Can you hear it?
That’s the winter break. It’s near. Just three more laps until the year is finished. We start with Stuttgart, the league’s eternal late bloomer that’s been alarmingly okay so far.
In case you expect a few words about the match against Manchester City: Meh. And Jörg Butt was rather awesome.
Let’s leave the past behind. Every single Bundesliga match matters at the moment, whether it’s against Dortmund or Augsburg. 19 wins and Bayern wins the league, simple as that.
“Simple”. The last few weeks haven’t been too encouraging aside from the last 30 minutes against Bremen. Or, on a more positive note, Bayern has been pretty outstanding in the last 30 minutes. Let’s add another 90 minutes before the inevitable 0-0 against Köln happens.
Quite a few players are doubtful but should be fit enough to play, namely Mario Gomez, Daniel van Buyten, Toni Kroos, Arjen Robben and Thomas Müller. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Breno are sidelined, as usual, and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk is back after the 3-match ban.
Stuttgart, the opponent on Sunday (don’t forget), has to deal with one big problem: they’re out of right-backs. Both the former Bayern player Stefano Celozzi and the Dutch cannibal Khalid Boulahrouz are injured. The man to stop Monsieur Ribery is Arthur Boka, a left back from Cote d’Ivoire. Veteran center back and team captain Mathieu Delpierre is still not fit enough to play, Zdravko Kuzmanovic lost his starting spot for now after his replacement Christian Gentner scored twice last week. I expect the lineups to look like this:
Boateng – van Buyten – Badstuber – Lahm
Tymoshchuk – Kroos
Robben – Müller – Ribery
Okazaki – Hajnal – Harnik
Gentner – Kvist
Molinaro – Maza – Tasci – Boka
Two more facts about this Stuttgart team:
- The wingers score most of their goals. Martin Harnik (6 goals) and Shinji Okazaki aren’t less dangerous in front of the goal than striker Cacau (4 goals).
- Defensive/central midfielder William Kvist, who hasn’t missed a second of action so far, might be the signing of the Bundesliga season. Based on kicker’s average ratings, it’s not even close: Kvist, the 16th best player with an average of 2.83, is miles ahead of the next import which, funnily, is Maza (3.39) who also plays for Stuttgart. The only player who switched clubs to beat Kvist in this ranking is Bernd Leno. Former employer? Stuttgart.
Why did I call Stuttgart the eternal late bloomer? Let’s take a look at the average position in the table of the last 5 seasons, first half and second half of the season each.
Until winter break: 10.8
After winter break: 2.6
From mediocrity to Champions League, quite a difference, isn’t it? They’re currently 7th, that would be the second-best result of the last 6 seasons (4th in title-winning 06/07 season). Let’s make sure that they won’t get close to that this year, shall we?