Bayern Munich’s first defeat is just a minor setback

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It all seemed to be going so well for Bayern Munich but after dropping five points from an available six, questions surely must be asked of Niko Kovac’s side. Conceding a late equaliser to Bavarian rivals FC Augsburg kicked proceedings off before succumbing to a 2-0 defeat against Hertha BSC on Friday night. Continue reading

Bayern Munich must win the Champions League

As one of the world’s biggest clubs, Bayern Munich ought to have more Champions League trophies to their name than they do. It was 2013 when the German giants lifted the competition, against their Klassiker rivals, Borussia Dortmund. The last time they lifted the competition, Sir Alex Ferguson was still in charge of Manchester United, which now seems an age ago.

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Normal service resumes for Bayern Munich

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Normality resumed for Bayern Munich on Saturday. The reigning Bundesliga champions were under pressure following a poor display against Hoffenheim on Matchday 1 and a trip to Stuttgart followed, facing a team they had struggled against in the past.

Arjen Robben replaced Kinglsey Coman in the only forced change while there was a first Bundesliga start for Leon Goretzka. The former Schalke midfielder opened the scoring for Bayern Munich in the first half in a team performance that set the tone for 90 minutes. Continue reading

Season Preview: Bayern Munich

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It is always going to be difficult for any team in any league to retain the championship for the seventh consecutive campaign, but Bayern Munich head into the 2018/19 campaign with the intention of doing just that, similarly to Lyon’s golden era between 2001 and 2008.

Niko Kovac’s side open their Bundesliga account against Hoffenheim on Friday night in a fixture that could prove problematic for the Croat’s side he has inherited. Julian Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim caused Bayern multiple problems during the 2017/18 campaign but ultimately, it was Bavarian side who had the last laugh, clinching their sixth consecutive Bundesliga title with relative ease.

Last Season: The 2017/18 campaign was a strange one for Bayern Munich and their fans. Barring a 2-0 defeat on Matchday 3 against Hoffenheim, Carlo Ancelotti enjoyed four wins, one draw and one defeat in his opening six Bundesliga fixates but it still wasn’t good enough to save the Italian. There’s no doubting that the Champions League trophy is the aim for Bayern Munich, that goes without saying and so a 3-0 defeat against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League in September resulted in the sacking of Ancelotti.

A bold move, his replacement, Jupp Heynckes returned to Bayern Munich for his third spell with the Bundesliga club. His last saw him clinch the treble and it’s something that Uli Hoeneß and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge had set their sights on during 2017/18.

Although they clinched the league in relatively easy fashion, finishing 21 points ahead of Schalke, Bayern’s campaign was a disaster. Defeat in the DFB Pokal final against Eintracht Frankfurt, then coached by Kovac and a defeat against Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final showed Bayern’s weaknesses.

Head coach: Niko Kovac – He wasn’t Bayern Munich’s first choice nor was he their second. Uli Hoeneß and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge wanted a German speaking dressing room, which is something they lacked under both Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti. Both Thomas Tuchel and Julian Nagelsmann remained top of their shortlist while Bayern’s management also contemplated offering Jupp Heynckes a contract extension. In the end, it was Kovac who was announced and while it’s perhaps an underwhelming name, there’s no denying that the 46-year-old deserves his opportunity.

With limited funding, Kovac has worked wonders with Eintracht Frankfurt during his two-year spell, clinching European football through winning the DFB Pokal against Bayern Munich. Eintracht also played a style of football that many opponents struggled to deal with. Predominantly opting for a 3-5-2 with a high press, it’s unlikely we’ll see something like this at Bayern Munch until the former Bayern Munich defender gets the players he desires.

Summer Transfers: With Franck Ribery (35) and Arjen Robben (34) not getting any younger, it’s clear just to see where Bayern Munich’s weaknesses are. Serge Gnabry returns from a loan spell at Hoffenheim while Kinglsey Coman is slowly returning to fitness however, if Bayern Munich are going to go for the treble, then there’s no doubting that they need to strengthen in the wide areas. They’ve agreed a deal to sign Alphonso Davies from Vancouver Whitecaps, who will arrive in January however, the Canadian is unlikely to make a positive contribution immediately.

And so, Bayern Munich’s summer transfer window has been rather poor. Signing Leon Goretzka on a free transfer prior to the World Cup promised an eventful summer but what followed was a lack of direction but with the departure of Arturo Vidal to Barcelona, their midfield seems to lack depth.

Bayern Munich’s hiarachy has suggested that Germany international Jerome Boateng can leave the club but a poor World Cup campaign has resulted in the Bundesliga side failing to find a buyer. PSG opted for Schalke’s Thilo Kehrer while it now looks as though the 29-year-old will remain at the Allianz Arena. There had been reports of a move for Stuttgart’s Benjamin Pavard while it’s surprising that Bayern hadn’t concluded the deal, instead opting to wait until 2019.

Renato Sanches also returns from his Swansea City loan spell.

Prediction: Bayern Munich have the squad to retain the Bundesliga. But to do it for the seventh season running is going to put unnecessary pressure on Bayern Munich and with a poor summer of recruitment in comparison to Borussia Dortmund and Schalke, this is perhaps the best chance for another side to step up and knock the Bavarians off their throne. Even more so given Bayern are yet again undergoing a transitional season with the appointment of a new head coach.

Probable Starting XI – Neuer – Kimmich, Boateng, Hummels, Alaba – Martinez – Robben, Müller, James Rodriguez, Ribery – Lewandowski.

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Bayern Munich made to work hard for DFB Pokal win

Drawn against SV Drochtersen/Assel in the DFB Pokal, Bayern Munich were made to work hard for their 1-0 win against the fourth-tier side. A poor performance was rescued by Robert Lewandowski’s 81st minute winner, which will surely give fans many concerns ahead of the coming 2018/19 Bundesliga season, which kicks-off next weekend against Hoffenheim. Continue reading

DFL Supercup Preview: Eintracht Frankfurt vs Bayern Munich

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Niko Kovac’s first chance to win a trophy at new club Bayern Munich will be against his former side Eintracht Frankfurt in the DFL Supercup on Sunday. It’s the Bundesliga champions vs DFB Pokal winners in the curtain raiser for Germany’s 2018/19 football season and it’s a fixture that is expected to be as exciting as their last: the Pokal final. The previous meeting between the two sides resulted in a 3-1 victory for Eintracht which was masterminded by Kovac, with the Croat now in the opposite dugout at Commerzbank Arena, in charge of Bayern.

Sunday will be just the second-time Eintracht Frankfurt has featured in the curtain raiser, their last coming in a 2-0 defeat to Werder Bremen in 1988. Meanwhile, the ever-dominant Bayern Munich have participated in seven of the last eight DFL Supercup’s, although they’ve lifted just four with their most recent being last season.

We’ve seen mixed results from Bayern Munich in pre-season during their International Champions Cup fixtures and for the 2018 DFL Supercup, the Bavarians will have to do it without Arturo Vidal who has departed Munich for Barcelona. Although, there could be starts for Bayern’s two new signings, Leon Goretzka and Serge Gnabry, the latter returning from his Hoffenheim loan spell.

Like Bayern Munich, Eintracht Frankfurt are undergoing a transitional season. Kovac’s spell at Eintracht couldn’t have gone better but now at Bayern, it will be up Adi Hutter, former BSC Young Boys head coach, to carry on the good work by his predecessor.

Eintracht Frankfurt have lost a key player in Kevin-Prince Boateng, who has joined Sassuolo but arguably their biggest signing this summer is the contract extension of Croatia international and World Cup Finalist Ante Rebic, who had been close to joining Manchester United. The forward scored a brace in his last meeting with Bayern Munich, helping Eintracht lift the Pokal while a fine month in Russia has resulted in the 24-year-old penning a new contract that will see him remain at the Bundesliga club until 2022.

New signings Felix Wiedwald, Goncalo Paciencia, Nicolai Müller and Chico Geraldes could well start on Sunday for Eintracht Frankfurt and while there’s no doubting the 2018/19 campaign will be a tough one for the Super Eagles, certainly more difficult than the previous, there’s no reason as to why they can’t push Bayern Munich for 90 minutes on Sunday.

Early signs in the Bayern side suggest that Kovac doesn’t quite know his best formation while they’re going to have play the Eintracht without James Rodriguez, who has yet to return to full fitness after missing the England game at the World Cup.

One positive for Bayern Munich is that star striker Robert Lewandowski will remain at the club despite immense speculation that he would leave for one of Manchester United or Real Madrid this summer. The Poland international looked increasingly frustrated towards the end of the 2017/18 Bundesliga campaign while the 29-year-old criticised his teammates the prior season after accusing them of not helping Lewandowski finish top scorer, instead finishing behind then Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

“It’s true Robert and I had a chat. Robert knows what I think about him and how I rate him. The whole club knows the qualities he possesses. He is one of the best three strikers in the world. There’s no way we’d let him leave. That’s why I told him. Robert accepted that, and I’m really happy about it,” Kovac told Sport Bild.

Like the Community Shield, winning the DFL Supercup isn’t the biggest of deals. Of course, both teams still want to win silverware at the end of the day but it’s more about signifying the start of the football campaign in Germany. Eintracht Frankfurt vs Bayern Munich will provide fans with exciting football given both Hutter and Kovac like their teams to press high up the pitch while defensively neither have look solid. This fixture should certainly provide viewers with top class entertainment.

Probable line-ups

Eintracht Frankfurt: Wiedwald – Abraham (c), Hasebe, Salcedo – Da Costa, Torro, Fernandes, Willems – Fabian, Gacinovic – Haller

Bayern Munich: Neuer (c) – Kimmich, Hummels, Süle, Alaba – Martinez, Thiago – Robben, Müller, Ribery – Lewandowski

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Japan in pole position to make the knockout stages

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As expected, the Japanese struggled against Senegalese counterattacks but perhaps unexpectedly for them they managed to battle out a 2-2 draw against a team they knew were stronger than them all across the pitch. Japan played better than perhaps even they thought they would and now find themselves in a great position to qualify from Group H.

The draw against Senegal saw Japan stay level at the top of the group with their African counterparts whilst Colombia’s comprehensive win against Poland saw the Eastern European country crash out with a whimper. With these two results Japan now understand that a draw or better against an already knocked out Poland will see them qualify for the Round of 16 for the first time since 2010. The Samurai Blue could also advance to the knockout stages with a loss if Senegal beats Colombia but will want to leave matters in their own hands.

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Bayern Munich must spend big as they enter transition

What not so long ago looked like being a dismal season for Bayern Munich could yet turn out to be an historic one. 17 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga, the Bavarians are set for a sixth successive league title, with Jupp Heynckes also leading his side to the semi-finals of the DFB Pokal. What’s more, they are in the quarter finals of the Champions League and, after being paired with Sevilla, should be plotting a course for the semis.

Heynckes has restored Bayern Munich’s swagger since his return from retirement earlier in the season. They had become unsure of themselves under Carlo Ancelotti, falling well short of the level that is expected of the great Bavarian side. Now, things look to be heading in the right direction again. Continue reading

Could Robert Lewandowski have pushed himself more at Bayern Munich?

It’s one of German football’s worst kept secrets that Robert Lewandowski has always had his eye on one last move. The Polish striker has defined an era for Bayern Munich, scoring 97 times in just 119 appearances in three-and-a-half seasons for the Bavarians, but speculation over a switch to Real Madrid has bubbled away for years.

Rumours continue to swirl over Lewandowski’s future, with recent reports claiming Bayern Munich are preparing themselves for the striker’s departure at the end of the season. Now 29 years old, the Pole seems to be pushing through the transfer he has wanted for quite some time. Lewandowski has even switched agents, becoming a client of Pina Zahavi, in order to give himself a better chance of sealing a move to Real Madrid. Continue reading

Expensive trip to Kazakhstan for Romania

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Despite earning a point from their trip to Kazakhstan, several of Romania’s players left the Caspian country somewhat traumatised.

The reason for that was prior to their World Cup Qualifier against Kazakhstan, 12 Romanian players had money stolen from their hotel rooms, whilst the team masseur’s electronic tablet was also taken.

Nevertheless Romania overcame the unsettling experience to secure a 0-0 draw in Astana to remain unbeaten on five points in group E.  Christoph Daum’s team are now two points behind joint leaders Montenegro and Poland.

Denmark suffer defeat as Poland win

Despite being completely dominated by Denmark in Copenhagen, whereby the Dane’s had 69% of possession and 23 shots on goal, compared to their seven, Montenegro won 1-0 courtesy of a Faris Beqiraj goal.  The result represented Denmark’s first home since they lost 2-1 to France almost exactly one year ago.

In contrast to Denmark’s dominant performance not yielding a result, Poland were rewarded for producing a similar display with a 2-1 home win over Armenia.

With the game level at 1-1, Robert Lewandowski scored in the fifth minute of injury time as Poland broke stubborn resistance from a resolute Armenian side who were without their influential captain Henrikh Mkhitaryan.  The 27-year-old Manchester United midfielder missed a second successive international game due to a thigh injury.

Hart produces superb performance for England

One of Mkhitaryan’s club mates Jesse Lingard earned his second international cap for England, as they played out a scoreless draw with Slovenia.  Although England largely dictated the pace of, and controlled the game, Slovenia had the best opportunities with Joe Hart producing a trio of excellent reflex saves.  Furthermore Jasmin Kurtic also hit the post for Slovenia.

Subsequently Srecko Katanec’s side remain two points behind England, who sit atop group F having won two and drawn one of their opening three qualifiers, whilst not conceding a goal in doing so.

Comfortable home wins from Lithuania and Slovakia

Far from as defensively stable was Scotland during their 3-0 defeat to Slovakia.

That represented Slovakia’s maiden win of the 2018 World Cup qualification campaign, which was relatively comfortable, with Robert Mak scoring twice and Adam Nemec beating Scotland goalkeeper David Marshall with a header.

In Scotland’s previous game, which ended in a 1-1 draw with Lithuania, the 31-year-old Hull City player conceded a goal to Fedor Cernych.  The Russian born midfielder, who plays his club football for Polish side Jagiellonia Bialystok, scored in a third successive qualifier for Lithuania as they beat Malta 2-0 in Kaunas at home to climb to second place in group F.

Germany’s fine run of form continues

Another team to secure a 2-0 home win just as Lithuania did were Germany.  Shortly after Julian Draxler opened the scoring for Joachim Low’s side, Sami Khedira added a second goal to ensure Germany continued their 100% record in group C with a commanding victory over Northern Ireland.  Subsequently the current World Champions are already well on course to qualify for the right to defend their title in Russia, with them being two points ahead of Azerbaijan, who continued their unbeaten start to the 2018 World Cup qualification campaign by drawing 0-0 in Prague with the Czech Republic.

That point was just the second which Karel Jarolim’s side have collected in group C as they currently occupy fifth place behind Norway.  Despite being held 1-1 by San Marino with just 13 minutes left to go, Norway scored three late goals, through expertly taken finishes from Adama Diomande, Martin Samuelson and Joshua King.

Nevertheless of real consolation to San Marino was that, they scored their first goal in over a year.  Furthermore prior to Mattia Stefanelli’s goal San Marino had not scored in an away qualifier since 2001.

Action packed conclusion to October’s qualifiers

Therefore October’s batch of 2018 World Cup qualifiers concluded with another series of action packed games, along with an entirely unsavoury off-field incident in Kazakhstan of which Romania were the victims.

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