FC Bayern Munich vs Bayer Leverkusen

Don’t scold Jupp Heynckes for slouching. He’ll undoubtedly have the invisible devil on one shoulder and the invisible angel on the other in what will be his last trip to the Allianz Arena as a villain on Sunday, when 2nd place Bayer Leverkusen takes on FC Bayern Munich. Kickoff will be at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time.

In what has to be considered a new low, ESPN Deportes will delay coverage of the match until 3 p.m. Eastern. Instead, their viewers will be treated to live Eredivisie action, and will need ESPN 3 to get a live stream click this over here now.

Setanta Australia has delayed coverage at 2:30 p.m. Monday down under. Eurosport 2 will have live coverage across many European countries: check your local listing. The FC Bayern Report Fan Chat will undoubtedly be filled with injury related questions for hours up to match time–we’ll try to get you the best information we can.

Never Say Never
As always there seems to be two ways of looking at Bayer Leverkusen. Unbeaten in their last 8 matches, they seem to be once again riding the consistent form that carried them atop the table for so much of last season. They’ve conceded just 1 goal in their last 5 matches, and they’ve lost only one match away the entire season.

But it just wouldn’t be Leverkusen without some late season doubt creeping in. Two weeks ago, it took a long struggle with a combative Kaiserslautern before Sidney Sam scored a late goal in a 1-0 win. Last week at home against St. Pauli, they seemed to be sleep-walking their way along before going behind jolted them back into playing like a 2nd place team should against a relegation battler. Still, it’s fair to be of two minds about them: could it be, that we’re starting to see the same old pattern of Leverkusen running out of gas before the finish creeping in again? Or is the fact that they were able to grind out wins in matches like these a sign that they’ve broken through all the old stereotypes? Defeating Bayern in Munich might be unassailable evidence of the latter.

Amidst it all, Michael Ballack seems to have found his form again. A week of tumult in the Bayern camp and the focus on his coach has stolen the limelight away from what otherwise might have been billed as Ballack’s Return To Munich above all else. He notched his first assist of the season a couple weeks back, and has completed an enviable 80% of his passes. The Ballack of Bayern, who seemed to score a goal whenever it was most badly needed is long gone, but the one that returns will still have a few tricks up his sleeves..and a few elbows bursting out of them.

Renato Augusto and Rene Adler, who both missed last week’s match will return to the lineup for Heynckes. Manuel Friedrich remains a long-term absentee, so Bayer 04′s preferred back CB pairing at the moment is Daniel Schwaab and Stefan Reinartz, with ex-Hannover man Hanno Ballitsch taking over at RB.

Rubik’s Bayern
Even before the rash of injuries that hit the squad, this was going to be a difficult week to predict the lineup. I’ve had all kinds of conflicting information coming in, but here are the best estimates for you at the moment.

Butt will replace Kraft in goal. He last played against Mainz on February 19 click through the up coming website page.

Just in case you’ve been in a cave, Badstuber is suspended. The only thing we know for certain is that Lahm will start The options for CB boil down to Breno, Daniel van Buyten and Luiz Gustavo. The best information I have at the moment is that both Breno and Daniel van Buyten will be fit, but whether they start together hinges on the midfield question. As far as LB, the tide all week was pointing to Contento getting the start, even if Pranjic proved fit, which was uncertain earlier in the week. Now the story appears to be that it’s up in the air, based on the other injuries in the squad.

Just in case you’ve been in a cave, Robben is suspended. My understanding is this: if Schweinsteiger is unable to go, Jonker would prefer to use a pairing of Tymoshchuk and Luiz Gustavo as the double-6. Further upfield, the best information I have is that Ribery is doubtful, but still a better bet than Schweinsteiger. If Ribery is unable to start, Jonker would use Kroos at the CAM flanked by Altintop on the right and Müller on the left.

Finally, despite much rumbling about Klose this week, Gomez will start.

Consideration of a 4-4-2 pairing Gomez and Klose up top to compensate for the injuries does not appear to be on the table.

Stat Lines

The last time Bayer Leverkusen defeated Bayern Munich in a Bundesliga match the lone goal for Bayern was scored by…Michael Ballack bonuses

Not only does the meeting of Philipp Lahm and Michael Ballack mark a rare DFB11 captain vs DFB11 captain match up, the two will share another odd experience. For the 3rd time, they will each play in a match in which a Bayern coach faces his immediate successor. The last occasion was on May 15, 2004 when Felix Magath’s VfB Stuttgart defeated Ottmar Hitzfeld’s FC Bayern Munich by the score of 3-1. In that match, as well as a 1:0 Bayern win in December 2003, Lahm was in the starting 11 of Stuttgart and therefore playing for the successor, while Ballack was starring for Bayern. In 2011, the roles will be reversed.

In the first match between the teams this season, Bayern completed more passes in their own half of the pitch than in the attacking half. Not surprisingly, Bayern had more possession but only half as many shots in the 1:1 draw find more info.

This is one of the all-time puzzling matches to predict. There’s little doubt that Bayer 04 is the better team at the moment, but they haven’t found ways to defeat Bayern even though they probably looked to be the better team in the last two meetings between the clubs. It’s hard to know who’s going to play for Bayern, and even harder to know quite how they’ll be reacting in that great unknown-the first match of a new coach. The “strait jacket” might be off, but that doesn’t mean the patients are ready to re-enter society. But with much pride at stake, a familiar scoreline would be in order.
FC Bayern Munich 1:1 Bayer Leverkusen