It’s David versus Goliath in the Bundesliga this weekend, as Bayern Munich hosts Werder Bremen at the Allianz Arena on Saturday afternoon.
The two teams could not have had more different seasons last time around. The Bavarians did the treble, winning the league, Champions League, and DFB-Pokal with relative ease. Bremen, on the other hand, barely stayed up in the Bundesliga, narrowly beating FC Heidenheim in the relegation-playoff to secure their top flight status for another year.
Things are looking better for the Green-Whites so far this campaign, as they sit in 9th place with a respectable 10 points. Munich are as strong as ever, leading the league once again after beating bitter rivals Borussia Dortmund before the international break.
Bayern will be heavy favorites, but there’s a chance an upset could be on the cards.
The aforementioned international break helped both sides on the injury front, but a number of key players will still be out for the fixture.
Munich are in the midst of a mini-crisis. Joshua Kimmich and Alphonso Davies are out for the foreseeable future, while midfielder Corentin Tolisso picked up a knock with France and is now listed as doubtful.
Summer signing Tanguy Nianzou still isn’t fully fit, and Joshua Zirkzee is also unavailable for selection.
Bremen are a bit better off, as no one is guaranteed to miss out. However, top scorer Niclas Fullkrug hasn’t fully recovered from his calf injury, so it’s unclear how much he’ll be able to play, while fellow striker Davie Selke might also be forced to watch from the sidelines.
Bayern Munich: Neuer, Pavard, Boateng, Alaba, Hernandez, Martinez, Goretzka, Sane, Muller, Gnabry, Lewandowksi
Werder Bremen: Pavlenka, Toprak, Moisander, Friedl, Selassie, Eggestein, Gross, Augustinsson, Bittencourt, Sargent, Rashica
Ones to watch
Everyone already knows about the attacking talents Munich have. The front three of Leroy Sane, Robert Lewandowski, and Serge Gnabry have been scoring goals for fun this season, and they will likely find the back of the net this weekend.
Someone who has flown under the radar this season is Lucas Hernandez. Bought for big money last summer, the Frenchman struggled for playing time early on. Benched by manager Hansi Flick after David Alaba was converted into a centerback, it seemed like Hernandez was set to leave the club after just one year.
He stayed this offseason, and has been given a chance in the team following the aforementioned injury to Alphonso Davies. Hernandez has done well ever since, becoming a key player for the Bavarians on both sides of the ball.
Naturally a centerback, he’s been used at left back due to him being left footed. He took some time getting used to attacking down the wing, but Hernandez has already improved in that department. He’s quick enough to get by opposing defenders, and he knows how to cross the ball as well, with his assist to Lewandowski against Dortmund proving that.
The Frenchman is obviously solid defensively, which allows him to cover for Alaba whenever he pushes up the field. Hernandez has made the most of his chance in the lineup, and if he can keep up this form, then there will be no reason for Flick to take him out whenever Davies returns.
This has to be the game where Milot Rashica rediscovers himself for Bremen.
A true superstar at times last season, the winger lit up the Bundesliga. Constantly involved going forward, he was scoring and assisting on a weekly basis for the Green-Whites, including an absolute banger of a goal against Munich. These performances put him in the spotlight, and Rashica seemed set for a marquee move away the following summer.
For whatever reason, that never happened. The right offer just didn’t come in, as clubs across the continent failed to pay the right price. As a result, Rashica has stayed with Bremen, but he’s not been able to get going this campaign.
He missed the opening games of the season due to injury, and he’s been forced to settle for cameos off the bench as of late. Rashica did start last time out versus FC Koln, but he looked like a shell of himself, and had to be taken off at the hour mark.
Now, with an extra weekend off courtesy of the international break, Bremen will hope Rashica can finally be back to his very best. When he’s in good form, the Kosovo international is almost unstoppable. He’s so fast and so good on the ball, and he knows how to score from any angle or distance as well. However, when Rashica isn’t feeling it, he can disappear from games.
Which version of the player that shows up this Saturday remains to be seen, but if Rashica can finally get things going, then the Green-Whites might just have a chance.
Last time out
This fixture doesn’t tend to be a competitive one, but that wasn’t the case the last time these two sides last faced off.
Munich obviously controlled things early on, having most of the possession and creating some chances along the way. Bremen weren’t just parking the bus, though, as they hit a few times on the counter themselves.
The deadlock would be broken right before halftime. Jerome Boateng lofted a lovely chipped pass in behind the backline, picking out the run of Robert Lewandowksi. The Polish striker would do the rest, chesting the ball before rifling home a volley from close range.
The Bavarians came close to grabbing a second on several occasions, but just couldn’t convert. They would be dealt a blow with 10 minutes to go, as defender Alphonso Davies was sent off after being shown a second yellow card.
Bremen tried to make the most of the advantage, and they nearly equalized in the final few minutes. A superb cross from Fin Bartels found Yuya Osako in the box, and his flick on header seemed destined for the bottom corner. However, Manuel Neuer stepped up to the occasion, stretching out wide to make the impressive save.
That would clinch the three points for Munich, which was enough to seal the club’s eight straight Bundesliga title. Bremen were disappointed to come away with nothing despite the strong showing, but the confidence boost was key in their fight to avoid relegation, which was ultimately successful.
Where to watch
Those in the UK can watch the contest on BT Sport ESPN, while fans in the United States can see the game on ESPN+.