Our next opponents: Record champions show unfamiliar weakness

Bayern Munich and Bayer 04 open Bundesliga matchday eight at the Allianz Arena on Friday night 30 September (kick-off: 20.30 CEST). In terms of positions, the clash between the team in fifth place and the side lying fifteenth in the table is not a top match this time round. However, top quality football is guaranteed with so much quality on the pitch. The record champions from Munich have recently displayed some unfamiliar weakness as the lowdown on our next opponents shows.


Alarm bells rang in Munich after the 1-0 defeat at FC Augsburg before the international break. “We haven’t won in four games in the Bundesliga and only taken three points from a possible twelve,” was the initial assessment from board member for sport Hasan Salihamidzic before adding straightaway: “That worries me a bit. There are no more excuses, now we have to win.” Thomas Müller said the team were “stunned and embarrassed” after the first defeat of the season. Twelve points from seven games is the poorest start to a season for FC Bayern in twelve years. And it is 20 years since the team from Munich last went four games without a win. And another proud record ended against Augsburg. The record champions failed to score for the first time in 87 league matches – since the 0-0 draw against RB Leipzig in February 2020. Bayern netted an impressive 15 goals in the first matches of the season but then only drew against Borussia Mönchengladbach (1-1), Union Berlin (1-1) and VfB Stuttgart (2-2). The team under coach Julian Nagelsmann are currently five points behind league leaders Union Berlin. Of course, the club management have been searching for the reasons. The aim is to examine everything carefully, analyse the situation calmly, hold lots of discussions and see “that we get back to winning ways as soon as possible,” said CEO Oliver Kahn.

While there has been a lack of wins in the Bundesliga recently, the Champions League campaign is going to plan. FCB currently head Group C with no goals conceded after 2-0 wins at Inter Milan and against Barcelona. They certainly were lucky in certain situations against the side from Catalonia (with former Bayern player Robert Lewandowski) and Oliver Kahn warned against an outbreak of euphoria.


There is no doubt that this excellent squad is capable of competing at the top of European football. Above all in attack, Bayern have a number of outstanding fast-paced players. Leroy Sané, Jamal Musiala, Serge Gnabry, Sadio Mané, the marquee signing of the summer from Liverpool, and Kingsley Coman – all provide a huge amount of tempo on the pitch. “Bayern have made a flying start in the Champions League,” said an impressed Robin Gosens, the Germany international playing for Inter Milan. “They caught us on the hop and overran us plus they played with twice the intensity we did,” said the 28-year-old looking back at the 2-0 defeat against Bayern on the first matchday in the group.

However, the powerful attack has recently started. Coman is currently working on his comeback after a thigh injury and he will not be available the game against Bayer 04 on Friday night. And since the departure of Robert Lewandowski, FC Bayern lack a number nine of similar quality up front. Eric Choupo-Moting has only made two brief appearances in the league so far. Thomas Müller took over the position alternating with or in partnership with Sané.  

Joshua Kimmich and Marcel Sabitzer are an impressive pairing in midfield. The former Leipzig player is a regular starter with Bayern this term. Julian Nagelsmann can now once again call on Leon Goretzka following his recovery from a knee operation. The Germany international and teammate Manuel Neuer missed the recent internationals against Hungary (0-1) and England (3-3) due to coronavirus infections. But both should be in the FC Bayern squad against the Werkself.


Bayern have the best attack in the league even without goal machine Robert Lewandowski. Goals scored (19), shots on goal (161), clear-cut chances (28), shots against the woodwork (7), different goalscorers (10): The record champions lead in all these rankings including some by a long way. No other team has scored more goals from set pieces than FCB (6). And another striking statistic: FC Bayern are usually first out of the blocks with 13 of their 19 goals coming in the first half, including four in the opening 15 minutes. Those are also top numbers.  


Bayern have lacked their usual clinical finishing in recent matches. There has been little return in spite of excellent chances. “We just can’t land the final punch,” declared CEO Oliver Kahn. “The opponents are able to clear again and again, the final pass lacks accuracy, and again and again there is a lack of the necessary concentration at the crucial point.” More discipline, ambition and physicality is demanded by board member for sport Hasan Salihamidzic. And coach Julian Nagelsmann was critical after the defeat in Augsburg saying the moves “in the final third were too laissez-faire” and there were lots of situations “that just led nowhere.” Bayern really do not lack impressive providers. There is a lack of finishers. But Bayern Munich are also susceptible and not always solid in defence with the central defenders Dayot Upamecano and new signing Matthijs de Ligt or alternatively Lucas Hernández.


The international break came at the right time for the FC Bayern management. The critical assessment of the current situation should obviously pay dividends in the game against the Werkself on Friday night. Bayer 04 will face an opponent at the Allianz Arena currently under pressure. Bayern Munich have usually dealt very well with pressure in the past. However, with the Werkself looking to get back to winning ways, it should be a highly interesting clash between the two teams who are not yet in a position that meets their ambitions. In the remaining six weeks before the start of the World Cup in Qatar, we will see whether FC Bayern can regain their position as traditional favourites to win the title this season too.      

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