Bayern gets plaudits ahead of Hoffenheim

Posted by Susie Schaaf

Last season's treble-winning Bayern Munich have had a lovely week in the press: No FC Hollywood from this bunch! Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Manuel Neuer, Thomas Mueller and Franck Ribery made the Ballon d'Or short-list, while former Bayern trainer Jupp Heynckes garnered a nomination for FIFA World Coach of the Year. (As Dirty Tackle's Brooks Peck put it: "If Jupp Heynckes doesn't win that, there should be a riot."

Although many were puzzled that Bayern wing-back David Alaba was left off FIFA's short-list, the two-time Austrian Footballer of the Year can console himself by scooping up this year's Austrian Sportsman of the Year trophy. As a 21-year-old, with the talent he possesses, the Ballon d'Or short-list is certainly in his future.

- Report: Alaba wins top Austrian award
- Honigstein: Assessing Bayern's Ballon d'Or hopes

On top of all that, there was a great Schweinsteiger interview on Sport1 in which the Bayern talisman opined that he'd like to see himself, Mueller and Lahm take the Munich helm one day:

"It would be funny, if in 30 years, [we], rather than Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, were in charge." He continued: "Thomas would do all the talking, and Philipp and I would decide what to do!" Bild went on to post a hilarious photo of the trio of what they may look like in charge of Bayern Munich in the future.

Rested and happy, with two days off this week, Bayern Munich turn their attention to Hoffenheim on Saturday. Currently placed ninth in the Bundesliga, Hoffenheim's prolific offence (25 goals -- level with Dortmund) has only been undone by a dodgy defence (23 goals against -- level with Eintracht Braunschweig). Bayern, only having conceded six league goals this season, will look to improve their form over their ground-out win over Hertha Berlin last Saturday.

Then there's the matter of chasing records: Avoiding defeat on Saturday will equal the current Bundesliga record of 36 matches without losing, set by Hamburg (January 1982-83). Also, a club record is in play if Pep Guardiola's Bayern can manage a point or better: It would be the best start for a Bayern side since Branko Zebec's 1968-69 season when they claimed their maiden league title.

Injury woes still plague Guardiola, however, and his team selection is narrowed by his unlikeliness to risk either Toni Kroos or Robben -- the duo suffering groin strains early in the Hertha match. Talking to reporters on Friday the Bayern coach said:

"Toni is a bit further along than Arjen. They both trained yesterday. Perhaps they are not fit tomorrow, but next Tuesday or next Saturday they will be fit."

Centre-back Dante is still also questionable with a stitched-up ankle, so you're likely to see a pairing of Jerome Boateng and Daniel van Buyten in front of Neuer.

Hoffenheim coach Markus Gisdol also has a selection problem as midfielder Eugen Polanski, American defender Fabian Johnson, midfielder Tobias Strobl and forward Kevin Volland are all carrying knocks; the quartet only able to manage individual training on Wednesday. But he's optimistic, regardless, telling the team's website: "This situation is familiar to us. In the last few weeks, we've frequently had to find a solution, and we will do the same this time, too."

Noting that tickets for the match in the Rhine-Neckar Arena sold out minutes after becoming available Gisdol said: "It's a special game for us -- for Bayern not so much." But it's not the case, really, as Bayern have a record to match and a record to beat. Here's to hoping a somewhat relaxing week, and a frail Hoffenheim defence, garners positive results for the Rekordmeisters.


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