Defeat to Hamburg and Hertha Berlin in recent matches has once again cranked up the pressure on Bayern Munich as other teams take their spot in the limelight at the top of the Bundesliga. With Hertha, Hoffenheim and HSV all above them in the league, three points are an absolute must this weekend for the Bavarians against Koeln.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â
The Podolski Show
Bayern Munich play seven games in the next 22 days, including a Champions League round of 16 tie against Sporting Lisbon on Wednesday and a DFB Pokal quarter-final away to Bayer Leverkusen. But kicking it all off is the visit of Koeln.
No-one at Bayern is complaining about the fixture pile-up; it’s a sign of a successful team to be involved in so many competitions.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“A long week like this one, especially after we lost in Berlin, gets on your nerves. You have to wait too long before repairing the damage,Ã¢â‚¬Â said trainer Juergen Klinsmann. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We now have the Champions League and the cup in between the Bundesliga. We will always have to be focused on the next match. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s good for us.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The players should be fired up for the visit of Koeln following the defeat last week and the thinly veiled criticism from president Franz Beckenbauer in midweek. ‘Der Kaiser’ stated that he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see Bayern as favourites for the league title this season. Ã‚Â
What does make SaturdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s game interesting is the likely return of Lukas Podolski to the fold. The striker hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t appeared for Bayern since November due to a combination of injury and illness, but with Luca Toni out and Landon Donovan failing to impress thus far, Podolski could well line-up against his future employers.
The possible scenarios are endless, with the German international in a ‘catch-22’ situation. He is still a Bayern player and wants to go out on a high with the Bavarians but, on the other hand, he doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to hurt his beloved Koeln too much and scoring against them would do just that.
150 For Daum
Koeln trainer Christoph Daum takes charge of his 150th match as trainer of the Rhein club, which in todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s high-pressure world of club management is no mean feat.
However, he couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t face a tougher opponent as he takes his side to the Allianz Arena to take on a wounded Bayern. However, Confidence and self-belief are things that Daum is not short of.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have trained well and looked at various attacking variations. We are well prepared tactically. We are not going to Munich to just defend, we also want to get forward. It will be a difficult task for us but we are going there as a confident promoted team,Ã¢â‚¬Â Daum said at KoelnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pre-match press conference.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have a realistic optimism. Bayern have a high quality squad but it is not impossible to get something from the game. Other teams have already done it this season.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Franck Ribery is in good form, but we also have to worry about Ze Roberto, Bastian Schweinsteiger and the others. We have a big chance in Munich if Bayern underestimate us,Ã¢â‚¬Â he added.
The Billy Goats can point to an unbeaten record in 2009 but they have drawn all three of their games in the league. Bayern are a step up in quality but can Koeln improve on their run of draws?
14/02/09Ã‚Â Hertha Berlin 2-1 Bayern MunichÃ‚Â (Bundesliga)
08/02/09Ã‚Â Bayern Munich 3-1 Borussia DortmundÃ‚Â (Bundesliga)
30/01/09Ã‚Â Hamburg 1-0 Bayern MunichÃ‚Â (Bundesliga)
27/01/09Ã‚Â Stuttgart 1-5 Bayern MunichÃ‚Â (DFB Pokal)
13/12/09Ã‚Â Stuttgart 2-2 Bayern MunichÃ‚Â (Bundesliga)
14/02/09Ã‚Â Koeln 0-0 KarlsruherÃ‚Â (Bundesliga)
07/02/09Ã‚Â Eintracht Frankfurt 2-2 KoelnÃ‚Â (Bundesliga)
31/01/09Ã‚Â Koeln 1-1 WolfsburgÃ‚Â (Bundesliga)
13/12/08Ã‚Â Bochum 1-2 KoelnÃ‚Â (Bundesliga)
07/12/08Ã‚Â Koeln 1-2 HamburgÃ‚Â (Bundesliga) Ã‚Â
With a very important Champions League fixture coming up on Wednesday away at Sporting Lisbon, Juergen Klinsmann has to decide whether to rest any key players for the weekend visit of Koeln.
Luca Toni is almost certain to sit this one out after limping off during BayernÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s defeat last week to Hertha Berlin with an Achilles injury.Ã‚Â Miroslav Klose took a knock to his ankle during training on Wednesday but was able to train fully on Thursday and should be fit.
Massimo Oddo is free of suspension and could replace Christian Lell at right-back while Hamit Altintop is an option to replace Bastian Schweinsteiger in midfield should Klinsmann opt to rest him.
Probable Starting XI: Rensing, Oddo, Lucio, Demichelis, Lahm, van Bommel, Ze Roberto, Altintop, Ribery, Klose, Podolski
Christophe Daum has centre-back Youssef Mohamad suspended after the Lebanese defender collected his fifth yellow card last week against Karlsruhe. Kevin McKenna will deputise.
Pierre Wome remains injured while Adil Chihi is also sidelined and will not travel to Munich with the squad.
Probable Starting XI: Mondragon, Brecko, Geromel, McKenna, Matip, Vucicevic, Petit, Pezzoni, Ehret, Radu, Novakovic Ã‚Â
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Bayern Munich – Lukas Podolski
As mentioned earlier, all eyes on Saturday will be on the returning Lukas Podolski. Bayern fans will want to see him make an impact as Luca ToniÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s replacement; Koeln fans will want to pay homage to their soon-to-be returning hero; and onlooking national team trainer Joachim Loew will want to see a return to form from ‘Poldi’ as he plans his squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers.
Koeln – Milivoje Novakovic
The Slovenian was the second flight’s top scorer last season with 20 goals. He has already hit 12 this term, putting him ahead of both Miroslav Klose and Luca Toni in the scoring charts. He is the number one striker at the club but that is all set to change with the return of Lukas Podolski next season. With Poldi still a Bayern player until June, ‘Nova’ will want to show that he is still the main man with a top performance against Bayern this weekend.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â
The Bavarians made their worse start to a Bundesliga season in over 30 years back in August as they claimed only eight points from their opening six games. Two defeats in their first three following the winter break suggests that they could be set for similar bad start this time around.
Juergen Klinsmann really needs a confidence-boosting win against Koeln before Bayern face Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League next Wednesday. Koeln have nothing to lose as underdogs, but I believe Bayern will triumph and relieve the pressure on themselves.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â
Bayern Munich 3-0 Koeln
Mathew Burt, Goal.com