One of the Bundesliga’s oldest coaches comes face to face with one of the newest on Saturday afternoon as Bayern Munich take on Freiburg. Jupp Heynckes’ Bayern side cemented their position at the top of the Bundesliga table before most of the squad jetted off across the world to represent their respective countries during the international break; Marcus Sorg’s Freiburg side, meanwhile, have dropped eight points from the four games played so far in the 2011/12 Bundesliga season.
Despite starting the campaign with a 1-0 home defeat to Borussia Mönchengladbach and a scrappy injury-time victory against Wolfsburg, Bayern have hammered eight goals past Hamburg and Kaiserslautern in the two domestic games since, and also convincingly put FC Zurich to the sword to cement their place in the Champions League group stage. While this might imply that things are going from strength to strength for Heynckes and his players, it must be noted that they are yet to face an opponent of any real quality. Nevertheless, the general return to fitness and form of both Arjen Robben and Mario Gómez indicates that the 2001 European champions might just be more than a match for anyone this season.
Heynckes, who returned to take charge of the Bavarian giants for the third time this summer, has set about incorporating the returning – from loan – David Alaba and three new signings into his preferred 4-2-3-1 system so far this season: Rafinha at right-back (a move which has allowed Phillipp Lahm to play as an inverted full-back over on the left flank), Jérôme Boateng at right-sided centre-back, and Manuel Neuer in goal. Given the form of the aforementioned Robben and Gómez, the club’s two other summer acquisitions, striker Nils Petersen (Energie Cottbus) and Japanese winger Takashi Usami (Gamba Osaka), have had to be patient.
But, if Bayern can surge into a commanding lead against the latest visitors to the impressive Allianz Arena early on, expect Petersen to make an extended substitute appearance during the second half. Would Bayern be punished for taking their foot off the gas? It’s not likely, as over the last few seasons, it seems to have become ingrained in the Freiburg mindset that once they fall behind to a *bigger* side, they do next to nothing in their attempts to get something out of the game.
Despite a poor start to the new campaign by Freiburg, losing 3-2 away at SpVgg Unterhaching in the Pokal before drawing with Augsburg and losing to both Mainz and Bremen, Sorg might just have guided the club into calmer waters following the 3-0 hammering dished out to Wolfsburg in the last round – a success compounded by the club retaining the services of Papiss Demba Cissé at the badenova-Stadion. The Senegalese striker was priced out of moves to the English Premier League before the August transfer window closed, and Sorg will be hoping his early-season goalscoring form wasn’t just Cissé’s way of putting himself in the shop window.
Nevertheless, new €2.2million Malian signing Garra Dembélé should keep his fellow African attacker on his toes throughout the season, and although the goal-getting former Levski Sofia man isn’t guaranteed a starting berth given that Sorg plays a 4-1-4-1 like his predecessor, Robin Dutt (who left for Bayer Leverkusen), Dembélé gives Sorg an option should the Bayern defence mark Cissé out of the game.
Despite Cissé’s red hot form, it is likely that the former Metz man will be showing signs of fatigue at the Allianz Arena: the striker has been in Africa on international duty for Senegal during the fortnight that separates this Bundesliga game from the last. Other Freiburg first-teamers who might also show signs of fatigue in Munich – a factor that could also hamper the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lahm, etc – include Sloavakia’s Erik Jendrišek, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Cedric Makiadi, and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Mensur Mujdža.
The latter missed Freiburg’s last game through injury, but is expected to return for his club side against Bayern. His defensive colleague Heiko Butscher, however, is set to miss the game with a thigh injury. Sorg and his players might feel this absence, but they’ll be thanking their lucky stars that Bayern look set to be without both the rested Robben and injured Ivica Olić. With Bayern’s first game of the Champions League group stage coming up on Wednesday (Villareal), sporting director Christian Nerlinger said: “Robben is better, but I don’t know if it’s enough for the game against Freiburg.” However, after sitting out Germany’s 6-2 win over Austria and 2-2 draw with Poland, Gómez will be available for the game. “Mario used the break well,” Nerlinger noted.
Bayern Munich vs Freiburg kicks off at 2.30pm in the UK and can be watched live on Bet365.com.