With Borussia Dortmund travelling to Munich to face mighty Bayern, we asked Michael Böck of Bayern blog Miasanrot about the league leaders’ form, key players and how important the game is with the UEFA Champions League around the corner.
What went wrong for Bayern against Hoffenheim?
Bayern had a terrible start and Hoffenheim executed their plan well. They could’ve easily been up by two or three goals at half-time. Bayern had close to zero access for about 30 minutes. There was no safe outlet to carry the ball forward: Hoffenheim’s press led to early turnovers and they also blocked any direct passes to Robert Lewandowski. After 55 minutes, Franck Ribery was subbed on and Bayern were finally able to consistently create something in the final third and piled on the pressure. Lewandowski had several good opportunities, couldn’t find the back of the net, however. Oliver Baumann had a splendid day. Bayern’s urgency simply came way too late.
From afar, it looks as though Thiago Alcantara and Lewandowski are carrying the team at this point of the season. Is that accurate? What makes those two so special?
Indeed. Thiago is having an incredible season. He creates, controls and gets a lot of interceptions. Without him, Bayern have no structure or system. At times it feels like Thiago is the system. The Spain international always had the special talent but due to his injuries, he could never perform on a regular basis. About Lewandowski: If you get the ball to him consistently, he will make things happen in and around the box. Early into the season the team found it difficult to do so. This has gotten much better, and of course, with the help of Thiago. He’s been firing on all cylinders yet again. Javi Martinez and Mats Hummels deserve praise, too. Both have been superb, the Spaniard has been very consistent and Hummels has really come into his own since the winter break.
Manuel Neuer will miss the game. His replacement Sven Ulreich seems a decent enough shot-stopper, but he doesn’t match Neuer in any aspect of goalkeeping. How big is this loss?
He is a big miss but Ulreich is a decent goalkeeper. Ulreich made some very good saves against Hoffenheim, although it looked like he could’ve done better on Kramaric’s volley. To know you’ve got Manuel Neuer in goal is obviously giving you confidence. He can bail you out at any time. His presence in goal is probably unmatched.
With 10 points of advantage in the Bundesliga, could Bayern focus on Real Madrid and the Champions League and perhaps overlook the Dortmund match a bit?
I wouldn’t expect Bayern to go full throttle. The team won’t take this one lightly either, though. It’s Borussia Dortmund after all. I would expect few rotations as Ancelotti is probably looking to get his preferred XI in rhythm for Real.
Are there any weaknesses in Bayern’s team or play at the moment Dortmund could exploit?
If Dortmund apply pressure early and deny any direct access to Thiago or Lewandowski, I could see Bayern struggle. Marcel Schmelzer and Lukasz Piszczek [editor’s note: Piszczek’s being questionable with ankle issues only became public after this interview was conducted] have to close down the wingers early and look to isolate them. Ancelotti’s side can still be lethargic in transition and that’s where Dortmund probably see their big chance.
I’m going for a 2-1 home win with Ousmane Dembele scoring for Dortmund and Lewandowski and Xabi Alonso for Bayern.
Thanks again to Michael Böck for his insights. You can follow him on Twitter @MichoB93. You can find his work for Miasanrot at http://miasanrot.com/.