After taking their first loss in the Bundesliga all season, Bayern looked to bounce back with a strong performance against to much smaller clubs, one in the final match of the Champions League group stage and the other against newly promoted minnows FC Ingolstadt.
Champions Leauge Matchday 6: at Dinamo Zagreb
This match was mostly useless. Having to travel to Croatia to play a meaningless match mid-week after a big loss in the Bundesliga is mostly useless. It isn't often that a weekend match against a newly promoted side in the domestic league is more important than a match in the Champions League, but that is exactly what happened here.
And to make sure that our good health run basically doesn't exist, both Mehdi Benatia and Franck Ribery are right back onto the injury list. Ribery picked up a muscle issue and is going to miss the rest of 2015, undetermined return in 2016. The Benatia situation is much more concerning because they believe it could be a more serious issue with his body's ability to handle the rigors of sport and may be chronically damaged in his muscle tissue, I'm assuming they would attribute this to some type of genetic condition.
As far as mere formalities are concerned, there are few teams that are as fun to watch under normal conditions as Bayern. Maybe watching Real Madrid or Barcelona thrash some poor team is more fun on a good day. On a bad day? Well, let's just say that if you were going to watch a German team this week, you should have stuck with either Wolfsburg or Leverkusen and left this game on the shelf. Two second half goals, just minutes apart, from Robert Lewandowski were to the only things of note.
Guardiola kept it weird, fielding what amounted to a 3-1-2-1-3. Yeah, it doesn't make a ton of sense if you aren't keen to soccer tactics so don't even both trying to really nail this one down. The best news was that Ribery started, before being subbed due to injury. Additionally, Benatia, who is also injured now, started. Otherwise, the big highlights were the starts awarded to Sven Ulreich in goal, Sebastian Rode and Joshua Kimmich in midfield, and Julian Green up front.
The most exciting bit of the lineup is seeing Julian Green starting in the Champions League. A lot was made of the youngster and there seemed to be a real fight between parties in Germany and the United States in the competition for the winning him to their international roster pools. Lots of buzz surrounded him heading into the 2014 World Cup, since that time it has mostly amounted to radio silence.
Matchday 16: Ingolstadt Visits the Cauldron
Like I said earlier, the Bundesliga match this week is actually more important than the Champions League fixture. Beating Ingolstadt is more a formality than challenge, but the lead has tightened as Dortmund's form has found its force again.
Needing all three points, I would have expected a bit more of a throttling by Bayern. However, it wasn't there. Perhaps this was due to all the injuries and the short rest between matches.
With all the injuries and the midweek affair and travel to/from Croatia, the starting lineup featured the return of Neuer and Badstuber, Vidal taking the holding midfielder position from where Alonso would normally line up. Up front, the most interesting start was Javi Martinez, with Coman and Kimmich playing wide.
The team is full of talent and a joy to watch and cheer for, but their play is probably more dull right than at any point in this season. Hopefully the approach of the winter break will allow players to rest up, get healthy and recharge for the second half push.
Speaking of the winter break, it is almost upon us! Bayern sits in first in the Bundesliga.
Champions League Round of 16 Draw
There were softer sides in the pot, but Bayern should like their matchup against Juventus. They can threaten Bayern, but the real struggle for Munich isn't when they play middle of the pack European power clubs, it is when they get stuck playing somewhere in Russia or Croatia or Belarus.
By avoiding any of the teams in eastern Europe, they have already dodged a big bullet. Also, they avoid Arsenal due to being drawn from the same group. Arsenal will be put to the sword by Barcelona this year. Almost comically, Arsenal just cannot avoid the FCBs of world football. Bayern has repeatedly eliminated them from the tournament in recent years, now it is Barcelona's turn.
Wolfsburg got a good draw in Gent. Imagine the Bundesliga having two teams in the final eight of the Champions League again. This is good for the sport and good for Germany.
by Daniel Coughlin (@xvanwilderx)