FC Bayern Munich on the right track

FC Bayern Munich neared the end of 2012 in rampant form with continually dominant results. On the eve of St Nicholas’ Day the 22-time German champions delighted the sell-out crowd of 68,000 at the Allianz Arena with a 4-1 victory over Bate Borisov, thus ensuring the top position in Group F in their last Champions League match of the year. The record-breaking Bavarians had earlier ensured the top spot at the half way break in the Bundesliga. After just 14 rounds (November 28) it was obvious that Munich would be top of the pile when 17 matches had been completed. That’s noteworthy because no club has ever ascertained the “Bundesliga half-time championship” so early in 50 years.

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FC Bayern players after the 2-0 win in Freiburg where they ascertained the half-time championship lead: Badstuber, Alaba, Mueller, Shaqiri, Kroos and Martinez (from left). (Photo: GES/Augenklick)


The Bavarians could forget disappointments earlier in the year with success after success. The team coached by Jupp Heynckes suffered just two defeats and two draws in 24 competitive matches (as of December 6). However, Bayern did not just appear dominant and sometimes even overpowering because of their 20 victories since August – it was the way they did it. They were far more focussed than last season, much more attractive and convincing -- simply better. There is no doubt that the almost perfect FC Bayern Munich are on a different level in the 2012-2013 season. Nobody, however, wants to be content with that as nothing has yet been won (apart from the Super Cup at the beginning of the season). “Last season everybody was going on and on about us being the half-season leaders with a three-point advantage and how we would celebrate in May. But you always need the second half as well. And that’s why you should be careful with such comments”, said Thomas Mueller, when the half-time championship had been achieved with a 2-0 win in Freiburg. The German international is one of the many Bayern players who are showing top form.

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Mario Mandzukic during Bayern’s match against Dortmund (1-1), watched by Ilkay Guendogan. The Croat has already scored nine goals in 13 Bundesliga matches. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)


High-class interim statistic: 20 wins in 24 competitive matches

A goal tally of 41-6 after 15 matches in the Bundesliga, that’s the high-class interim statistic for the Bavarians. On a national level they narrowly lost 2-1 to second-placed Leverkusen, missed out in the top match against title holders Borussia Dortmund with a 1-1 draw, after a 1-1 draw in the derby against Nuremberg. But at least the run of five defeats against Borussia in the Bundesliga and the DFB Cup ended. The Munich team no longer want to play second fiddle to their rivals. Once again they demonstrated their true class and power.

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The team were often better away than at home, being beaten only once when losing 3-1 in Borisov. Coach Jupp Heynckes gave many players from the reserves a chance to prove themselves in the second leg on December 5. They produced a brilliant performance although Bayern were down to ten men when Jerome Boateng was sent off (the numbers became even again when Belorus player Denis Polyakov was also shown a red card). Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer became captain for the first time in his 75th competitive match for FC Bayern, when Bastian Schweinsteiger was substituted in the 72nd minute. Tied on points, the Bavarians won their group ahead of FC Valencia (1-0 at OSC Lille) because they were better in the head-to-head result (2-1 and 1-1).

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Bastian Schweinsteiger (left) transfers the captain’s armband to Manuel Neuer in the 72nd minute against Borisov. The goalkeeper captained FC Bayern for the first time. (Photo: Firo/Augenklick)

FC Bayern announced on their home page on December 6 that the club had won nine Champions League matches in a row at home. That’s accepted by UEFA, for the lost Champions League final against Chelsea FC on May 18 was officially not a home game but took place on a “neutral ground” chosen in advance according to the regulations. The bitter defeat then is no longer a topic as the Bavarians turned the disappointment to their advantage. Then opponents Chelsea have since suffered a dreadful run of results. The Londoners were the first title holders to be eliminated in the group stage, finishing third behind Juventus Turin and Shakhtar Donezk in Group E.

Mario Gomez: “Obviously we want to reach the final”

The Bavarians continued the superiority of German clubs by winning their group, for unbeaten Dortmund and Schalke had previously ascertained top position in their respective groups. Now the draw for the first knock-out stage is eagerly awaited, at UEFA headquarters at Nyon on Lake Geneva on December 20. The Bundesliga clubs could meet Real Madrid, AC Milan, Arsenal London, Donezk, FC Porto, Celtic Glasgow and Galatasaray Istanbul. As group winners they are avoiding the other top finishers -- FC Barcelona, Manchester United, Paris St. Germain, Juventus and FC Malaga. All-German encounters are also impossible in the round of 16. The first legs will take place between February 12 and 20.

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The second legs, in which the Bundesliga teams should have home-advantage, have been scheduled between March 5 and 13.

“We want to get as far as possible, preferably into the final”, said Mario Gomez after the 4-1 against Borisov. The German international striker, who scored for the 1-0 lead against the Belorussians after his goal during the 5-0 win in Hanover, is again in excellent shape after a three-month injury break. His fight for a place in the Bayern attack with Mandzukic, the other Mario in the squad, may be exciting. The Croat, who came from Wolfsburg, has already scored nine Bundesliga goals for Munich and overall played better than expected.

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Mario Gomez during Munich’s Champions League match against Bate Borisov, in which he contributed a goal for the 4-1 victory. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)

Injured Badstuber will be missed for a long time

Only Boateng’s red card was a nuisance during the victory in the last Champions League group match, because a further central defender will be missing in the first knock-out stage. Holger Badstuber suffered a cruciate ligament rupture in his right knee four days previously against Dortmund. However, the Bavarians should be able to compensate that with their outstandingly good squad. Dante plays well in central defence, and Daniel van Buyten is another good alternative. Other players such as Javier Martinez and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk can also play in that position. After good buys in the summer, FC Bayern now have two squads capable of winning the championship and again reaching the Champions League final. But manager Matthias Sammer didn’t want to exclude the possibility of signing another central defender. After all the defence is the basis for success. Another top player missing is Arjen Robben, suffering again with muscle problems. He will possibly play again in 2013. Consequently FC Bayern still have the potential for further improvements.