FC Bayern Munich will host the inaugural “Lame Duck Pokal” on Saturday when they host Hamburger SV. Let’s hope it doesn’t become an annual event (though I would like to see what a Lame Duck Pokal would look like). ESPN Deportes will air the match live at 9:30 a.m. Eastern, while ESPN3.com will also stream the match live. ESPN UK viewers get a delayed broadcast at 21:45 locally. Eurosport 2 viewers will get a delayed 60 minute broadcast beginning at 17:30 CET-check your local listings. The Bayern Offside Fan Chat will be right here–and you won’t want to miss it.
In perhaps the least surprising coaching change in the Bundesliga, it was announced this week that HSV coach Armin Veh will part ways with the club at season’s end. It’s been yet another season of mediocrity for HSV, recently punctuated by the humiliation of losing at home to St. Pauli. Last week against Mainz, if not for some interesting officiating and a few lucky bounces of the ball, the 4-2 defeat to Mainz could have been much worse.
Veh will need to rely on a lineup with 4 changes to make the difference in Munich, where HSV has played very well in recent years–last season’s 1-0 Bayern win was the first time HSV lost at the Allianz Arena. Injuries to Joris Mathijsen and Guy Demel mean that Heiko Westermann will shift to center back alongside Gojko Kacar, while Tomas Rincon gets the start at right back. Rincon has only seen 65 minutes of action in the new year. In summary, the HSV backline is now using as many spare parts and out-of-position players as Bayern’s.
Further up the pitch, David Jarolim will step into Westermann’s midfield role for his first minutes since the St. Pauli defeat. Without Van Bommel around to elbow and blow snot on him, Jarolim is likely to try get away with even more combative behavior than usual. On the left wing, Eljero Elia will try to provide the missing spark, stepping in for Marcel Jansen, who scored a phantom goal last week. Refreshingly, Piotr Trochowski is not expected to even make the squad for HSV. No matter how good or bad a season is going for Trochowski, he always seems to take special pleasure in playing well against his former club, so I count that as a nice omission.
The impetus to can Louis van Gaal never came from the players, and so this week has seen players saying all the right things rather than a torrent of complaints and jockeying for favor. Almost lost in the shuffle with the coaching announcement was the report that Breno faces a two match suspension for his red card in Hannover. With Anatoliy Tymoshchuk falling out of favor, Van Gaal is expected to go!! with yet another new center back pairing: Daniel van Buyten and Luiz Gustavo. Aside from spot duty following wacky substitutions, Gustavo has started 1 Bundesliga match at CB, earlier this season for Hoffenheim. As for Van Buyten, I am already warming up the jokes. But it is worth mentioning that he’s handled his journey from starter to last guy on the bench and back to starter with relative grace, which is more than he handles most attackers with.
While Badstuber is a possible starter at LB, Van Gaal, as you would expect, is more likely to go with Pranjic, while Schweinsteiger returns from suspension to pair with Kroos in the CDM. With Aogo and Elia bombing forward on HSV’s left and Robben and Lahm doing the same on Bayern’s right, Kroos and Ze Roberto figure to have an interesting battle on the fringe of those runs.
Like Dortmund and Bayern, HSV are very much a 2nd half team, scoring over 70% of their goals in the 2nd half of matches. Of course, the last time I pointed this out, Bayern and Dortmund combined to score 3 goals early in the first half of their match, so take it for what it’s worth.
You could gather a whole panel of psychologists and they would give you completely different answers about how these two teams will respond to their lame duck coaches and chances for the rest of the season. But I think the difference here is that Bayern still has something to play for, and on the whole, they have been excellent at home all season. I’d call this match another 0:0, but I don’t think either of these defenses is strong or lucky enough to keep a clean sheet at the moment. A draw will have seemed a fair result when it’s over, but Bayern will take the points.
FC Bayern Munich 2:1 Hamburger SV