Thomas Müller (m.) wrapped up another efficient victory for FC Bayern away to traditional southern rivals Stuttgart last weekend...
Thomas Müller (m.) wrapped up another efficient victory for FC Bayern away to traditional southern rivals Stuttgart last weekend...

Egos on hold as Bayern bid to end trophy drought

Munich - Even by their own current supercharged standards, FC Bayern Munich have a hectic few weeks ahead of them.

Hitting new defensive heights

Arsenal FC have to be negotiated in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, as do Borussia Dortmund - who beat them 5-2 in last season's final - in the DFB Cup. All that, of course, alongside maintaining the relentless pursuit of their first Bundesliga title in three years and 22nd overall.

The next hurdle Bayern face on that front is an intriguingly tricky one, away to 1. FSV Mainz 05 on Saturday. Much to even their own surprise, perhaps, Mainz are currently flying high in fifth place and their young coach Thomas Tuchel has an impressive record over the past few years against the Munich star ensemble - a 3-2 victory in the equivalent fixture last season, for example.

Since then, however, Bayern have added several new strings to their already impressive bow. First and foremost, there has been precious little evidence thus far of the defensive frailties that have plagued them in recent campaigns. Indeed, just seven goals conceded in the opening 19 games establishes a new Bundesliga benchmark and the outstanding form of centre-back has undoubtedly been a defining factor in that remarkable statistic.

World-class alternatives

The former Borussia Mönchengladbach defensive coordinator's rock-solid play has earned him a debut call-up for Brazil at the age of 29 and in Saturday's 2-0 victory at southern rivals VfB Stuttgart, he was once again partnered at the back by the even more experienced Daniel van Buyten. The 34-year-old Belgian international has stepped impeccably up to the mark despite having had minimal first-team playing time in the opening half of the season and his contribution serves to underscore Bayern's genuine strength-in-depth these days.

Coach Jupp Heynckes has made clear that "once we get into the Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday rhythm, we'll be rotating the team". Holger Badstuber's long-term injury and Jerome Boateng's suspension from the upcoming Champions League game at Arsenal have given van Buyten the chance he has duly seized, but in other departments the record champions have a surfeit of absolutely top-drawer options. Luiz Gustavo, for one, has for the most part excelled whenever given an opportunity - but competing with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Bundesliga record signing Javier Martinez for a defensive midfield berth, those opportunities have been understandably limited for the technically-gifted Brazil international this term.

Supreme efficiency

Further up the pitch, Bayern possess an even greater embarrassment of riches - so much so that former first-team regulars Arjen Robben and Mario Gomez, to say nothing of veteran Peruvian ace Claudio Pizarro, are at times having to make do with bit-part roles these days. Needless to say, it is a potentially frustrating situation for names of such calibre but as far as Heynckes is concerned, "winning is our priority, not whether any particular player's getting a 20-minute run-out".

Sporting director Matthias Sammer is equally adamant that every squad member, however high his profile, has to knuckle down and get on with it for the greater good, stressing: "I don't want to see egotism raising its head in any shape or form and sparking unnecessary debate." A pre-emptive reminder that no player is bigger than the club and in the wake of last season's ultimate shortfall on three separate fronts, that philosophy has been given an added edge.

Angus Davison