It’s been a decade since Schalke 04 set out to repeat as DFB Pokal champions and did just that as back to back champions in 2001 and 2002. In the 10 years since, no two seasons have passed without FC Bayern Munich taking their turn on the podium in Berlin at least once. This time around, Bayern won’t just be trying to keep the pattern in place; they’ll also be trying to win one of the few trophies that has eluded head coach Jupp Heynckes (though Jupp has won it as a player). The road to Berlin starts in Braunschweig, where Bayern will play the final 1st round match of the DFB Pokal on Monday evening. No television broadcast is scheduled for the US, but the match will be available via stream at ESPN3.com at 2:30 p.m. Eastern. We’ll have a live blog in place to help fans worldwide follow the action find out here now.
A Trophy Winning Opponent
Eintracht Braunschweig is the reigning champion of the 3. Liga, and sits atop the table in the 2. Bundesliga after two wins in as many weeks. A team of young up and comers, ready to surprise their way to the Bundesliga?
Not exactly. Braunschweig isn’t harboring some young superstar talent that’s waiting to break through to the next level. In fact, their impact players, like midfielder Dennis Kruppke, are older veterans who’ve seen unremarkable action in the Bundesliga in the past. Their success derives mainly from good coaching and a well-executed scheme, matching player ability to role.
Braunschweig typically lines up in a 4-1-4-1 formation, with last season’s 3.Liga co-goal scoring king Dominick Kumbela up top. What they have been able to do is remain very disciplined in their “blocking” within the formation, defend aggressively and capitalize on their opponents’ mistakes to generate counter attack opportunities. They rode this wave to a startling 81 goals in the 3.Liga last season, with only 22 against.
Here are the highlights from last week’s 2. Bundesligq match against Aachen. Of particular interest is the segment beginning at about 2:13. Look at the bang-bang passing that gets this attack moving upfield in a hurry. This is typical from Braunschweig.
You can see some of the same tendencies with basically the same personnel in this video from last season’s second match between Braunschweig and the Bayern amateurs, (Bayern II won the first meeting 1-0).
Look at 1:31. They win the ball, and immediately, the attack starts full throttle. Braunschweig has 5 men forward before Bayern II even gets organized. Braunschweig should have done better with that.
Bottom line: Bayern could be made to pay for stupid turnovers along the midfield stripe, and they had better have their offside trap coordination figured out.
No comparison between teams is ever perfect, but if you’re trying to think of a Bundesliga team that Braunschweig might look like covering the pitch, think about Freiburg this past season. The first half of the match on Monday may play out a lot like the first half of Freiburg’s visit to the Allianz Arena last October. If you recall that one, Bayern played ball after ball into the stuffed center of the pitch without really generating many chances in the first half. Bayern did win the match, but how did they break it open? We’ll get to that a little later..
*I’m not entirely convinced of keeper Marjan Petkovic’s quality based on what I’ve seen. At age 32, he’s played just 4 matches above a 3rd division level, and some of the decision making I’ve seen out of him would confirm that. To put it succinctly, last year’s +59 goal difference for Braunschweig was not all Petkovic’s doing.
*Right flank integration. Braunschweig’s playmaker on the wing last season, Karim Bellarabi, has moved on to Bayer Leverkusen. Ex-Saarbrücken man Nico Zimmerman has stepped in nicely, but two matches may be too little to properly evaluate the success of his integration in the scheme. At right back is Steffen Bohl, who while known for his versatility, has not played there much in his pro career. Deft work from a Lahm-Alaba combo may pay off handsomely.
A Short-Footed Start
Bayern declared Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and Breno out of Monday’s match after Saturday’s closed training. At least Breno actually trained with the team again, while Ribery is now out of his cast.
The expectation is that Bayern will go with David Alaba in place of Ribery while Thomas Müller deputizes on the right wing. In fact, I would be very surprised if Jupp lines it up any other way. Despite optimism about the progress of Takashi Usami, this is a real dangerous match to use him in a starting role. Positional awareness and drop-back coverage may be a little more important than usual, and I trust Alaba’s “game smarts” in this situation. Of course, if Bayern gets into trouble, Usami’s creative spark will be a chance worth taking.
There’s no question in my mind that Anatoliy Tymoshchuk should be starting next to Schweinsteiger, for some of the same reasons I talked about above. Spacing, positional awareness and efficiency are all going to be key, and I think Tymo showed a better command of those than Luiz Gustavo, at least in the most recent match action Full Post.
In the back, Boateng-Badstuber has to be the preferred pairing, but we shall see if Jupp agrees.
Plan of Attack:
*If Bayern play as narrowly as they did with the B team at times against Barcelona, it’s going to be a long night. Maintaining width against the rows of Braunschweig defenders will key to working open the jammed passing lanes.
*Take advantage of set pieces: Braunschweig has a tendency to concede a lot of corners, and Mario Gomez will have a height advantage over both Braunschweig CBs. Many other players for the hosts are under-sized. Bayern needs to exploit this physical advantage. Remember how Bayern broke that October match with Freiburg open? Two goals off of corners, minutes apart early in the 2nd half. It might be the formula this time around too.
*Make em’ run at you, not past you. Bayern should dominate possession in this one, and it will be to their advantage to play in a style we might associate more with Bayern teams of the last two seasons. Forcing Braunschweig to chase the ball for long stretches will blunt their counter-action and wear down their dangerous attackers. Kruppke and Kumbela frequently need to be substituted short of 90 minutes, because they do so much running. It would be great to make that be a lot of side to side action in their own half.
*Mario Gomez has scored at least one goal in four consecutive 1st round DFB Pokal matches.
*Bayern’s last loss to Braunschweig came in the DFB Pokal. It was October 1982 when Braunschweig won 2-0 in the 2nd round. Bayern won 4 of 5 subsequent league matches before Braunschweig was relegated in 1985.
*Bayern’s Manuel Neuer has not allowed a goal in his last 268 minutes of DFB Pokal action.
There have been plenty of upsets in the DFB Pokal up to now, and more than a few observers think Braunschweig has the makeup to pull one off against Bayern. However, Bayern will be helped enormously by the keen eyes of Hermann Gerland. The assistant coach’s 2 up-close encounters with Braunschweig in the 3. Liga last season will help keep Bayern from being caught off guard. Expect annoyance and frustration at times, but Bayern will get the job done.
Eintracht Braunschweig 1:2 FC Bayern Munich