Bayern will hope to ride their Pokal momentum into a potentially tricky tie with Freiburg.
It took just over a minute for Bayern to concede the opening goal in Tuesday’s DFB Pokal clash with Werder Bremen. However, after a somewhat fortunate equaliser, the reigning champions earned a 2-1 victory through a tremendous, 30-yard strike from Bastian Schweinsteiger.
The result was received as a stroke of luck. Bremen defender Sebastian Proedl had a seemingly legitimate goal called back, and the Hanseaten failed to convert on a half-dozen other opportunities. Nonetheless, Bayern were winners on the day, and advanced to the next round of the Pokal.
Heading into this weekend, Bayern will hope to build some momentum and ease the burden posed by an ever-steepening gap between their table position and the leaders. On Wednesday, vice-captain Philipp Lahm revealed that their league standing has weighed heavily upon the shoulders of his team-mates.
“The mental effort is destroying us, because the distance to make up is 12 points,” he told Sport-Bild.
Ahead of Friday’s encounter, coach Louis van Gaal demanded that that his team concentrate for the full 90 minutes, and not just in phases.
” The match is another 'do-or-die' situation," he said.
Injury-Hit Freiburg Favour Odds
With 15 points from nine matches, Freiburg have enjoyed a very impressive start to their Bundesliga campaign. Considered relegation candidates before the start of the season, they are nearly halfway to the near-certain safety of 40 points. In fact, the team from Germany’s southwestern corner currently stands just a point behind a top three standing, even though their goal difference is a mediocre zero.
Freiburg’s success has come as quite a surprise, but can be explained by the absolutely scintillating form of striker Papiss Cisse. The Senegalese striker has netted eight of his team’s 14 Bundesliga goals; Freiburg’s next highest scorer, Jan Rosenthal, has scored just three times.
Cisse’s league-leading tally may have nearly led Freiburg out of the woods already, but there remains plenty to be done if the Breisgau-based side are to avoid the drop. Their 2-1 loss to second division side Energie Cottbus on Tuesday was more than a little suggestive of Freiburg’s shortcomings.
In that match, Cisse equalised midway through the second half, but even he couldn’t win the game; Emil Jula netted a late winner, and Cottbus advanced.
Heading into Friday’s clash, Freiburg are facing a bit of an injury crisis. Cedric Makiadi and Kisho Yano are questionable after sustaining midweek knocks, and there are more than half a dozen other players missing from Robin Dutt’s squad. However, the coach has not been discouraged by his shortage of personnel, and reckons his side have a chance:
“Bayern are missing a few really important players, so it is a duel of equals.”
Daniel van Buyten is expected to return to the starting line-up, meaning that either Andreas Ottl or Anatoliy Tymoshchuk will be sacrificed. Miroslav Klose injured his hamstring on Wednesday, and is expected to be out for three weeks. Diego Contento and Franck Ribery, meanwhile, are approaching full fitness but will need at least another week to recover. Long-term casualties Breno and Arjen Robben are still well short of match fitness.
Probable Starting XI: Butt – Lahm, Van Buyten, Badstuber, Pranjic – Ottl, Schweinsteiger – Altintop, Kroos, Mueller – Gomez
As mentioned above, Cedric Makiadi and Kisho Yano are questionable, but may well play on Friday. Jonathan Jaeger, Johannes Flum, Simon Pouplin, Heiko Butscher, Jan Rosenthal, Pavel Krmas, and Tommy Bechmann, on the other hand, are definite absentees.
Probable Starting XI: Baumann – Mujdza, Barth, Toprak, Bastians – Schuster – Nicu, Makiadi, Caligiuri, Abdessadki – Cisse