Basel - FC Bayern continued their impressive winter form with an easy 3-0 victory away at FC Basel, making it three victories and three clean sheets over the festive schedule.
The win was effectively settled in the opening quarter of an hour, as Mario Mandzukic and Bastian Schweinsteiger put the Bavarians 2-0 up, with Franck Ribery adding a third. There was also a sentimental return for who was back at his old club for the first time since joining Bayern last summer.
Given the game's 'friendly' nature, head coach Jupp Henyckes can be especially pleased with the hunger and energy his team showed. Coming after a 5-0 mauling of Schalke earlier in the week, Bayern raced into a 2-0 lead at St Jakob Park, as Mario Mandzukic poked home to add to his brace against the Royal Blues and Bastian Schweinsteiger curled in a peach of a second on twelve minutes.
The Reds then had at least four good opportunities to strike again, with Thomas Müller, Mario Gomez and Franck Ribery all being denied, before the latter made amends by finishing off a Mandzukic pass with a precise strike just before the break.
Shaqiri gets his moment
It was a similar story after the break, as Bayern dominated possession and restricted the home side, currently second in the Swiss Super League, to only a few half-chances. Ribery continued to terrorise the Basel defence, embarking on a series of weaving runs that almost brought a fourth goal, before Shaqiri was given a late run-out on his old stomping ground, helping the Reds to a comfortable win.
Yet the manner in which the victory was earned was far more important than the win itself. This was their third of five friendly games over the winter period and they are yet to concede, having struck twelve goals already. The win also strenghtens the momentum they have built up ahead of the resumption of the Bundesliga next weekend, when they host bottom club Greuther Fürth, with the chance to extend their nine-point advantage.
Challenge gathering pace
This game allowed Heynckes to field what will likely be his preferred eleven for the Bavarian derby with Fürth on Matchday 18. Mario Gomez being fit again is a bonus for the club, but fellow striker Mandzukic has been the man in form this season with nine goals to his name, including on his debut against the Bundesliga newcomers back in August.
Similarly, Arjen Robben, for whom the winter break in Qatar has been very productive for his return to fitness, and Shaqiri will both likely remain behind Thomas Müller in the pecking order. The Germany international also hit nine goals as well as making five assists in the first half of the season and looks to have the right-midfield spot nailed down.