Next up for FC Bayern Munich in their relentless pursuit of Bundesliga title number 22 is a meeting with the team who most consistently challenged them for domestic supremacy for much of the millennium's opening decade. Over the past few seasons however, Werder Bremen have slipped out of the league's elite group and the Hanseatic port club go into this one in an all-too familiar position of late, treading water mid-table. The latest setback came in the form of a 3-2 home loss to SC Freiburg, with a display Thomas Schaaf summarised as "far too wild." A nugget of hope for the long-standing coach ahead of the trip to the Allianz Arena lies in the ever-present possibility of his young guns corralling their undoubted talents into a performance capable of matching the best. They will, of course, have to do precisely that in Munich against the side currently the best in the league by a country mile. A 2-0 win at Wolfsburg left Bayern still sitting pretty, 15 points clear at the top at the end of Matchday 22 - and rounded their goal difference up to a cool +50 in the process.
In Focus I
FC Bayern's blend of big-money imports and homegrown talents appears to be approaching the pitch of perfection. falls into the latter category, although he had already turned out for FK Austria Wien's feeder team in the Austrian second flight before Bayern snapped him up for their youth programme in the summer of 2008. Just over a year and a half later, aged 17 years and 232 days, the Viennese supertalent became the youngest player ever to turn out for the Munich club in a competitive fixture when he came off the bench in a DFB Cup quarter-final victory over Greuther Fürth. The promise inherent in that statistic has, by way of a loan spell at 1899 Hoffenheim, come to full fruition. Switched from midfield to left back, Alaba is now a regular starter for the runaway league leaders - and showing every sign of developing into a future playmaker.
In Focus II
For one participant in particular, Borussia Dortmund's trip to their namesakes in Mönchengladbach this weekend has a very special resonance. returns for the first time to the stadium where he made his top-level breakthrough, and the home support at the Borussia Park will more than likely have a warm welcome in store for a player who took his leave of them last summer with plenty of happy memories on both sides. In the latter half of his three seasons at Gladbach, Reus experienced a roller-coaster ride that took the team from a seemingly hopeless position at the bottom of the standings to a place in the Champions League. Happy memories, for sure - but there is little room for sentiment in professional football. In the clubs' first campaign meeting, Reus chipped in with a brace as Dortmund dished out a 5-0 thumping to his erstwhile employers.