The following article refers to an older Munich-Hoffenheim game. Read all about the latest Bayern Munich v Hoffenheim game.
Bayern Munich take on TSG Hoffenheim in the most anticipated game in the Bundesliga this season. Soccerlens takes a closer look at who will come out on top.
The German tabloids must be thanking Dietmar Hopp and the Lord (in that order, precisely) for handing them at least one week’s headlines on a golden plate. This week’s top of the table clash of the Bundesliga includes everything a writer wishes for (except for the sex, but this part of the gossip columns is firmly in the hands of Werder Bremen’s Diego and singer Sarah Connor): old money vs. new one, established club vs. newcomer, international stars vs. unknowns, the record titleholder vs. those aspiring to get that trophy off him and who, at least at this precise moment, are top of the Bundesliga.
But let’s leave philosophy and history aside for a moment (not even the tabloids expect Gerd Müller to get a game on Friday, no matter how bad Podolski’s and Klose’s form is); the two clubs challenging for the title of the “Herbstmeister” are interesting enough in their current form to warrant a closer look.
Comparing Jürgen Klinsmann to Ralf Rangnick is unfair, isn’t it?
On the one hand you have Germany’s national hero who transformed the dismal national team into a functioning unit that came way closer to the World Cup finals than most Germans expected. He’s one of the few coaches who actually have a nickname (“Klinsi”), the only man close to challenging him in that area being Joachim “Jogi” Löw.
On the other hand you have a man called “the football professor” (note the difference?) who all of Germany got to know when he described the flat back four to a stunned public during a football talk show. He enjoyed various stints at Bundesliga highlights such as Ulm, Hannover 96 or Schalke “50 years without a league title” 04 before signing for 1899 Hoffenheim in 2006.
These background differences, however, also seem to be the only ones between the two coaches. Both are contributing to finally make Germany arrive in the modern age of football (the medieval days of sweepers sometimes still tend to resurface), both are preferring a fast, fluid style to ten strong players behind the ball, both teams are, nowadays, the ne plus ultra in German football, the teams you need to win against if you want to go top. Attack before defence. As long as you score four goals, letting in three doesn’t matter.
It’s difficult to say who of them will have the upper hand on Friday. Rangnick clearly is the more experienced one, but Klinsmann has made very good progress with Bayern during the last couple of weeks, and both teams are definitely up for it.
But also comparing Bayern Munich’s team to Hoffenheim’s is unfair, isn’t it?
Ribéry. Klose. Toni. Schweinsteiger. Lahm. Lucio. Van Buyten. A Lukas Podolski only sitting on the bench (if rumours are to be trusted, he’ll be back at Cologne in February). A Tim Borowski getting fifteen-minute sub-appearances at most. A team worth a wet dream and millions.
As for the Hoffenheim players… how are they called again? Ibisevic? Ba? Obasi? Names which everyone used to struggle with during the first weeks of the season are by now nearly as well known as those of the Bayern aces. They might not have the international honours yet but, as they’ve shown impressively, they are a force that needs to be reckoned with.
Both teams’ most important players are found in the attacking roles: Bayern Munich depend on Franck Ribéry’s good form as much as Hoffenheim do on Ibisevic’s goals. Be it the front four of Toni, Klose, Ribéry and Schweinsteiger or the front three of Ba, Obasi and Ibisevic, these men haunt defenders in their sleep.
Therefore, the battle could well be decided not in attack — both teams are capable of scoring more than a couple of goals — but rather in defence. Whoever manages to keep the opponent’s strikers out of the game has a very good chance of going away with all the three points.
Here, in my opinion, the clear advantage lies with Bayern. Hoffenheim, for all their attacking flair, have been shown to be very inexperienced in defence (letting in five against Werder Bremen), and while Bayern certainly aren’t the home of a world class defence, they do have the strong men capable of holding Hoffenheim at bay. Particularly van Buyten in the defensive midfield role will be burning with the desire to impress Klinsmann after being left out of the team already a few times this season.
As we all know, fans can play a crucial part in a team’s success (Liverpool vs. Chelsea in the 2005 Champions League semi final anyone?). Therefore, it would be only logical to assume that this hands Bayern Munich a crucial advantage; their fans should be roaring and fired up to defend their traditional first place against the newcomers.
But, as regular Bundesliga viewers should remember, the Bayern fans aren’t really the most supportive or patient lot. It wasn’t unusual to see the team whistled off the pitch at half time at the start of the season, or to just witness a bizarrely quiet stadium whenever the players would need the support most.
As weird as it sounds, Hoffenheim might actually have an advantage by playing away. Their away support, though not too numerous, is an awesome lot, loud and witty, old fans of the club who still can’t believe that they’re actually seeing their team play a Bundesliga game, whereas their home crowd is mainly made up of curious bystanders wanting to be entertained.
If Bayern go one goal behind, not only will they have a hard time getting back into the game, it will be made even more difficult by their own fans. A tradition of winning has created a generation of fans unwilling to accept anything but success, and unwilling to support a losing team.
If I had to bet on one result, I’d say 2-1 for Bayern. The team’s experience, particularly in defence, will keep Hoffenheim, if not quiet, then at least at a sufficient distance from goal. It’s a huge game for the village club and I’m not entirely sure if their players have the right mentality for this “all or nothing” kind of game.
And, last but not least, we mustn’t forget the famous “Bayerndusel” (lit.: Bayern fluke) which, during their last forty-odd years in the Bundesliga, has guaranteed them more victories than any amazing players.