After a five-week long winter break, Bundesliga is set to kick start its Rückrunde this Friday with a top-table clash between defending champions and league leaders Bayern Munich and second-placed Vfl Wolfsburg at the Volkswagen Arena. The Bavarian giants could extend their lead to 14 points over their opponents if they win this fixture, but Dieter Hecking’s men would be equally determined to stop the holders to take away any points from Lower Saxony this week. According to the reports from Volkswagen Arena, the fans and the players will take part in one-minute applause rather than a minute silence in the memory of young Belgian midfielder Junior Malanda, who recently passed away in a tragic accident.
After clearly dominating the first half of the season, Pep Guardiola’s charges are full of confidence to start their second half campaign with sights no less than a third consecutive league title. The 11-point lead over Wolfsburg is already a comfortable one and a win at the Volkswagen Arena, would only make them unreachable for the other Bundesliga teams. As far as history is concerned, Bayern are the clear favorites with 27 wins to Wolves’ 3 wins from 35 matches both teams have played. The past five encounters have all gone in Bayern’s way who scored 16 goals and the Wolves replying with only 3 goals. But Bastian Schweinsteiger & Co. would be vary of the threat posed by Wolfsburg in their home. “We have incredible quality and many players among the ranks who enjoy being at the top and want to win. We’re going to stay on our toes right down to the last game of the season. That’s only natural, and it’s also respectful to the other clubs in the Bundesliga.” the newly appointed German skipper told Sky Sport Deutschland.
Bayern has only featured twice in the January transfer window with Xherdan Shaqiri moving to Inter Milan and midfielder Pierre Emile Højbjerg on loan to FC Augsburg. Franck Ribery(Muscle fibre tear) and Rafinha (LCL injury) will be out of action for FC Bayern but defenders David Alaba, Mehdi Benatia and Holger Badstuber have returned to full-training after long term injury lay-offs. Philipp Lahm and Javi Martinez have also entered recovery which could see them return to action very soon giving Guardiola new selection headaches.
Predicted Tactics & Line-Ups:
Line-Ups: Neuer-Dante,Jerome Boateng,David Alaba-Bernat,Bastian Schweinsteiger,Xabi Alonso,Sebastian Rode-Thomas Muller,Lewandowski,Arjen Robben
Junior Malanda’s shocking death has definitely affected Wolfsburg as they trained far away from the other clubs of Bundesliga in Cape Town,South Africa. With 11-points separating them and Bayern, the Wolves will be plotting down to stop the leaders to close down the gap. Even though the history and other statistics are against them, Wolfsburg are the team capable of stopping Bayern’s march on a third league title. They caused the Bavarians many problems in the season opener at the Allianz Arena but ended up losing 2-1 in a tightly contested match. The Lower Saxony club are in their best form since their league-winning campaign of 2008/09. They can take inspiration from their victorious season in which they beat Bayern with a 5-1 margin. It would be an emotional match for the home team as Dieter Hecking quoted “Junior would be happy if we beat Bayern” revealing the mental state of his team.
Chinese international Xizhe Zhang was signed by the club in the winter transfer window and the attacking midfielder will most likely start from the bench against Bayern. Ivan Perisic and centre-back Naldo will be available for selection after training separately on Wednesday following minor knocks. Head coach Dieter Hecking will have to wait for central midfielder Josuha Guilavogui to completely recover from a groin problem and will not be available for the second half opener. Bas Dost and Nicklas Bendtner will be competing for the lone striker position with Croatian veteran Ivica Olic’s ongoing transfer talks with Hamburg SV.
Predicted Tactics & Line-Ups:
Predicted Formation: 4-2-3-1
Line-Ups: Benaglio-Sebastian Jung,Naldo,Robin Knoche,Ricardo Rodriguez-Luiz Gustavo,Maximilian Arnold-Vieirinha,Kevin De Bruyne,Ivan Perisic-Nicklas Bendtner
Dangerous Duos To Watch-Out
Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller: Wolfsburg keeper Diego Benaglio seems to be the favorite keeper for Bayern duo Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben as both of them scored 9 goals against the former Stuttgart goalie. They were the chief destroyers in last season’s 6-1 rout in which Muller scored a hattrick. Robben in particular has been unplayable this season and it takes more than a decent shift for the Wolves defence to stop the Dutchman.
Kevin De Bruyne and Naldo: Naldo’s ability from scoring from corners is well-known to every Wolfsburg fan as the Brazilian has scored 5 goals so far which have been match winners this term. And Kevin De Bruyne’s ability to score from a set-piece have been equally vital for the Wolves’ surge to the second spot. Bayern will have to be careful not to present a free kick in dangerous areas as Naldo will be waiting to latch on to a loose ball even if De Bruyne’s curling free kick misses the mark.