Bayern Munich will look to maintain pressure on league leaders Borussia Dortmund as they host VfB Stuttgart at the Allianz Arena on Sunday.
Following a somewhat disappointing Hinrunde campaign, Bayern Munich head coach Niko Kovac will be facing an enormous task of keeping up league leaders Borussia Dortmund as they chase their seventh successive Bundesliga title.
The Bavarians are currently second in the league table, nine points behind the Black and Yellows, who secured a convincing 5-1 win over Hannover earlier this evening. And therefore, collecting all three points against VfB Stuttgart this weekend could be imperative if they are to resume their push for the title.
On the positive note, however, the defending champions are coming into the fixture on the back of a six-game winning streak in the league, with their latest victory coming against TSG Hoffenheim last weekend.
As for Stuttgart, they have been one of the most disappointing teams in the league, having secured just 14 points in 18 games. As a result, Die Schwaben are tied with Hannover 96 and Nuernberg in the relegation scrap and are in dire need of points.
Markus Weinzierl’s men have the worst defensive record in the league, having conceded 38 goals and that could be a problem given Bayern’s excellent scoring ratio of 2.1 goals per game.
And here at the Hard Tackle, we run the rule over both of these sides ahead of their crucial Bundesliga match-up this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Kovac has confirmed that both Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery will miss out against Stuttgart on Sunday while Corentin Tolisso will continue his spell on the sidelines. In addition, Serge Gnabry and Jerome Boateng are doubts heading into this clash as both the players are struggling with lack of fitness.
Therefore, Bayern could continue with the same backline that started against Hoffenheim last weekend with Mats Hummels and Niklas Sule being deployed at the heart of the defence while David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich occupy the fullback slots.
Leon Goretzka has been in splendid form of late and will definitely get the nod ahead of Javi Martinez. The German international will be partnered by Thiago Alcantara at the base of Bayern’s 4-2-3-1.
Gnabry is unlikely to start even if he returns to full fitness, thus Thomas Muller could continue his role in the right-wing slot with Kingsley Coman occupying the opposite flank. And with Goretzka operating in a withdrawn role, we could expect James Rodriguez to be deployed as the lone attacking midfield.
The Bayern attack will be led by Robert Lewandowski, who has been involved in six goals in his last five league matches.
Probable lineup(4-2-3-1): Neuer; Kimmich, Sule, Hummels, Alaba; Alcantara, Goretzka; Muller, Rodriguez, Coman; Lewandowski.
Weinzierl will miss out on the services of Alexander Meyer and Benjamin Pavard, who signed a deal with FC Bayern earlier this month. Jan Kliment is also out while key defender Pablo Maffeo is doubtful ahead of Stuttgart’s trip to Bavaria.
Even though Die Schwaben have conceded most goals in the Bundesliga this season, they are likely to take a cautious approach against the mighty Bayern attack, meaning Weinzierl could employ a five-man backline this weekend.
Club’s record signing Ozkan Kabak could make his Bundesliga debut at centre-back. He will be partnered by Marc-Oliver Kempf and Timo Baumgartl at the heart of the Stuttgart backline.
Elsewhere, Gonzalo Castro will deputize for Maffeo in the right-back slot while Emiliano Insua will replace Borna Sosa in the opposite flank.
Santiago Ascacibar and Christian Gentner, on the other hand, will look to put pressure on Bayern’s midfield duo of Thiago and Goretzka. Ascacibar, in that regard, could be useful, thanks to his energy and tenacity in the middle of the park.
Mario Gomez will spearhead the Stuttgart attack as the German international returns to his former stomping ground this weekend. He will be supported by the wide-duo Steven Zuber and Alexander Esswein, both of whom joined the club in the January transfer window.
Probable lineup(5-2-3): Zieler; Castro, Baumgartl, Kabak, Kempf, Insua; Ascacibar, Gentner; Esswein, Gomez, Zuber.
- Bayern Munich have a splendid record against their weekend opponents, securing 17 wins in the last 18 competitive meetings between the two sides.
- Stuttgart have lost 6 of their last 7 away matches.
- Bayern haven’t lost their opening top-flight home game of a calendar year since 1996 (4-1 vs Karlsruhe, W18 D4 since)
- Stuttgart have suffered more Bundesliga defeats and conceded more Bundesliga goals against Bayern than any other side.
- Stuttgart have failed to score in 5 of their last 7 away matches.
Player to watch
All eyes will be on Robert Lewandowski as the Polish international is on the verge of becoming the very first player to score 100 competitive goals at Allianz Arena. He currently has 98 goals to his name, meaning a brace against Stuttgart would be enough for him to roar into the record books.
The 30-year-old is also in splendid form, having netted four goals in his last five Bundesliga matches. In fact, only three players have netted more goals than the former Dortmund superstar and it won’t be surprising to see him overtake those players by the end of the weekend considering the vulnerable nature of the Stuttgart defence.
Bayern Munich 3-0 VfB Stuttgart
Expect Bayern to secure a comfortable 3-0 victory this weekend, judging by their excellent form and the fact that they will have the home advantage. If we consider, Stuttgart’s stuttering form in the away fixtures, the Bavarians are almost guaranteed victors in this one.