Monday, September 15, 2014

DU SCHON WIEDER ...?

And so it came to pass that Manchester City did make it to the honeyed land of the UEFA Champions League and did continue to make it for four years one after the other, or consecutively, as some will call it. And so it also came to pass that the great red shirted Bayern of Munich were their chosen foes, not once, not twice, but three times out of four. How exceedingly warm the UEFA balls had had to be to produce that little coincidence! 

Beckenbauer, Book, Breitner, Beer, Booth and Bell would have graced this fixture 40 years ago, but what of today's crop?

Any Bayern Munchen versus Manchester City match represents an obvious opportunity to jump onto the sofa with the delectable Susie Schaaf, raconteur, writer, barmaid, wit, philosopher queen and -- for the purposes of this particular moment in the football calendar -- expert on every single thing to do with Die Roten. DTKS asked her a question or two.

DTKS       Guardiola’s status with the Bayern fans. Can he do no wrong or are there still doubters?  SC - There are still many, many doubters in Germany— and perhaps to a lesser degree outside of the country.  It’s strange that last year’s domestic double for Bayern could be considered a disappointment, but to many, it is.  The home loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final was an embarrassment, nation-wide.

In the beginning of his tenure he insisted that he’d coach to his players’ strengths but has done anything but. That, coupled with the influx of Spanish players-- leading German newspaper TZ took to calling them “Espanyol Bayern” recently-- has tarnished the image of the man “that can do no wrong”.

Tommy Booth in European action in Germany. v. Schalke 1970
DTKS       Bayern’s targets this year: domestic or a renewed assault on the top of the Champions league?   
SC - Domestic titles will probably come as they do (and that sounds so obnoxious, doesn’t it?) but Bayern—if they do win the Bundesliga—certainly won’t do it by 25, or 19, points this season.  Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund will challenge greatly.  That being said, the onus is on Guardiola to get to the Champions League final.  While I don’t think Bayern would fire him, I’m inclined to think he would opt out of his contract if that doesn’t happen.
 
DTKS      How is the club coping without the guiding hand of Uli Hoeness?  
SCI think the club is such an engine now that losing Hoeness is not the be-all-end-all.  That being said, loyalists miss him dearly (myself included) and we all secretly hope he can manage the prison team to at least the 3. Bundesliga by the time he’s released.  And that he gets to eat ice cream.

I don’t know, however, with Hoeness on board, that the Toni Kroos to Real Madrid deal would have gone through. In the end, though, looking at Xabi Alonso to Munich?  Bayern might have gotten the better end of the deal.
 
Both City and Bayern have left their old homes behind to move into modern, slightly soulless stadia. Does anybody still miss the Olympiastadion and how do folk consider this era of dominance in contrast to other periods of supremacy in the past?  The Olympiastadion, to me, is even more soulless than the Allianz Arena—with seats acres away from the pitch and exposed fully to the elements. And although the Allianz is massive—and kind of a pain in the butt to get to—regardless of where you’re at, you feel like you’re right on top of the action.
  
This incarnation of Bayern is definitely on par with the mid 70’s one, but not quite there in the minds of many. That 70’s squad, with three successive Champions League titles, plus a World Cup just pips the current Bayern—but a great show in this season’s Champions League competition would go a long way to changing minds.

Bayern’s reaction to drawing City yet again. We were new acquaintances in European football four years ago. Now we are sick of the sight of each other!  Funny, huh? A collective groan was heard around the world when Bayern drew Manchester City once again. It even got worse as CSKA Moscow ended up in the group. You could make a valid statement that UEFA should allow teams from the same country to be drawn together and then perhaps the groups might end up differently. But, with the seeding the way it is? All I can say is, “Hello, again!”
 
Is there a feeling that City are becoming more dangerous or will Bayern be confident of topping the group?  There’s definitely a feeling that City are more dangerous this season than before. And that-- along with a nasty away trip to Russia and Pot 4’s toughest member, AS Roma—means Bayern can’t be wholly confident in topping the group. Although, I’d agree with the punters and say both the Sky Blues and the Reds go through.
 

Which current players would get in the great Bayern side of Beckenbauer and Muller?  Huh. Great question! For an example, I’ll take the starting XI of Bayern-Leeds United in 1975’s Championship match. I’ll keep Sepp Maier in goal only because Manuel Neuer would be superfluous with Franz Beckenbauer as sweeper. I’d swap out Bjorn Andersson on the right for Jerome Boateng, leave Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck in the middle, and take out Bernd Durnberger for David Alaba in defense.

In midfield, Franz Roth and Rainer Zobel would make way for Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger, respectively, while Jupp Kapellmann would keep his place on the left. And the attack would comprise of Arjen Robben for Conny Torstensson on the right, Franck Ribery for Uli Hoeness on the left, and no one can ever replace Gerd Mueller. EVER.
 
Bayern’s summer purchases – your view?  Bayern were extremely lucky to get Robert Lewandowski and Sebastain Rode for free. Lewandowski, arguably one of the top strikers in world, especially. But in Rode, Bayern also receives a more than capable holding midfielder that has mightily impressed so far this season—much to the surprise of many.

Juan Bernat from Valencia has continued to grow, while Mehdi Benatia is set to make his debut against Manchester City now that Holger Badstuber is injured once again.

I admit to being puzzled over Pepe Reina’s transfer from Liverpool, as I don’t think he’ll see much time between the sticks—but I’m inclined to think that he was brought in to spice up Neuer’s competitive edge more than anything else. But, hey! Bayern has a great back-up should one be necessary.

I was surprised over the Xabi Alonso switch from Real Madrid, and was of the mind that Guardiola should maybe have concentrated on promoting youth and letting the kids play. But, two matches have completely turned me around from that train of thought. Alonso hadn’t been with the club for 24 hours before Guardiola asked him to start against Schalke—and only getting one practice in with the team—he was one of the few positives to take away from the eventual draw. This weekend saw him start, again, against Stuttgart where he had the most touches and ran the farthest of any Bayern player on the pitch. With Toni Kroos’ play at Real Madrid so far this season? I believe that Alonso was a steal.
 
City won rather surprisingly at the Allianz last season and were one goal away from putting Bayern into runners-up spot. Prediction this time?  3-1 to Bayern. And Pellegrini learns his maths.
 
Final group placings and your tip for eventual winners?  Bayern needs this win at home as much as City needs theirs in the return. The CSKA matches are a wash, but Roma might be able to sneak in front of either Bayern or City if the pair are not careful.

Hmmmm…  I’m going to go with Bayern winning the group (dependent on the aforementioned matches) with City going through, as well. Roma in third (not for valiant efforts) and Moscow goes home.

Last question. The big one. As an absolute expert in all things frothy and amber, what should City fans be drinking in Munich? Augustiner!


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So there you have it. Thanks, Susie, for your time and let's hope for a repeat of last year. Naturally enough you can follow Susie on Twitter

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