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30.01.2019Bundesliga

Our next opponents: Goretzka as 'new signing'

The record champions visit the BayArena: The Werkself entertain Bayern Munich on Saturday (2 February, 15.30 CET). It's clear to everybody involved that this challenge will be anything but easy. FC Bayern have recovered after a difficult start to the season and are now chasing a seventh league title in succession. What makes Bayern so strong at the moment? The lowdown on our next opponents.
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Position

The match against VfB Stuttgart reflected the season to date for FC Bayern: a good start, then an almost inexplicable dip in form and finally back on track. In spite of a few problems at the start against the strugglers from Swabia, Bayern ran out convincing 4-1 victors to clock up their seventh win on the bounce. After a crisis in November – with the low point of a 3-3 draw against Fortuna Düsseldorf after being 3-1 up – the team under Niko Kovac have rediscovered their old strengths as they sent out a clear message to league leaders Borussia Dortmund at the start of the second half of the season with an impressive 3-1 victory at Hoffenheim. However, as the Black and Yellows have yet to falter, Bayern are still six points behind top spot with the seventh league title in succession in danger – and FCB also face a difficult challenge in the Champions League in the Round of 16 tie against Liverpool. Next week, the record champions are away to Hertha Berlin in the DFB Cup – one of the three teams who beat FC Bayern in the first half of the season.

Personnel

It is no surprise the quality of the Bayern squad has no equal in Germany. In spite of the interim lack of form from certain key players of the past years, the team can beat any other team in the world on a good day. The newest face in the Munich star ensemble is one that not many people know: The 18-year-old Canadian Alphonso Davies joined the club in January and he celebrated his Bundesliga debut against Stuttgart when he came off the bench late on. The young winger is a winter new signing and summer signing Leon Goretzka (pictured above) also looked new in the first two games of the second half of the season. The 23-year-old, who mostly played in a number eight role previously, gave the Bayern attack a boost against Hoffenheim and Stuttgart as a classic playmaker with the ability to finish. The German international contributed to three goals in the two games, one more than in the whole of the first half of the season. The more attacking position for the highly-talented Goretzka could be the discovery of the second half of the season for Bayern – and could possibly also make him something of an additional winter signing.

Problems

The fact the youngster Davies was thrown in at the deep end of the Bundesliga is probably not necessarily planned but necessary as Bayern are currently short of options up front on the flanks. The reason: The 'eternal' winger combination of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry are currently out injured and Niko Kovac is missing their enormous quality in terms of finishing. That could soon change: Robben, who has not played since the end of November, completed parts of the full training session on Monday – as did Ribéry who has recently been ruled out with a muscle injury. Both stalwarts could be back in the squad for the game against Bayer 04 although it is very unlikely that Robben will be ready to start. Midfielder Corentin Tolisso is definitely sidelined with a cruciate injury.

Potential

Younger football fans can hardly remember a Bayern starting eleven without Robben and Ribéry – although that is something to get used to now. The duo will not play for FCB from the summer – after being one of the most dangerous pair of wingers over the past decade. That means a changing of the guard for the club. Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry are the current favourites to follow in the large footsteps of 'Rib&Rob'– but other options are on the way. Like Davies, the 18-year-old Callum Hudson-Odoi is set to move to the Allianz Arena from Chelsea. Bayern want the player, the player wants to join Bayern – only Chelsea weren't agreed and now there will not be a move in January. It is possible that the young Englishman will move to Munich in the summer. One way or the other: The rejuvenation of the team, particularly up front, is a project that will not only attracts attention at Säbener Straße.

Prediction

Bayern have been back in the required form in December and January to give Dortmund a run for their money. Whether that succeeds in the end will depend to a large extent on the rest of the season for the Black and Yellows. However, it is a fact: After years of boredom at the top of the table, football fans in Germany can again look forward to an exciting title race. If Bayern succeed in knocking out one of the heavyweights of the competition in the Champions League Round of 16 tie against Liverpool then the Kovac team could also be in with a chance in Europe's premier club competition.

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