Tuesday, October 1, 2013

BAYERN MUNCHEN: WHAT TO EXPECT

Teams line up in Munich two years ago. Tevez is already sitting down.
ESPN's Bayern correspondent Susie Schaaf answers some questions before the big tie of Matchday Two in the Champions League that pits City against the European Champions at the Etihad.

1) Do Bayern see City as more of a threat than 2 years ago when we were supposed UCL rookies?

Though the talent level was certainly there two years ago for Manchester City, it is a brutal competition and tends to intimidate the newbies.  It is the Champions League theme song?  Is it the hyped-up atmosphere?  Is it mid-week matches all the time?  Who knows.  But, a lot of really good teams have fared less-than-spectacularly their first couple times out.

That being said, this match is the tie of the day Wednesday.  Bayern are certainly serious about beating this Manchester side.  And a City win over Bayern would go a long way in to quelling the doubts as to whether Manchester City is a true European side.


2) Do Bayern fans enjoy playing "new sides" in the UCL rather than the same old faces? This will be our 3rd and 4th meetings in 3 seasons. I guess Bayern are sick of the sight of certain other teams?!

I guess it's a pleasure to face new competition, but the true European histories are created by playing the same big squads over-and-over.  Those are the type of matches where legends are born, but one really does not want to face them in group competition.
3) Do Bayern fans feel any closer to particular clubs in England? If so, who? Any special relationships? You are sometimes called the Man Utd of Germany for example!!

Manchester United and Bayern Munich had a good relationship under Sir Alex Ferguson's tenure; lots of banter and healthy respect between the two sides.  And there are certainly some parallels between the two.  Both are the billion-dollar clubs of their respective countries that their fans love to love, and everyone else loves to hate. Here in the Unites States, I explain Bayern Munich as the New York Yankees of Germany.

Pretty much every Bayern supporter I know hates Chelsea-- for obvious reasons-- but a lot have started to follow Arsenal with their sudden influx of Germans over the last couple of seasons.  The Gunners are persuasive with Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski, Mesut Oezil, Serge Gnabry and Gedion Zelalem all on their squad.

 But, personally, I've got a soft spot for Everton.

4)  How have Bayern fans taken to the change of stadium? City have also changed and atmosphere is sometimes a problem in these modern arenas. Also I was there for our last match and the Allianz is a LONG way from Munich in what seemed like a motorway intersection!! 
 
Allianz Arena: in a field, next to a motorway, half way to Ulm

While the Olympiastadion was steeped in tradition and history, it wasn't the best place to watch a football match!  Sight lines were off, and with the track present, you were acres away from the action. Unlike many English stadiums, the Germans still do get standing terraces-- even though this and last season has seen the Ultras there battle with the Bayern brass over pyrotechnics, who is allowed in there, etc.

The Allianz Arena will always come off quieter than most, in Germany, but that also has a lot to do with Munich's demographics.  It is the poshest city in the land.  But, the fans that make long journeys for matches are the ones that are the most vocal.

It is rather sardine-like getting to the arena and back out of it when you take the U6 (train) to the matches, but most Germans are typically stoic about it.  The only problem is, when there's a fight between two groups of supporters anywhere in the city, the trains shut down. Then it becomes a bit of a nightmare.


5) Maier, Breitner, Schwarzenbeck, Muller and Beckenbauer or the current crew?!

I wish I was old enough to understand, first-hand, the majesty of the fabulous mid-70's era Bayern Munich.  But I was very fortunate, growing up in Florida, to catch both Gerd Mueller and Franz Beckenbauer (oh, and George Best!) plying their trades in the late-70s NASL.  It's how a became a footie fan in the first place; my Bavarian family took care off the rest.


6) Was beating Dortmund at Wembley sufficient recompense for a home defeat in the final the year before?

Yes.  No.  Well, both, I suppose.  I went to the '10 final against Inter Milan in Madrid-- knowing Bayern would lose.  In '12 I had a choice to pick the semi-fnal versus Real Madrid or the final in Munich.  Looking now like a smart girl, I chose the semis.

The narrative for Bayern in 2013, after the previous season's loss to Chelsea, was a must-win situation for the Munich club-- lest they become the Buffalo Bills (they who got to the Super Bowl numerous times, but always lost) of European football.  So, I suppose, yes it was sufficient, but the loss to Chelsea still stings-- knowing Bayern had it in their hands.  Playing Chelsea in the Super Cup this year and eventually turning them over on penalties-- during a match that kind of went the same way as the '12 final-- helped ease the pain a little more.

7) Great European evenings/memories that stand out for you?

I mentioned them both in my last remark, but I was fortunate to have been in the Bernabeu for Bayern's penalty shoot-out against Real Madrid in 2012.  Shoot-out's are a nervy business, mind you, but when your team comes up on the right side of things?!  There's nothing like it in the world!  Bayern fans were blessed to having the penalties come straight at them-- and when Bastian Schweinsteiger shot the winner?  I promptly burst in to tears.  (I do that a lot.)

But, the penultimate was having a match ticket for the Wembley final in 2013.  As I write about German football in English, it was a lovely opportunity for me to connect with pretty
Remember the game? Blame this if you don't
much everyone else who does the same--  I had instant, great friends all over London!  But, while all of that city was falling in love with Dortmund's fairytale, Bayern Munich was all business.  I only slightly rued missed photo-ops, and whatnot, when I could see the determination and grit in the whole Bayern camp to see that one through.

In the stadium, listening to the whistles for Arjen Robben as he fluffed a couple tidy chances-- all I could think of was, "I hope he wins the whole damn thing for us."  And he did.  The most beautiful moment of football in my life.  (And, yes.  I bawled like a baby.  Everyone did.)


8) What will Bayern's shape be against City? Who will be the key figures?

By now, Pep Guardiola's revolutionary 4-1-4-1 line up won't be a surprise to anyone.  And with Javi Martinez and Thiago Alcantara out, it will be the predicted starting XI:  Neuer, Rafinha, Boateng, Dante, Alaba; Lahm; Robben, Kroos/Mueller, Schweinsteiger, Ribery; Mandzukic. 

But, that single pivot does not exactly play like one.  Pep's gotten wise to how vulnerable that leaves Bayern on the counter.  With Kroos and Schweinsteiger starting, the formation plays out like a 4-3-3.  But, with Mueller starting, it plays like a 4-2-3-1.

European Footballer of the Year, Franck Ribery, would be the most obvious key.  With five goals and three assists this season, and a left back partner in David Alaba, he terrorizes the left, drawing defenders in to double or triple coverage-- then, uh oh!-- Kroos or Schweinsteiger are left unmarked.


9) How is Pep shaping up? Is his German really any good?

Pep has just completed 100 days at Bayern Munich.  And, so far?  Not really that much to complain about.  Although I did, as most others did, for a fair share.  The merits of the new system are slowly paying dividends, and he's acquiesced to how the counter attack works against this team.  The players and front office love him...

...and yes, his German his remarkable considering he's only had a year at it.  It's definitely treacherous to master.  One only needs to look at Trappatoni's pressers when he was in charge at Bayern to see this is the case!  He will default to English or Spanish in training when he can't find the words to get his point across.


10) Do you think Bayern will play any differently for an away game at City to other UCL games or do they expect the opposition to worry more about them?
Not to be arrogant, but I think that sides will likely fear Bayern more than the other way around.  After all, the team just did come off a treble.  A win over City in the Eithad would be welcome, but I'm guessing that most City fans would see it differently if they were to overturn Bayern Munich, i.e., "We beat the treble winners!"
Whatever happens, it should be an entertaining (and hopefully frustrating for you lot) match. Heartily looking forward!  Auf geht's, Bayern!

Thank you for your time, Susie, and let's hope the Manchester United of Bavaria cope with City in the same way their English cousins did ten days ago. 
 You can follow Susie on Twitter here

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