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Welcome to the Munich fear festival

After Bayern Munich comfortably beat Manchester City in their last Champions League outing the Germans travel to Naples for part one of their double header against Napoli.

The Germans top Group 4 with six points, two points ahead of Walter Mazzarri’s side, and will be looking to maintain their impressive form.

The Bavarians thrashed newly promoted Hertha Berlin 4-0 in Saturday’s Bundesliga clash in Munich. Another clean sheet for Manuel Neuer (pictured) meant that the Germany No.1 has not conceded a goal in Bayern colours for an incredible 1,108 minutes. 

The record German champions are currently top the Bundesliga table five points ahead of Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Demanding fans

Bayern are always obligated to win the Bundesliga by the hierarchy at the club as well as the demanding fans but this year there is extra motivation for Jupp Heynckes’ side as this seasons Champions League Final is being held at the Allianz Arena.

It has been 10 years since Stefan Effenberg captained Bayern to their last European title and it is about time that Bayern added a fifth European Cup to their collection.

Franck Ribery recently said that this is Bayern’s strongest squad since he joined in 2007 and few could argue with that assessment.

Oliver Kahn’s replacement has finally been found in the shape of Neuer. The 25-year-old is a world class goalkeeper as he showed for Schalke in last seasons Champions League semi-final first leg against Manchester United. That performance prompted Sir Alex Ferguson to say: “That was the best performance I have ever seen by a goalkeeper against us.”

Settled in

Neuer’s former Schalke team mate Rafinha was signed from Genoa in the summer and the right-back has settled in quickly into life in Munich.

Holger Badstuber is Bayern’s first choice centre-back. The towering defender looks more at home in the middle of the back four after often being deployed at left-back by Louis Van Gaal.

Jerome Boateng was signed from Manchester City following failed bids to re-sign Mats Hummels from Borussia Dortmund and Schalke captain Benedikt Höwedes. Boateng did not enjoy his time at Eastlands often being played at full-back instead of his favoured centre-back role. Injuries saw the 23-year-old make only 16 Premier League starts.

Belgium captain Daniel Van Buyten has been given the nod ahead of Boateng for most of the season and the veteran defender has been in good form and  has already scored some important goals.

Switched

Due to the signing of Rafinha, Philipp Lahm has switched to left-back where he first came to prominence nearly a decade ago.

Van Gaal’s decision to convert Bastian Schweinsteiger from an attacking midfielder into a holding midfielder has proved to be a masterstroke. The 27-year-old is a truly world class midfielder as he showed when occupying the same role for Germany at last years World Cup.

Since Mark Van Bommel’s January transfer to AC Milan, Schweinsteiger has been partnerd by Anatoliy Tymoschuk, Luiz Gustavo and Toni Kroos.

Heynckes seems to favour Kroos, who is a Number 10 by trade, although with Arjen Robben out injured more often than not Kroos has played most of his games in attacking midfield.

Bayern are at their best with Robben on the right, Ribery on the left and Thomas Müller in the free role.

Lone striker

Mario Gomez occupies the lone striker role and former Stuttgart hitman has scored an amazing 38 Bundeliga goals in his last 40 Bundesliga games.

There are doubts about an adequate replacement for Gomez should he get injured. Ivica Olic spends more time on the treatment table than on the football pitch and rookie 21-year-old Nils Petersen has less than 10 Bundesliga appearances to his name.

With Gomez scoring for fun and the attacking threat of Robben, Ribery and Müller there is always going to be goals in this team.

Bayern still lack a centre-back in the same class as Manchester United’s Nemanja Vidic or Barcelona’s Gerard Pique and that could be their achilles heal.

Van Buyten is past his best while Boateng is still too raw. Badstuber looks a promising prospect but still lacks the experience at the highest level.

One thing you can be sure of is that come May, Bayern will be there or thereabouts domestically as well as in the Champions League.

By Dominic Curtis 


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