Heynckes' swan song begins against Fuerth

Posted by Susie Schaaf

It's been kind of a whirlwind week, eh? Just the announcement of Pep Guardiola to Bayern Munich has already raised the club's - and the Bundesliga's - profile across the world. There will be many new faces paying attention to this club and this league for the second half of the season, our Rueckrunde, to see what all the fuss is about.

But while exciting times are just around the corner, they are also already here! The retiring Jupp Heynckes has marshalled his squad through a very excellent first half, suffering just two losses (to BATE Borisov and Bayer Leverkusen) along the way. In 27 matches die Roten have scored 71 goals, conceding only 15, and are nine points on top of the Bundesliga.

And after a long but fruitful winter break, the Bundesliga is back! Bayern's first match of the second half sees relegation-fodder SpVgg Gruether Fuerth visit the chilly confines of the Allianz Arena Saturday.

While the other two sides promoted to the Bundesliga's top level this season, Eintracht Frankfurt and Fortuna Duesseldorf, are doing well - indeed, Frankfurt is currently in fourth, level on points with Borussia Dortmund and eyeing a Champions League spot - the first half did not go the way the Cloverleaves would have liked.

Their sole win of the Hinrunde was on Matchday Two against Mainz, and they currently sit at the bottom of the table on nine points, level with fellow Bavarians Augsburg.

Ten points from relegation safety, Fuerth manager Mike Bueskens is not giving up, adding reinforcements over the winter break. On the defensive side, they've acquired right back Matthias Zimmerman on loan from Moenchengladbach and keeper Tom Mickel from Hamburg. Offensively, striker Kingsley Onuegbu returns from a Sandhausen loan, and Nikola Djurdjic joins the team from Norwegian side FK Haugesund. Additionally, Jung-Bin Park joins the midfield, on loan from Wolfsburg for the rest of this season through next.

Despite all the new signings, Bueskens is dealing with a rash of absences: Nikola Djurdjic, Heinrich Schmidtgal, Edgar Prib and Michael Hefele are all injured, while captain Mergim Mavraj is suspended.

Regardless of their starting XI, expect die Kleeblaetter to defend, defend, defend. Parking the bus and taking the odd foray forward is the only chance they'll have to secure a point which they desperately need. And remember, it worked against Bayern their first time out. Well, for 42 minutes, anyway.

Jupp being Jupp means we'll have no idea of Bayern's starting XI until it's released before kickoff. But I can guarantee you three things, at least. Long-term absentee Holger Badstuber won't be in the squad, and Dante and Manuel Neuer will start. As to the rest, we'll just have to wait.

This is the beginning of Jupp Heynckes' swan song. The beginning of the Rueckrunde. This is not about Pep. Not just yet. The quest for the treble begins now. Auf gehts!

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