An Inter win? A Bayern win? A draw? All three results, you can argue, would have been apt. Although I would give the slight edge to Bayern, only for the lengthy periods which the midfield controlled the ball. And I was correct in my suppostion that the match would be won in the holding midfield, I only got the personnel wrong. And boy, was I ever happy to get that incorrect.
I was supposing that Toni Kroos was 90 minutes match fit, which he evidently wasn't. Bastian Schweinsteiger was partnered, instead, with Luis Gustavo. And what a partnership it was! The two of them effectively shutting down anything that Snedjier brought their way. Wesley Snedjier, in fact, was so rattled he received a card for whining at the officials. Our DM's cut off the top of Leonardo's Christmas tree 4-3-2-1 formation, leaving Samuel Eto'o flailing at the top, trying to make too much of what little came his way.
The only knocks on the two that I can think of were Gustavo's late silly booking (temper, temper!) and Basti's giving up possesion at the top of the box that nearly resulted in a Cambiasso goal.
I was dismayed, of course, to see Danjiel Pranjic's name in the starting 11, which was only eased by me seeing him start as a defensive winger, instead of in the middle of the pitch. And, I have to hand it to him, his first 20 minutes, before he went out injured, were stellar. I was starting to feel bad for the unkind things I had said about him in the last blog. Not bad enough to rescind, mind you...
When he went out injured, I was curious to see what Louis van Gaal would do. (Again, WWLVGD?) Not having Contento available, meant that someone would be playing out of position. Thankfully, he chose correctly and did not pull Gustavo from his holding midfield spot, instead moving Holger Badstuber out to the wing and partnering Breno and Tymo in central defense.
Just when I was about to say that the biggest knock on van Gaal was his... obstreperousness? being Dutch? ...no, his inability to correctly evaluate defensive talent. He got it right this time. Breno's size and pace matched up much better against Samuel Eto'o than Badstuber's. And it also kept Badstuber out of the Cameroon international's direct firing line. Winning decision all around.
Arjen Robben was definitely the better winger of the Robbery combination. Not that Ribery was bad, but he was trying waaaaaay too hard. Too fancy. And giving up posession to Maicon far too often. I'm thinking his mindest was "I'm gonna show you how awesome we could have been last May if I didn't get that stupid red card." I was hoping he'd settle down in the second half, but that never happened.
And, what do you say about Mr. Robben? It's so hard to write a Bayern blog that he's not the focus of. Chivu had absolutely no answer for him. None. And had to resort to flailing his hands in the Dutchman's face and jersey-pulling; only to be made to look even more ridiculous with that headgear on. Correct me if I'm wrong, but shouldn't that chin strap be shut?
But, when all things are said and done, the hero of the match was goalkeeper Thomas Kraft. Excellent, excellent work from Bayern's new number one. Saved brilliantly against Cambiasso and Eto'o in the first half, and against Eto'o again in the second as well as attempts by Kharja and Motta. His reaction time is, without a doubt, much faster than Hans Joerg Butt's. And his positioning on set pieces and corners is rapidly improving. Now, I'm not quite ready to say we don't need Neuer next season, but his present play is certainly leading people to that conclusion. This will bear out, of course, the deeper we get in to all three competitions.
And briefly now, with little chance to relax and recover, we face the sternest test of the Bundesliga season as we host Dortmund on Saturday. Is everyone else as wiped as Bayern must be?
Juergen Klopp may have to do without goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller, who sprained a knee training this week, and instead would have to rely on Australian keeper Mitchell Langerak. He is also without midfielders Shinji Kagawa and Jakub (can I buy a vowel?) Blaszczykowski. Lucas Barrios, unfortunately for us, has returned to training and should be available to start for the Schwartzgelben.
On die Roten's side, LvG will have a full squad to select from, with the exception, of course, of Ivica Olic. However, Diego Contento and Toni Kroos are yet to be fully fit. If Danjiel Pranjic is available, I'd expect the starting XI to be the same that lined up mid-week against the Italians.
Of note: Dortmund has not won in Munich since 1991. Let's keep that record going, shall we?
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