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Preview: Bayern Munich and the Group of Death Visit Villarreal

A scary combination.
A scary combination.

Villarreal asked for the Champions League, and boy, did we get it!  Bayern München, Manchester City, Napoli.  Talk about a triumvirate.  Bayern are sitting in first place in the Bundesliga.  Man City are essentially tied with Manchester United, only a few goals off on goal differential.  Napoli are only one match into the season, but are tied for second in Serie A on goal differential with a 1-3 thrashing of Cesena.  Altogether, that is a hefty group to go up against.  And Villarreal has not exactly set the world on first so far this season, dropping a painful 5-0 match to Barcelona, but then holding on over the weekend for a 2-2 draw against Sevilla in El Madrigal.

Villarreal will be looking to continue their longstanding strong form in Champions League matches at El Madrigal.  Since the 2007-2008 UEFA Cup, Villarreal have managed 17 wins, 1 loss, and 6 draws in European competition in Vila-real.  Looking at just the more recent timeframe, Villarreal are 9-0-0 at home since the 2010-2011 Europa League.

Villarreal will need all of that Madrigal magic when the Bavarians show up to play tomorrow.  Bayern Munich have had some up and down seasons over the last couple of years, but this year is clearly starting on the upswing.  Two years ago, Bayern found itself up against Inter Milan in the Champions League Final, only to show poorly and lose the match 0-2.  Last year they lost that momentum from the previous season and finished a (relatively) disappointing third place, 10 points off the pace set by Borussia Dortmund.  Despite last year's stumble, Bayern is playing top shelf football at the moment.  The Germans enter the fray with an impressive, if slightly odd, record in the Bundesliga.  They are 4W-0D-1L on the season, having scored 16 goals in their four victories, and giving up only a single goal all season - that being the season-opening shock loss to Borussia Monchengladbach in Munich, 0-1.  Admittedly their four victories on the season have come against teams currently sitting 13th, 14th, 17th, and 18th in the 18-team Bundesliga, but when you are cranking out scores of 0-1, 5-0, 0-3, and 7-0 back-to-back, that is impressive no matter who you are playing.

Bayern Munich restocked a bit over the summer, although the club did not make wholesale changes.  The side payed an amazing  £18m to Schalke for goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.  The club added to their back line with Jerome Boateng (CB) and Rafinha (RB).  They also brought in Nils Peterson, formerly of Energie Cottbus, who was the leading scorer in the Bundesliga 2 last year.  Also notable, Bayern changed managers, hiring Josef "Jupp" Heynckes, who last year led Bayer Leverkusen to a second place finish in the Bundesliga.

Bayern has a squad that would be the envy of almost any club in Europe.  Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mario Gomez, Philipp Lahm, Thomas Müller, Franck Ribéry, Jerome Boateng, Rafinha, Arjen Robben, Daniel van Buyten, and the names go on and on.  Unfortunately for the Bavarians, the club will tomorrow be without one of their star midfielders, Arjen Robben.  Robben is simply one of the best midfielders in the world, but is more than a little fragile.  He would be a devastating loss for any team, but thinking back to Robben's days at Real Madrid and what he did to Villarreal, I can't feel too badly for the German side.  

While I have always enjoyed watching Bayern Munich, I simply do not catch enough of their matches lately to give a fair analysis of tactics and things to expect from the club.  So I turn to @RedRobbery, who penned an exceptional preview as a guest for our friends at Forza Futbol.

You'll see la bestia negra (yes, Bayern should be wearing black shirts) return to Spain in a 4-2-3-1 formation. With Arjen Robben unavailable due to a nagging injury that might be gone in a few days or a few weeks, something rather rare will be seen: one inverted wing and one ‘normal' one. On the left there will be the right-footed Philipp Lahm and Franck Ribery, on the right, barring surprises, the likewise right-footed Rafinha and Thomas Müller will try to cause havoc. Bayern's game will shift to the left (Müller doesn't need positions, anyway) with Bastian Schweinsteiger directing the offense and Luiz Gustavo (or Anatoliy Tymoshchuk) stopping opponents before a real counter-attack starts. Left-back Philipp Lahm will often cut inside and pass the ball to Toni Kroos, Mario Gomez or Thomas Müller, right-back Rafinha on the other hand will mostly supply Gomez with crosses. The wingers, Ribery and Müller, will always do the unexpected, don't think that Ribery only cuts inside because of being an inverted winger, he can just as well run to the goal line, enter the box and play a dangerous pass. But enough of the tactical features, Juan Carlos Garrido might read this...

The starting lineup isn't always easy to predict since Jupp Heynckes likes to rotate and give every player a chance to shine but the most likely starting XI is the following:

Manuel Neuer

Rafinha - Jerome Boateng - Holger Badstuber - Philipp Lahm

Luiz Gustavo - Bastian Schweinsteiger

Thomas Müller - Toni Kroos - Franck Ribery

Mario Gomez

Be sure and read the entire post - much better than the drivel I bang out!

Villarreal's call for the match:

Keepers: Diego López and César.
Defenders: Cristián Zapata, Mario Gaspar, Jose Manuel Catalá, Gonzalo, Mateo Musacchio and Carlos Marchena.
Midfielders: Marcos Senna, Bruno Soriano, Camuñas, Jonathan De Guzmán, Ruben Cani, Wakaso Mubarak and Hernán Pérez.
Forwards: Giuseppe Rossi, Nilmar and Marco Ruben.

Villarreal were not thrilled with the fact that Diego Lopez saw red on Saturday, but nevertheless will accept the fact that he had a short day and will be fully rested and focused on Wednesday's encounter.  Likewise, Villarreal were upset when Zapata had trouble with his Visa when playing a couple of friendlies in the United States and couldn't make it back for the weekend, but the club will have no complaints that he will have had a bit of a break before taking on Mario Gomez.  

Along the same lines, manager Juan Carlos Garrido made a number of tactical moves over the weekend, such that Senna was given the day off, and Camuñas, De Guzmán, Cani, Nilmar, and Ruben all played less than full games.  

Unfortunately, Villarreal have lost the services of Zidane-lite for the match, as Borja Valero picked up a multi-match suspension for going all head butt in the last match against Odense.  

As for a lineup, I liked what Kenez put up in the comments to the previous post, and think Garrido will as well:


Mario - Zapata - Musacchio - Catalá

Senna - Bruno

De Guzmán                      Cani

Ruben - Rossi

No predictions from me, but this is a tremendous opportunity for Villarreal to make a statement.  Despite being in the second pool of teams, Villarreal is generally considered the least likely to advance out of Group A.  Picking up three points, and defending that El Madrigal record, could go a long way, not just in changing minds, but in making the knockout stages a realistic possibility.  ENDAVANT VILLARREAL!