SC Freiburg vs FC Bayern Munich

Which Bayern Munich will show up this time? That’s the question that fans of all stripes will be asking when the Bundesliga’s two top goal scorers clash in FC Bayern Munich’s journey to 7th place Freiburg on Saturday. Reminder, North American viewers: the clocks haven’t changed yet in Europe, so this match will kickoff at 10:30 a.m. Eastern. The Network That Shall Not Be Named has live coverage (imagine that) in the U.S. and Canada. Eurosport 2 will have live coverage across many European countries-check your local listings. The FC Bayern Report Fan Chat makes its debut in the format with which you are accustomed.

The CandiDutt
I’m about to make a controversial statement: I think Robin Dutt is the best coach in the Bundesliga this season. It’s not an easy statement to defend when you have Klopp, Tuchel and Slomka in the running, and I’m not going to spend an entire preview post trying to do that. I will say this: to get the results he has gotten from the sum of talent that he was to work with has been simply superb. The most popular rumor at the moment is that Dutt will end up taking Jupp’s place in Leverkusen. If so, they’ll be all the more annoying to play next season.

Freiburg finds itself in its worst slump of the season. They’ve lost 3 straight and 4 of their last five, all while failing to score a goal in open play for a month. Oh wait, it gets worse: in each of their last 3 matches they’ve surrendered a goal in the 88th minute or later; on two occasions, the late goal was decisive. Bayern may not be alone as the team with panicky defenders who will predictably crumble late in this particular matchup.

No team has been as reliant as Freiburg has on one man for their offense. Papiss Demba Cissé ‘s 17 goals are more than half of the team total; no other player has more than 4, and one of them is the injured Jan Rosenthal. In the earlier match this season, Bayern did a nice job on him and he really only had one decent chance the entire match. He has cooled off generally as well, with 2 goals in the 2nd half of the season.

Dutt should have Julian Schuster back and available to play at the 6 after a long injury layoff. This in turn will allow Cedrik Makiadi to move forward to his more natural position in the midfield. In his Thursday press conference, Dutt made reference to his hope to play a more possession based match saying “If we have the ball, Bayern can’t score goals”.

Gonna Fly Now?
As I was thinking these past days about this king of the gut-check matches for Bayern, I couldn’t help but have my thoughts drift to the words of a fictional, brain-damaged boxer:

That sort of sums up the psychological approach that Bayern is going to have to take in this one.

As for the lineup, everyone is available save Breno, who is serving out his 2 match suspension stemming from the red card in Hannover. Early reports indicate Van Gaal will return Luiz Gustavo to center back and is inclined to go with the same lineup that faced Hamburg. There is apparently some question as to whether Tymoshchuk may re-enter the lineup in place of Van Buyten. We should have clarity on that tomorrow.

So how should Bayern attack Freiburg? Let’s think back to the first match. For the first 40 minutes, Freiburg frustrated Bayern as much as any team has all season. In their 4-1-4-1 set, there was room to run on the flanks, but no space to bring the ball to inward. Consequently, either Pranjic or Lahm was constantly on the ball, but ended up misfiring crosses or slotting speculative passes into the sea of Freiburg midfielders. It got so desperate that Pranjic even took a shot from distance, a rare occurrence.

But Bayern got lucky-they scored off a corner, just before the half–and did so again early into the 2nd half. The match had to open up at that point. Moving Schweinsteiger to the 10 made a difference after Kroos had gotten himself into a lot of trouble on the dribble in the first half, but the 4-2 final scoreline probably wasn’t a good indication of just how well Dutt’s tactics can work against Bayern. The teams had played two tightly contested matches, both of which ended 2-1 for Bayern in the previous season.

Prediction
In the last 3 matches against Freiburg, Robben has played once, and Ribery not at all. It will be interesting to see if Dutt will be willing to play as narrowly with that double threat on the flanks. Freiburg continues to be shaky on set pieces, and has conceded a full 25% of their goals against via the header. Bayern only earned 4 corners in the earlier match this season, but scored off of two of them. For Robben and Ribery, as well as Lahm and Pranjic, these are important factors to keep in mind. If Bayern can try to consistently earn the corners, rather than forcing action that isn’t there in the center, they stand a good chance of repeating their autumn success. And if Van Buyten plays, this is the week he gets on the scoresheet..
SC Freiburg 1:3 FC Bayern Munich