FC Bayern are hoping for another great year

The “triple” – victory in the German championship, the DFB Cup and the Champions League – is still possible for FC Bayern Munich. This is the mood reflected by the record winning German champions just one month after the end of the four-week winter break and the start of the new football year. The situation hasn’t become easier, but Bayern and their millions of fans have not lost hope for complete success. However, the results of the first five matches from January until mid-February do not fully meet the high expectations of the biggest and richest club in the Bundesliga.

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Thomas Mueller scores with a header to make it 2-0 for FC Bayern against Kaiserslautern on February 11. It was his first goal in 13 matches. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)


The team coached by Jupp Heynckes lost top position to title holders Borussia Dortmund after a 3-1 defeat by Borussia Moenchengladbach and a 1-1 draw at Hamburger SV. That was a blow for the hope of constant domination by the Munich club. Bayern had been at the top for 15 of the 19 rounds, but suddenly Dortmund once again produced the more attractive football. Two 2-0 home wins over Wolfsburg and Kaiserslautern in the Bundesliga minimised the damage. “We have confirmed our upward trend”, said coach Jupp Heynckes after the win against Kaiserslautern. He was satisfied particularly with the strong performance in defence, which had been unusually weak in Gladbach. Bayern are undoubtedly among Europe’s best when attacking.

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Gladbach’s Marco Reus (front) tackles Daniel van Buyten, who left the pitch injured during Bayern’s 3-1 defeat. Reus will join Dortmund, not Munich, in July. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)

The Bavarians performed well again with a 2-0 win at VfB Stuttgart in the DFB Cup, to reach a semi-final against Borussia Moenchengladbach (March 20 or 21). But prior to the re-start of the Champions League, with knock-out matches against FC Basle who sent Manchester United into the Europa League in the group stage, the noble club is plagued by worries. The bitterest news was the new injury to Bastian Schweinsteiger. Just recovered from a broken collarbone, he suffered a ruptured outside ligament in his ankle in Stuttgart. He is the soul of the Munich team and also the pivotal centre in the German national team.

“Prima donna” Robben triggers conflict

Another Munich problem comes with the discussions around Arjen Robben. The Dutchman performed below his usual standard and was taken out of the starting line-up by Heynckes. “Prima donna” as substitute – this media headline reveals the conflict around Robben, because the World Cup silver medallist is hardly willing to stay on the substitutes bench for much longer. But without him the Bavarians appeared to regain their offensive impetus. Mario Gomez scored in Stuttgart against his former club and increased his goal record to 18 in the Bundesliga against Kaiserslautern. Franck Ribery again performed well. The young Austrian David Alaba replaced Robben in the team. Thomas Mueller filled Robben’s right wing position, created more pressure and ended his long goal-draught against Kaiserslautern.

Franz Beckenbauer criticised Robben for his egotism. “Just take his reaction when he scores a goal. He doesn’t run to the player who passed to him, as is the polite thing to do, but to his family members”. Robben compromises his acceptance of his fellow players. “He must think a bit more of team spirit”, said Bayern’s honorary president Beckenbauer.

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Arjen Robben is stumbling. There was high potential for conflict when he was not named in the Munich starting line-up. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)


There is also another assessment of the problem that Robben must sit out a match now and then. “FC Bayern want to be a top European team. That means outstanding players also have to sit on the bench – not because they play badly or are out of form but because there simply are players who are currently better”, the renowned newspaper “Sueddeutsche Zeitung” wrote. The issue triggers much discussion. After the win over Kaiserslautern, Robben’s 35-minutes of playing time was at the centre of the match analyses.

“That’s a difficult situation for him, as he remains an important player for us”, said Ribery, who knows the problem of sometimes not making the starting line-up. According to German national coach Joachim Loew the debates about regular players and substitutes is a purely German quirk. Loew stresses that it is usual with top foreign clubs for stars to sit on the bench occasionally. However, Robben will not like being a spectator at the Champions League away match against Basle on February 22 and the home game at Allianz Arena on March 13. Egged on by Heynckes for better performances, the 28-year-old will possibly have recovered his place in the starting eleven. Then another top player will have to sit on the bench.