Goal.com previews Bayern's clash with Hoffenheim
Since the return of Arjen Robben in January, Bayern have seen a sharp spike in form. In just 301 minutes of play, the Dutchman has recorded four scorer’s points as the Bavarians have earned three wins and a draw. Last week’s 3-2 loss to Koeln proved just how valuable the winger is to his team; Robben sat out that match with an illness, and Bayern threw away a two-goal lead. Heading into Saturday’s match with Hoffenheim, the winger is fully fit once more, and is expected to start.
Joining Robben in the starting line-up will be fit-again left winger Franck Ribery, who has recovered from a knock to his knee. The pair last played together in May of 2010, when Bayern beat Werder Bremen in the DFB Pokal final. Though they have only featured in the same squad on rare occasion, Robben and Ribery (also known as 'Robbery') have a tremendous partnership, and will try to find their best form ahead of Bayern’s Champions League Round of 16 clash with Inter.
Bayern will hope to find their form as a whole not only for the Inter clash, but in an attempt to save their domestic campaign. The Bavarians head into Round 22 in fifth place, a standing that to Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is unacceptable.
“It is clear that second place is now our minimum aim,” the club CEO told reporters after the Koeln defeat. “We cannot risk losing out on Champions League qualification.”
No fewer than three points will suffice on Saturday, but Bayern have no shortage of talent and have impressed at home this year. It will be no easy task, but on their day, the vice-champions of Europe have the potential to beat any club.
Hoffenheim With No Intention To Compromise
The transfer of Luiz Gustavo to Bayern was a divisive issue at Hoffenheim, to the point that in protest Ralf Rangnick resigned from his position as coach. Now the Sinsheim club heads to Munich to face the club that controversially signed one of its brightest stars. However, new coach Marco Pezzaiouli stressed before the match that his side will not hold a grudge against the Brazilian, but instead will be extra-motivated by the challenge that awaits in Bayern as a team.
“Luiz was always well regarded in the team,” Pezzaiouli said according to the official Hoffenheim website. “Luiz is not all that counts, because the name of Bayern Munich has so much motivation in itself.”
“The team will try to play successfully against Munich and not Gustavo alone.”
While Pezzaiouli praised his team’s opponents and admitted Saturday’s match will be a huge challenge, he pledged to send his players out with plans to impose their style of play.
“In our preparations we are look not to play based on the strengths of Bayern, but on our own. We want to frustrate FC Bayern and take points in Munich.”
With Robben and Ribery back in the squad, Louis van Gaal will be able to slide Thomas Mueller into the hole behind Mario Gomez, and Bastian Schweinsteiger into a deep midfield role alongside Andreas Ottl. It is expected that Luiz Gustavo will slot in at left back, although Danijel Pranjic could occupy the position on the left side of defence. Toni Kroos is still sidelined as he recovers from a metatarsal problem, while Diego Contento and long-term casualty Ivica Olic are both out.
Probable Starting XI: Kraft – Lahm, Tymoshchuk, Badstuber, Luiz Gustavo – Ottl, Schweinsteiger – Robben, Mueller, Ribery – Gomez
Marco Pezzaiouli is expected to make no surprises with his squad, which will line up in an aggressive 4-3-3 stance and hope to take the game to Bayern. Edson Braafheid is suspended following last week’s sending off, and Manuel Gulde and Chinedu Obasi remain unfit.
Probable Starting XI: Starke – Beck, Vorsah, Compper, Ibertsberger – Rudy, Alaba, Salihovic – Sigurdsson, Ibisevic, Babel