Manuel Veth –
Bayern vs Wolfsburg – Saturday, March 9, 14:30GMT/15:30CET – Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
It is a crucial game for Bayern ahead of what could be the season-defining Champions League clash against Liverpool in the Champions League. On Saturday Bayern will not just have 90 minutes to set themselves up for the clash with the Reds from the Liverpool but could also leave Dortmund in the dust on the road to a seventh Bundesliga title.
The focus on the Wolfsburg and Liverpool fixtures was, however, shattered on Tuesday when national team coach Joachim Löw announced that he would no longer nominate Bayern players Thomas Müller, Jérôme Boateng and Mats Hummels. Löw’s decision by itself was perhaps understandable given the drop of form of all three players. The matter in which the decision was delivered — Löw showed up on a last minute visit to Munich to talk to all three players, and within hours the DFB issued official press statements thanking all three — was contested by Bayern München, in an official press release. Hummels, Müller and Boateng, in the meantime, took to Twitter to voice their disappointments.
Meanwhile, the world still awaits statements by Bayern President Uli Hoeneß. Hoeneß is outspoken, and is expected to deliver explicit messages to the Bundestrainer. Words that Bayern wanted to deliver on the pitch because one thing is certain the focus on the Wolfsburg game is gone even if head coach Niko Kovač is hoping for a defiant reaction on the pitch.
“I know that my players were surprised by Jogi Löw’s decision. But they are all professionals, who know how to deal with this matter in a professional matter,” Kovač said to the media on Wednesday. “Everyone looks after their own performance; I am not thinking about whether Müller is part of the national team, just like he doesn’t think about me being part of the national team,” forward Serge Gnabry played down any impact on the overall team.
Whether that will be the case remains to be seen on Saturday. The last time a Bayern player received a demotion from the national team was Oliver Kahn in April 2006, who was told by Jürgen Klinsmann and Löw that he would be the number two when Germany host the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Kahn learned about the decision the day before an important fixture against Werder Bremen, which Bayern ended up losing 3-0 but in the end, the Bavarians would win the title five points clear of Werder.
Wolfsburg are, of course, hoping for a similar impact on Saturday. The Wolves have been on course for Europe for most of the Hinrunde but dropped two points on matchday 24 against Werder. That result means that Wolfsburg are now seventh but with 39 points are just one point behind fifth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt and even on points with sixth-placed Leverkusen. Even fourth-placed Gladbach are just four points away.
The Wolves, however, have to deal with their very own problems. Although Wolfsburg are playing a fantastic season head coach Bruno Labbadia and sporting director Jörg Schmadtke are on uneasy terms, which has led to suggestions that Labbadia could leave the club at the end of the season.
With this in mind, one could suggest that Wolfsburg have just as many problems off the pitch. But all parties have been extremely professional about their differences. A bigger problem instead might be Wolfsburg’s horror record at the Allianz Arena.
In 21 games the Wolves have never won a game in Munich, and while disturbances in Munich might make this the perfect timing for Wolfsburg to play there, Bayern might also want to show the world that Löw was wrong about his decision as they are getting ready for decisive weeks.
Bayern vs Wolfsburg – Players to look out for:
Robert Lewandowski #9 – Bayern München
Robert Lewandowski loves playing against Wolfsburg. Unforgettable his five-goal performance against Wolfsburg in September 2015. The striker had come on in the second half and within nine minutes had turned a 1-0 deficit into a 5-1 festival for Bayern. That game, in particular, highlighted Lewandowski’s value to this Bayern side, which, contrary to popular opinion, has not diminished in recent months. Quite the opposite, Sport Bild reported on Wednesday that Bayern would like to renew the Polish forward’s contract until 2023 to underline that he would be the number one option even if Bayern sign Timo Werner from RB Leipzig.
Joshua Guilavogui #7 – VfL Wolfsburg
Captain Joshua Guilavogui has been one of Wolfsburg’s key players all season long despite having played just ten Bundesliga games after missing the start of the season with an ACL injury he sustained last season. The French defensive midfielder anchors the midfield of the Wolves, and with him in the squad, Wolfsburg are still undefeated. Seven wins and three draws are Guilavogui’s record this season a record that will be tested against Bayern. “That will be a difficult game for us but also a good test,” Guilavogui said to the media this week.
Bayern vs Wolfsburg – Match Stats
- Bayern have never lost any of their 21 home games against Wolfsburg. No other club in the Bundesliga has managed more games against another side without a defeat.
- Robert Lewandowski has scored 14 goals in the last seven games against Wolfsburg. It is the longest goalscoring run by a single striker since Klaus Fischer managed to score in nine consecutive games against Stuttgart between 1969 and 1974.
- Bayern’s home record against Wolfsburg: W19 D2 L0
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Bayern vs Wolfsburg – 2-0
Bayern vs Wolfsburg – Lineups
Neuer – Kimmich, Süle, Hummels, Rafinha – Thiago, Javi Martínez – Müller, James, Gnabry – Lewandowski
Head Coach: Niko Kovač
Casteels – William, Knoche, Brooks, Roussillon – Gerhardt, Guilavogui, Arnold – Mehmedi – Steffen, Weghorst
Head Coach: Burno Labbadia
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others contributes to Forbes.com and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.