Even though German giants Bayern Munich are behind 1-0 in their Champions League tie with FC Basel, Die Roten are feeling very confident that they can overcome the slender deficit and go through to the quarterfinals. And why shouldn’t they.
Bayern Munich rejoiced in the return of Bastian Schweinsteiger to the lineup over the weekend, coming in as a substitute in a 7-1 thrashing over TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. The midfielder missed over a month of action due to an ankle injury and wasn’t expected to come back this season. However the ankle progressed much quicker than the original diagnosis and Schweinsteiger should be in the starting 11 for Bayern. Schweinsteiger is vital to the Bayern cause as he can control the game from the midfield with his accurate passing and surging runs. He is to Bayern Munich what Xavi and Andreas Iniesta are to Barcelona.
Schweinsteiger’s presence will create space for Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben who will push forward and create pressure on Basel’s back four. Ribery’s creative flair combined Robben’s efficient finishing could spell doom for the Swiss title holders.
Striker Mario Gomez is doubtful for the match due to a shin injury so expect Thomas Muller and Ivica Olic to partner up front for Bayern. Gomez will be missed but when Muller is on his game, he can be score with brutal efficiency.
The back four has been a constant for Bayern as the ever reliable Philipp Lahm captains the back. Jerome Boateng is another solid defender for Bayern but was pulled as a precaution over the weekend due to a muscle pull. He should be ready to go on Tuesday but look for Basel to possibly exploit the young German international.
Manuel Neuer is the last line of defence for Bayern and his play has improved after some early season struggles.
While Basel hold a slender lead going into Allianz Arena, they will have to deal with a stronger Bayern side than they faced in Switzerland a fortnight ago. But don’t count out the Bebbi yet. Basel have already knocked out British heavyweights Manchester United in the Group Stage so playing giant killer is nothing new to this side.
Up front the partnership of Alexander Frei and Marco Streller have produced some magical moments for Basel. Both scored in their famous win over Manchester United and both players are difficult to defend against.
The midfield is also strong, led by Valentin Stocker. The Swiss International scored the lone goal in Basel’s first leg victory at St. Jakob-Park just four minutes from time. Fabien Frei is a superb attacking midfielder, showing class and proficiency from the centre. Xherdan Shaqiri was named man of the match in the first leg and he will have to show the same form for Basel to go through. Benjamin Huggel is the leader of the midfield and his poise and presence are crucial for Basel.
The main concern for Basel is the back four. South Korean International Park Joo-Ho did not play over the weekend due to a calf problem so his mobility will be limited at best. Kay Voser will miss the match due to an ankle knock. This will put pressure on Philipp Degen and Aleksander Dragovic to be even more staunch and sturdy than usual. Expect Shaqiri and Huggel to drop back further than normal for Basel as Bayern will attack from all sides.
Yann Sommer is a terrific keeper who’s been nothing short of brilliant in the Champions League for Basel. He will be called upon to be exceptional once again if Basel are to see the quarterfinals.
Even though Bayern are behind, the return of Schweinsteiger is huge for the Germans. Muller can make up for Gomez’s absence and Robben and Ribery will put pressure on Basel. The back four for Basel is a worrisome spot and I expect Bayern will exploit that weakness. Finally Allianz Arena is an intimidating venue for visitors as Bayern have won 11 out of their last 12 Champions League matches at home. I expect the same here as I’m picking Bayern to win 3-1 and advance to the quarterfinals.
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