Sunday, April 21, 2013

Quality of Depth Has Bayern Well- Positioned to Beat Barcelona

On Thursday—three days after their
4-0 demolition of Nurnberg—
Bayern Munich dispatched
Wolfsburg from the DFB Pokal to
the tune of 6-1. Two days after
that, they made eight changes to
their starting XI and proceeded to
thump Hannover by the same
scoreline.
No matter which players line up for
Bayern Munich these day,s it
seems the result is exactly the
same—a fact that must have
Barcelona quivering in advance of
Tuesday’s Champions League
semifinal first leg against the
Bundesliga champions.
No team in world football has the
quality of options available to
Bayern manager Jupp Heynckes,
and this season no manager has
rotated his squad as adeptly as
the 67-year-old.
Each player on the roster, it
seems, is out to prove something
every time he steps onto the pitch.
And given the ability of the player
he’s replacing, or has been
replaced by, the old “fighting for
places” cliché would seem an
appropriate explanation.

On Saturday, for example, Claudio
Pizarro played in the Toni Kroos
role behind the lone striker (Kroos
is out with an adductor injury) and
proceeded to score two goals while
setting up two others. He, Thomas
Muller and Kroos himself have
operated in the position in recent
weeks, and there has hardly been a
drop-off when one has come in for
another.
Just ahead of Pizarro against
Hannover was Mario Gomez, who
was making only his eighth
Bundesliga start of the season. But
he scored twice at AWD-Arena and,
with six goals in his last three
matches, is Bayern’s form striker.
Nevertheless, Mario Mandzukic will
likely get the start against
Barcelona next week.
Franck Ribery, who was rested in
the DFB Pokal match, found the
back of the net against Hannover
as well—his low, hard shot beating
Ron-Robert Zieler to the far post
after an accurate pass from
Pizarro.
The 6-1 win represented the eighth
time Bayern had managed at least
five goals in a match this season,
and with an incredible 81 points
from 30 matches, lead second-
place Borussia Dortmund by a
shocking 20 points with four
rounds to play.
Not that there’s been a title race
since somewhere around
Christmas.
Rather, it’s all about the treble
now for Bayern, and to that end,
their squad rotation—made to look
so smooth because of the quality
from top to bottom—will only serve
to help them accomplish the feat.
The first leg against Barcelona
represents the next step toward the
treble for Bayern, and with Philipp
Lahm, Dante, Bastian
Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez,
Arjen Robben and Mario
Mandzukic rested from the start
against Hannover, they couldn’t
hope to be in a better position
going into one of their toughest
matches of the season.