Not wholly-inspiring Bayern capture Audi Cup

Posted by Susie Schaaf

While there's a trophy at the end of the Audi Cup competition, three of the four teams largely used the two days of matches to fine tune their squads for their respective seasons -- Sao Paulo perhaps coming from a different angle as the Brazilian team are almost ten matches in to theirs.

Bayern Munich came away with another pre-season cup, defeating Sao Paulo 2-0 on Wednesday, and coming from behind on Thursday to triumph over Manchester City 2-1.

While Bayern supporters agonized once again about starting line-ups and back door stories, out of the four matches played over two days in the Allianz Arena, the most entertaining had to be the Manchester City versus AC Milan semi-final.

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While some might call the first half of that one explosive, at the beginning it looked anything but as I mused: "Are City that good? Or Milan that bad?" A bit of both, as it turned out.

Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola stuck with his 4-1-4-1 formation for Bayern's opening match against Sao Paulo, but with different personnel than the ones defeated by Borussia Dortmund in the Supercup. Thiago Alcantara sat out with a slight knock (and I wonder if it had anything to do with "the slap"), as Bastian Schweinsteiger got his first start in holding midfield since last year's Champions League final. Former holding midfielder, Javi Martinez, was used in central defence in lieu of Daniel van Buyten, while Franck Ribery overcame his knock to start on the left wing.

The stats in the first half are telling: Bayern Munich had nearly 75% possession, but could do nothing with it. That parked Sao Paulo bus was hard to crack. Numerous chances by Arjen Robben, Schweinsteiger, Ribery and David Alaba were saved by Sao Paulo's 40-year-old keeper Rogerio Ceni. But, the best chance in the first half fell to Claudio Pizarro, only to have Rafael Toloi clear off the line.

It would take Mario Mandzukic subbing in for Pizarro to be the difference-maker in this match, scoring at the back post from a Robben floater and Dante flick. Pretty passing was mostly the rule of the day, and a lovely pitch-long, one-touch exchange between Alaba, Ribery and substitute Thomas Mueller should've resulted in the second goal for Munich.

Instead, a very Beavis-looking Mitch Weiser scored the second with four minutes remaining as Xherdan Shaqiri's shot hammered off the post, rebounding straight to Weiser who controlled and stroked home.

The Brazilians might have pulled one back after a silly Jerome Boateng foul on Lucas Evangelista in the box brought Sao Paulo's keeper Ceni up to the spot to face Manuel Neuer, but Neuer would win the battle of the goalkeepers -- pushing away Ceni's low drive.

With Manchester City winning 5-3 against Milan, and Bayern 2-0, the teams met on Thursday for the Audi Cup final after Milan had won the third-place match, beating Sao Paulo 1-0 courtesy of Kingsley Boateng (no relation to his team-mate, or that team-mate's brother).

Manuel Pellegrini made nine changes to the side that faced Milan the day before, while Pep Guardiola would only make two: Thiago was back in the midfield, while Thomas Mueller got a start. Guardiola kept Martinez as a centre-back to disastrous effect, as he was beaten by Alvaro Negredo, the lone scorer for City, several times throughout the match.

I know it's pre-season, but this match may have been closer than it should have.

Tallest-keeper-in-the-Premiere-League Costel Pantilimon did well in the first half to deny Ribery early, also saving a Kroos rocket and a couple of Robben drives, before ex-Fiorentina man Stevan Jovetic got close twice, while Negredo couldn't get a proper head on to James Milner's crosses.

Samir Nasri thought he'd the opener after the half, only to be called offside, as Negredo kept hammering at Bayern's defence and Neuer -- finally scoring for Manchester City after a Nasri pass. Undaunted, Bayern wouldn't break. And when Pablo Zabaleta handled in the box, Thomas Mueller sent Pantilimon the wrong way to equalise.

Boateng, making up for his snafu against Sao Paulo, released Mueller for a cross which Mandzukic headed in for the match winner. And the Audi cup stays with Pep Guardiola, winner of the previous tournament with Barcelona.

While it's lovely to win another cup, I don't know of one single Bayern supporter that's at ease with the changes that Guardiola has brought to Bayern. This flexible 4-1-4-1 / 4-3-3 looks great on paper, but it doesn't exactly -- at this point -- play to the strengths of the team. Thiago is not (yet) a holding midfielder. Javi Martinez looks very uncomfortable in the centre-back position. Philipp Lahm belongs at right (or left) back, although in his case, he was fantastic in midfield.

But, the worst part -- a player in Luiz Gustavo, who said he wanted to stay at Bayern -- is now ready to do a complete turn-around and leave the club. That single pivot ruins a lot of guy's chances. And marginalizes a lot of players.

I'm not saying it all won't work out. But, there's blood in the water. Meanwhile, enjoy the Audi Cup trophy.

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