survival would like to see his side be eliminated from all other competitions to focus on the league. However, HSV fans will not want to accept yet another defeat. Bayern beat them 3-1 in the league in their previous meeting where Hamburg showed plenty of signs of life under Bert Van Marwijk. But the manager is now holding on to his job by a thread.
Preview: Can Nürnberg continue their wonderful run of form?
The six previous derbies at the Grundig between the two sides saw Bayern pick up a solitary victory. Nürnberg usually likes to save their best for their neighbors. Markus Feulner of Nürnberg, a former Bayern man, reflected his team’s attitude towards the match best with his words, as noted by Bayern’s official website:
“It’s a massive event for us. We get to test ourselves against the best team in the world. We’ll try and make it a very, very good game.”
Preview: Will Pep Guardiola continue to tinker with his side?
Mario Götze has featured as a “falsche neun” in both of Bayern’s match in 2014. This has seen Mario Mandzukic relegated to the bench (or sometimes, to cheering duty from home). Mandzukic and Claudio Pizarro came on against Stuttgart in the Bavarians’ previous game to somehow rescue a point for Bayern. Stuttgart bullied Bayern physically and had many chances to add to their goal advantage but the introduction of the two gigantic marksmen saw them unfold.
Pizarro’s header saw Bayern get on the score sheet while constant probing by the Bayern forwards caused the Swabians to collapse in the last second and to concede thanks to a Thiago Alcantara wonder strike. Thiago is set to keep his place in the team with Bastian Schweinsteiger still in recovery. Along with Schweinsteiger, Holger Badstuber is out. Javier Martinez and Daniel Van Buyten are not fit enough to return yet. Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery might return to the squad. As injury worries are starting to lessen for Guardiola, his appetite to tinker might increase.
"To win the Champions League, you need a budget of at least €300 million", Bayern Munich legendary goalkeeper Oliver Kahn stated to German publication Kicker when asked his opinion on what it takes for a side to lift European continental football's highest trophy.
He then went on to add that it was thanks to their lavish spending that saw Chelsea lift the trophy in 2012, the first in the club's history but conceded that "it doesn't make them any different than Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona, or Bayern Munich".
Still, no one can dispute that since Chelsea's July 2003 takeover by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich that the Blues have not enjoyed an upswing in success, notably winning the league title three times (their first since the the 1954-1955 campaign).
The Bavarians are not prone to losing “easy” games in the Bundesliga although Pep Guardiola never quite labels opponents as such. Stuttgart though has lost four of their five previous games in the Bundesliga. They started the second half of the season…
Preview: Can Borussia Mönchengladbach be the much needed thorn in Bayern’s side?
As the Bundesliga is set to restart, the genuine fears of a “one horse race” persist. Those who watched the recent friendly between Bayern and RB Salzburg might disagree. A bit of comedy aside though, one cannot help but wonder what the Bundesliga has come to. Last season was supposed to be an exception; strangely, what happened in 2012-13 is seemingly becoming the norm.
Seven points ahead of nearest challengers Bayer 04 Leverkusen with a game in hand, there is indeed a chance that Bayern might extend their lead. Leverkusen does not have the squad to sustain runs on all fronts up to May. The other challenger of course has emerged rather late in the season and was hidden by Borussia Dortmund’s poor form. Gladbach sits in third place, 11 points behind Bayern and ready for a challenge at the title.
Last season, Bayern Munich made history by becoming the first ever German side to complete a historic treble when they defeated Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the Champions League final at Wembley, snatched the title away from the same side, and clinched a narrow victory in the DFB-Pokal over Stuttgart.
In doing so, they became the seventh side in history to win three major titles in a year, joining the likes of Inter, Barcelona, and Manchester United.
With the news of Robert Lewandowski finally putting an end to speculation and signing a contract with Bayern Munich confirmed, it is quite clear that the German Bundesliga, once lauded for its competitiveness, is rapidly becoming the exclusive property of Bayern Munich.
However, it is not a new thing for players winning Bundesliga titles with other sides, join the Bavarians. Lewandowski is now part of a long list of players who left title winning teams for Munich and is now reunited with former Borussia Dortmund teammate Mario Gotze.
In the past, the likes of Mario Gomez, Michael Ballack, Hamit Altintop, Giovanni Elber and Manuel Neuer, not to mention Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose left their respective sides that offered strong competition in the Bundesliga, joined Bayern Munich and went on to win a lot of titles with them.
Entertainment is described in Merriam-Webster as “amusement or diversion provided especially by performers”.
According to this definition, entertainment can be measured by not just one but by several criteria as amusement or diversion can come in several forms.
However, a smaller, perhaps financially constrained, side contesting a historic name of the game does not provide the viewer with the same entertainment as two giants logging heads with each other. This is because, unless both sides are of similar caliber, the superior side tends to dominate or in other words, bully the smaller side.
In Morocco, Raja is undoubtedly going to feel at home. They are the second African club to reach the final in the history of the competition. They were not favored against Atletico Mineiro from Brazil in the semifinals but, nonetheless, overcame them in a very impressive display, 3-1. This was…
Having won just once in their last five Bundesliga outings, Borussia Dortmund are under a lot of pressure to get back to winning ways. As things stand, Jurgen Klopp’s men are level on points with fourth placed Borussia Monchengladbach and cannot afford to further the gap between themselves and league leaders Bayer Munich.
After going two goals down in Hoffenheim last week, BVB staged a comeback and ended the game with a point to show for their efforts. BVB had to deal with a feisty Hoffenheim side last week. However, last year’s Champions League finalists were not clinical either and wasted chance after chance.
Preview: Can Bayern make a necessary addition to their trophy cabinet?
The Bavarians have not had success in the Club World Cup (they however won the Intercontinental Cup in 1976 and 2001) and will want to win it under Pep Guardiola. Franck Ribery did not start the match at the weekend against Hamburger SV and will be looking to return to the starting lineup for this one. For Bayern, Holger Badstuber, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Arjen Robben will take no part in this tournament. Youngsters such as Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Julian Green and Mitchell Weiser have been included.
The big games
If the final few days of the Champions League group stages were too dull for a few, it appears that the tournament is going to gather pace again. Last season, Manchester United and Real Madrid provided a spectacle in the last 16. This time around, it is once again a team from Manchester locking horns with the reigning Spanish champions.
The prospect of Barcelona meeting Manchester City in the round of 16 is a mouth-watering one considering the form these two have been in of late.