FC Bayern Munich against Borussia Mönchengladbach

The wait is over. FC Bayern Munich gets down to the business of reestablishing themselves at the top of the Bundesliga against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Sunday. The match kicks off at 17:30 local time at Allianz Arena

For U.S. viewers, ESPN Deportes has live coverage starting at 10:30 a.m., while ESPN3.com will also provide a live stream for those with availability. The match will also air live in the UK on ESPN, while Eurosport 2 will have live coverage across many European nations-check your local listing. The Fan Chat will be up and running for you as well in this space.

Retirement Far From Favre’s Mind
Maybe I’m just immune to Lucien Favre’s hypnotic gaze, but I don’t quite know what to make of the optimistic projections for ‘Gladbach’s emerging from many observers. Count me as pessimistic on their season prospects. ‘Gladbach probably wasn’t as bad as their record before Favre took over last season, and probably not as good as their record after he took over. Just as he did at Hertha, Favre has to figure out how to make the revolution permanent. Will he improve his success rate?

While most of the attention at the end of last season was directed at Favre’s ability to solidify what had been the league’s most porous defense, ‘Gladbach still only scored 16 goals in 12 matches down the stretch, 5 of them in a single match. Expecting to win every match 1-0 for 34 weeks is a very dangerous way to live, and ‘Gladbach didn’t do much in the transfer market to relieve the pressure on Marco Reus to be Mr. Everything for their attack.

Manchester United’s Joshua King, just acquired on loan, won’t be in the picture for this one, and two other attacking additions from the other side of the globe, Australia’s Matthew Leckie and Japan’s Yuki Otsu are strictly bench players at this point. It’s up to inconsistent Juan Arango, reanimated Mike Hanke, and plain ol’ Igor De Camargo to support the Reus flying circus.

‘Gladbach is strong in the center of defense with the 75% less ‘fro’d Dante and Martin Stranzl playing in front of keeper prodigy Marc-André ter Stegen. Unfortunately for the hosts, Stranzl isn’t going to be fit for this one, so it’s Roel Brouwers, who I liken to a Dutch version of Daniel van Buyten, stepping in for the start.

The soft spot opinion is the double-six for ‘Gladbach of Neustädter and Nordtveit. The latter actually had some nice matches down the stretch last year, but this pair will have to show me more before I believe Bayern will have a problem breaking them down.

There isn’t a whole lot to be gleaned from ‘Gladbach’s Pokal match against an over-matched Jahn Regensburg, but here’s the video anyhow (with bonus Tobi Schweinsteiger goal).

Healthy Uncertainty
Bayern’s 3-0 win in Braunschweig was a foregone conclusion to some, a confidence-boost to others who still found themselves haunted by the sometimes shaky defense of the preseason. The way the match played out robbed us of the opportunity to make a thorough assessment of the team though. While it was encouraging to see Bayern work the attack patiently (exactly what was called for, given the opponent), an early lead off a penalty didn’t let us see if that patience would have lasted 25 minutes or more. Braunschweig may have changed their formation as the match wore on, but they never changed their approach, hence there was no incentive for Bayern to do anything but what they had been doing in the early going. To some, it was boring; to others, boring was refreshing, given that strength of opponent had little to do with blowing 2 goal leads in the 2nd half of matches last season. But overall, the result in Braunschweig gave us a quite incomplete view of things.

With the exception of Breno, the entire squad reports healthy for the season opener. We didn’t get to see as much as we’d like of Robben and Ribery with the closed door training sessions this week-but even if we had, Jupp Heynckes is keeping it close enough to the vest that we really don’t know how much time either man will see. My guess: Only one starts, but both see action.

The only other mysteries are the destined-to-become-eternal question between Luiz Gustavo and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk at CDM, and who gets dropped from the squad. I’m going to guess Gustavo has the edge this time, that probably means Tymoshchuk will start. Usami is probably the automatic squad drop, and I’d guess Contento and Olic as most likely to join him in the stands.

Update: On Friday evening Everyone’s Favorite Tabloid reported that both Manuel Neuer and Jörg Butt were suffering from flu-like symptoms, making their status for Sunday’s match uncertain. At least they’ve got the extra day to pound Dr. Müller-Wohlfahrt’s Flu Relief Elixir. The danger in these situations though, is that you have 3 or 4 other guys wake up Sunday morning with the same symptoms..

This is one of these matches where I don’t think there’s a lot to be learned from looking at last year’s results. Bayern will have no more than 2 players in the same position in which they started in last season’s match at ‘Gladbach. The return match in April was one of those that would struggle to be favorably compared to a pile of dog shit-it was around the time Louis van Gaal was burning the contents of his safe after all. What might be a bit more surprising is that Bayern actually won the match.

Correction
In last week’s Pokal preview, I wrote that Mario Gomez had scored in 4 consecutive 1st round Pokal matches. In fact, Gomez did not score in a first round match in 2007, meaning he had only scored in 3 consecutive. Gomez scored in the first Pokal match he played in 2007, but that was in the 2nd round. However, since Gomez scored against Braunschweig, NOW he has scored in 4 consecutive 1st round Pokal matches..

Prediction
A tricky one to predict without quite knowing what kind of minutes we’ll get out of our superstars. One can certainly imagine the match bogging down a bit, but I still expect Bayern’s worst offense to be another boring performance.
FC Bayern Munich 2:0 Borussia Mönchengladbach