We are officially at the peak of the holiday season - last-minute shopping, Christmas carols, presents, food-induced sadness. Footballers are no less susceptible. Bayern, in particular, seemed to have mailed in the last two matches of the Hinrunde. Of course, typical Bayern, just enough was done to secure victory, allowing the team to escape into the break with the lead in all competitions.
Another hallmark of Bayern - there is more drama off the field than on it at this point. Fun! There are an absolute landslide of rumors that Pep Guardiola is set to leave Bayern at the end of the season. His successor? It appears to be Carlo Ancelotti.
On better news: Thomas Muller has signed a contract extension through 2021! Contract extensions were also signed by Jerome Boateng and Xabi Alonso. And speaking of Alonso...
DFB Pokal: vs. SV Darmstadt, 1-0.
Again, this is typical Bayern. Darmstadt aren't the worst soccer club in the world. They definitely field a much better team than say 1860 Munich, but Bayern are always going to be heavy favorites in such a match.
They totally mailed it in and escaped with a 1-0 victory. Because Alonso, who has just signed a one-year contract extension, decided to unleash a master goal:
Really don't have anything else to add on that one. They won a match that they should win and it means they are advancing to the next round of the DFB Pokal.
Matchday 17: at Hannover, 1-0 Win
The trend of celebrating contracts continued with Bayern getting a lone goal from Thomas Muller and it was a penalty goal at that.
So, Bayern wins two matches, both with somewhat depleted though still vastly superior squads and it takes an absolutely blast from deep by Alonso and a penalty from Muller to do so.
Some fun stuff happening with the versatility and injury depleted Reds. Holger Badstuber has been playing more of a box-to-box role and that could provide some mixed but amusing results. That's also a lot of work to put on a knee that has been shredded multiple times. The fact that Badstuber can get out on the pitch and play at a club like Bayern with multiple ACL surgeries is remarkable on its own.
The lineup was bizarre again. A 3-1-4-2 with a backline of Javi Martinez and Badstuber supporting the lone central defender, Boateng. Alonso positioned above them in his normal holding position and a two-striker system of Muller and Robert Lewandowski supported by Arturo Vidal, Rafinha, Thiago Alcantara and Kingsley Coman.
Bayern literally had 79 percent of the possession and basically did nothing worth mentioning to the casual observer. Clearly the squad had one foot out the door, ready for their month-long break from competitive matches.
So 2015 is coming to a close. Guardiola is likely to announce that he is heading to England next year with his replacement likely already annointed. Muller is going nowhere anytime soon. Bayern won their Champions League group and heads into the round of 16 to face Juventus while also still alive in the DFB Pokal where they will face VfL Bochum in the quater-final on February 10.
In the domestic league, Bayern carries an eight-point lead on the Wiz Khalifas of Dortmund. It is safe to assume that lead should hold out for the remainder of the year. Through 17 matches domestically, Bayern is 15-1-1. The real challenge will be winning in the Champions League. Can Guardiola get it done? We will see... in 2016.
by Daniel Coughlin (@xvanwilderx)