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1-3. 2-0. 1-1. 2-0. That does look like a good upswing for the glorious FC Bayern, doesn’t it? It does, but only on paper. On the pitch it looked completely different. Until today. Bayern won against Stuttgart in the quarters of the DFB Pokal, the German cup, thanks to one goal each by Franck Ribery and Mario Gomez. The Bavarians did play amazingly but we shouldn’t turn euphoric too quickly, that would be a huge mistake, as seen in the past. Too recent are the awful performances against Gladbach, Wolfsburg and the HSV. Compared to those matches, Bayern was playing on a world class level today. Actually they did…
Jupp Heynckes made some changes before the match in Stuttgart. Rafinha for Tymoshchuk, Luiz Gustavo for Arjen Robben; these were the new players in the starting line-up. Of course Luiz Gustavo did play in the defensive midfield and not on the right wing, Toni Kroos who had been acting in the defensive midfield for two games, could play on his favorite position in the offensive midfield again and so Müller moved out on the right wing. Bayern was playing in their well-tried 4-2-3-1 while Stuttgart trusted in the 4-4-2 formation. Actually they seemed to have learned from Bayern’s three previous opponents in the second leg of this season who could all defend very well against the Bavarian stars in that system thanks to its tightly standing back fours.
From jump, Bayern was very active and could break through Stuttgart’s back four several times. The Bavarian midfield took on their challenges really aggressively without fouling though and soon they were dominating the game. After 16 minutes, Bayern’s leader Bastian Schweinsteiger had to be substituted after a hard foul by Georg Niedermeier (central back), a former Bayern player. The German international was replaced by David Alaba but Bayern’s game didn’t become worse. To the contrary.
Headed by a perfectly harmonizing midfield, Bayern pulverized Stuttgart’s defending efforts. Their defensive midfield, who once earlier in this season was said to be pretty strong, couldn’t control Toni Kroos, Franck Ribery, Thomas Müller, David Alaba and Luiz Gustavo at all and William Kvist and Christian Gentner surrendered slowly but surely. In the first 20 minutes, Stuttgart was first defending in a 4-3-3 against the high standing central backs who built up the game and immediately changed into a tight 4-4-2 when Bayern was in possession in the Swabian half. But at the latest after an amazing shot by Kroos had hit the bar (Sven Ulreich did touch the ball), the two back fours broke apart and Bayern could counter attack since their opponent was attacking naively.
In the 25th minute, Bayern had a great opportunity thanks to Gomez but his shot was blocked by Khalid Boularouzh. Ribery had given Kroos an amazing pass who directly passed to Gomez. This was only one of many great and fluent Bavarian combinations. Eventually, in the 30th minute, Ribery scored after an assist by Müller who crossed into the box after he had gotten a pass by Rafinha. You could see how relieved Ribery was after he had thrashed the ball into the net and the whole team came to celebrate with him. Only 6 minutes later, Ribery could have scored a brace but this time Serdar Tasci (central back) blocked his shot after the French prince had won a dribbling against Boularouzh.
In the second half, it didn’t even take Bayern 30 seconds to lead 2-0. Gomez scored after another great cross by Thomas Müller. His first shot had been saved by Sven Ulreich but the rebound was unstoppable for the 23-year-young German goal keeper. Bayern had the next big opportunity in the 74th minute but Ribery’s amazing header could be saved by Sven Ulreich after an almost perfect cross by Luiz Gustavo.
During the whole game Stuttgart had only had one opportunity in the 64th minute which could actually be converted by Vedad Ibisevic, Stuttgart’s new striker who was invisible during the entire other 91 minutes. The goal had been disallowed though, because the referee had seen a foul on Neuer what was a wrong decision. Neuer could be lucky, otherwise he would have been criticized for sure. He wasn’t able to catch a cross, let drop the ball and Ibisevic took advantage of that fault.
The best Bayern player was undoubtedly the whole midfield. Toni Kroos was once again the surpassing strategist in the offensive midfield. You could see how free he felt on his favorite position and he fed his wingers with many clever passes. Especially Franck Ribery could use them very well. He was incredibly fast, everywhere and surely one of the main reasons for Bayern’s commanding win. On the other wing, Thomas Müller was doing really greatly as well, remember, he gave two assists!
In the defensive midfield, Luiz Gustavo played his best game of the current season. He was backing first Schweinsteiger and than Alaba very well but also pushed forward a few times, playing some great passes to Müller. He was defensively really strong and it looks like he is going to be one of the best defensive midfielders of the Bundesliga again soon. David Alaba who came in for the injured Schweinsteiger (either an injury of the ankle joint or of the capsules) was playing very well as well and could convince me for the first time in the defensive midfield. He also played quite a lot on the wing (so did Mario Gomez who ran a lot!) and his high speed was precious once again.
To sum up, I can say that Bayern showed a great performance and an even better reaction to the critics of the last few days against Stuttgart. The Swabians weren’t harmless but Bayern was just too strong for them. Furthermore Stuttgart wasn’t only defensively-minded what did play into Bayern’s hand. And that’s exactly why we shouldn’t fall into euphoria: Stuttgart was offensively-minded while every team we have faced in the Bundesliga so far was nothing but defensively-minded. And I don’t see any team play offensively-minded against the record champion soon. As long as we can’t play as well as we did today against such defensively-minded teams, we should keep on working really hard and concentrated. Today though, was the first step in the right direction and I am pretty sure that Jupp Heynckes and his squad keep up that great work and will become stronger and stronger with each game.
MIA SAN MIA!
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