Unless you go by the name of BATE Borisov, then games against Bayern this season have been far from pleasant affairs. Eight consecutive wins - a new Bundesliga record from the start of the season - and only a paltry two goals conceded make Bayern, this year more than ever before, the trailblazers on the domestic scene.
Only that one blot on the copybook in the Champions League in Belarus has detracted from a sensational start to the season for Jupp Heynckes’ side, who will look to further their claim to a 23rd Bundesliga title come May by extending an equally emphatic record against Bayer Leverkusen.
Not since October 1989 have Leverkusen come away with three points from their trips to Munich, and that was only one of two wins ever in the Bavarian capital. High time for that record to be adjusted, according to their coach Sami Hyypiä: "We’ll give it our best to take something from Munich, which would be very good."
Short, then the sweet
"It is going to be tough for us, but you never know - anything is possible in football" - even winning 4-0 in front of 50,000 hostile fans, which is what Leverkusen did at the Ernst-Happel Stadion against Rapid Vienna in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday. "We played well from the very beginning," said Hyypiä. "It was good to see that we peformed for the full 90 minutes. I think that gives us confidence for the future because we saw how many goals we can score."
Bayern also gained a boost from their midweek win over LOSC Lille, a result which keeps them in the chase for a place in the knockout stage of the UEFAChampions League. Keeping in line with what is already a record-breaking season, club chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge made his post-match banquet address more concise than ever on Tuesday night. "It was hardly one for the history books," he said, before opening the buffet. "Let’s just say it was a hard-fought win."
Heynckes, who led Leverkusen to second spot in 2011 before moving to Bayern that summer, rotated his team once again in France, meaning he has now fielded 13 different starting XIs in 13 competitive matches, and the likelihood is he will have to get the thinking cap on again on Sunday after Franck Ribery and Javi Martinez both picked up knocks in France. "Things are not looking very good with Franck," admitted Heynckes. "He is far too valuable to risk him getting an injury."
Ribery is set to be given a watching brief, then, a role that Arjen Robben has been used to in recent weeks. Thankfully for the club, the Dutchman's latest injury struggle is reaching its conclusion, as he has stepped up his comeback this week. “It is very positive that he is pain-free and available once again,” said Heynckes, no doubt relieved that he is able to alleviate Ribery's absence by picking the 62-time Netherlands international.
FC Bayern Munich: Neuer - Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Badstuber - Luiz Gustavo, Schweinsteiger - Müller, Kroos, Shaqiri - Mandzukic
Bayer 04 Leverkusen: Leno - Schwaab, Toprak, Wollscheid, Castro - Hosogai - Rolfes, Bender - Bellarabi, Schürrle - Kießling