Bayern Munich will look to move one step closer to securing their seventh consecutive Bundesliga title when they play hosts to Hannover 96 on Saturday.
Bayern Munich had a glorious opportunity to virtually seal their Bundesliga title last weekend. But, a disappointing 1-1 draw with 1. FC Nuremberg meant that they had failed to take full advantage of Borussia Dortmund’s shocking defeat to FC Schalke.
Head coach Niko Kovac will demand a swift response from his side this weekend, when they host bottom club Hannover 96 at the Allianz Arena.
The Bavarians currently lead Dortmund by two-points and have a substantial lead over goal-difference. That means Bayern run the risk of being overtaken by Dortmund should they lost against Hannover on Saturday.
Die Roten are in good form as well, having secured a narrow 1-0 victory over 1.FSV Mainz 05 in their last match – in what was only their fourth win of the campaign. With just 18 points on the board, Thomas Doll’s men will have nothing to lose when they take on the mighty Bavarians this weekend.
And here, at the Hard Tackle, we take a look at both the sides ahead of their crucial Bundesliga match-up on Saturday afternoon.
Team News & Tactics
Despite their draw with Nuremberg last weekend, Niko Kovac is unlikely to make any changes to his defensive unit, meaning we could expect both Niklas Sule and Mats Hummels to retain their place at the heart of Bayern’s four-man backline. Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba, meanwhile, will occupy the fullback slots.
Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is nearing his return to full fitness but Saturday’s game against Hannover could come a little too soon for the German international. Therefore, Sven Ulreich will continue to deputise for the injured Bayern number one.
Javi Martinez has been a revelation under Kovac since the turn of the year and we expect the Spaniard to retain his role as the holding midfielder. He will be partnered by Thiago Alcantara, who will operate in a slightly advanced role.
Kovac could make one little alteration in the attacking midfield role, where Leon Goretzka is likely to make way for Serge Gnabry. That means Thomas Muller, who started as a right-winger against Nuremberg will shift to the attacking midfield slot, with Gnabry occupying the wide attacking role along with Kingsley Coman.
The Bayern Munich attack will be led by Robert Lewandowski, who is the league’s top scorer with 21 goals. He is, however, scoreless in his last three league matches and will be keen to find the back of the net against lowly Hannover this weekend.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ulreich; Kimmich, Sule, Hummels, Alaba; Martinez, Alcantara; Gnabry, Muller, Coman; Lewandowski.
Hannover manager Doll is expected to opt for a more defensive 4-2-3-1 formation, where Pirmin Schwegler will operate alongside Walace in the double-pivot.
Both the players are known for their excellent intuition and defensive quality, meaning they will be key in dealing with the technically astute Bayern Munich midfielders. The introduction of Walace, however, will force Marvin Bakalorz to settle for a place on the bench.
The Hannover defence will comprise of two industrious fullbacks in Oliver Sorg and Matthias Ostrzolek. Both the players are likely to operate a little than usual in order to prevent the likes of Gnabry and Coman make any progress in the final third.
In central defence, Waldemar Anton will be tasked with the responsibility of marshalling the backline alongside the experienced Felipe.
And finally, in attack, former Hertha forward Genki Haraguchi will operate as the lone attacking midfielder. His pace and dynamism are sure to cause some problems for the Bayern defence.
Haraguchi will be supported by the wide duo of Ihlas Bebou and Linton Maina. All three of these attackers will look to supply the main number nine in Hendrik Weydandt, who scored the winner against Mainz last weekend.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Esser; Sorg, Anton, Felipe, Ostrzolek; Schwegler, Walace; Bebou, Haraguchi, Maina; Weydandt.
- Bayern Munich have a healthy record against Hannover, having won all of their last 12 matches in the Bundesliga.
- Only once in the Bundesliga history have a side sitting bottom of the table beaten the team at the top away from home – Dusseldorf won 1-0 in Leverkusen in August 1996.
- Bayern are unbeaten in their last 11 matches, during which they have collected 29 points out of a possible 33.
- Bayern have kept a clean sheet in their last 5 home matches.
- Hannover have an awful record on the road, failing to win any of their last 27 away matches.
Player to Watch
As mentioned earlier, Lewandowski has failed to score in any of his last three Bundesliga matches, which could be a cause for concern for Bayern Munich.
But, the Polish international will be presented with a golden opportunity to return to scoring form against a Hannover defence that has looked susceptible throughout the course of the season. In fact, only VfB Stuttgart(67) have conceded more goals than the Reds(66) this campaign.
Therefore, we can expect Lewandowski to find the back of the net, even though it’s unlikely he will be given any time and space on the ball by the Hannover defenders.
Bayern Munich 3-0 Hannover 96
After a surprising result against Nuremberg last time out, Bayern Munich will be vigilant in their approach against Hannover this weekend. The Bavarians do have a strong record at home and it is likely they will come out as the victors in this important clash. A 3-0 win for the hosts.