Munich - After seeing their 23-game unbeaten run in all competitions come to an end during midweek, the last thing FC Bayern Munich would have wanted is to face the only Bundesliga side to have beaten them all season on Saturday (kick-off 18:30 CET).
Bayer 04 Leverkusen stunned Bayern, bringing an end to their perfect, record-breaking start to the season on Matchday 9 courtesy of a narrow 2-1 win at the Allianz Arena.
Bayern have dropped only six league points since then, as they've run away at the top of the table in their bid to secure a 22nd Bundesliga title win. However, a 2-0 loss on home soil to Arsenal FC on Wednesday sent shockwaves through the record champions, who have the chance to provide the perfect response at the BayArena. “We’ve got to do better than that on Wednesday,” said club chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
“We're going to have to improve if we want to survive there,” he added. The midweek defeat fortunately didn't prevent Bayern reaching the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League, but midfielder Thomas Müller felt the experience could ultimately prove to be a positive for his side. “We may have won all of our games recently, but the authority we've played with has been missing in the last two Bundesliga matches,” he said.
Heynckes is therefore going to ring in the changes, announcing on Friday that captain Philipp Lahm, Müller and Mario Mandzukic will all be given “a deserved break”, while Franck Ribery is not going to be risked after recently injuring his ankle. As a result Rafinha and Xherdan Shaqiri are expected to feature in the first XI, while Heynckes decided to keep his cards close to his chest when it came to who will lead the line up front, hinting only that it cannot be taken for granted that Mario Gomez will start.
Instead, the Bundesliga’s top all-time foreign goalscorer Claudio Pizarro could make a rare starting appearance with Heynckes already turning his attention towards a difficult run-in, which includes crucial Champions League and DFB Cup encounters after a two-week international break. “This game is already quite a good preparation for Juventus,” said Heynckes, likening his former club’s tactics to those of the Serie A champions. “We need to build the tension back up which has disappeared somewhat lately.”
Leverkusen’s coach Sami Hyypiä is not paying any attention to Heynckes’ talk of change, knowing that his side will need to produce a top performance if they want to complete a prestigious league double. “It’s definitely going to be difficult for us,” he said. “We’re going to have to give it our best and be 100 per cent in every department because if we give any less, then we don't stand a chance.”
Rotation is not likely to be on Hyypiä’s mind, meanwhile, as his charges sharpen their focus on finishing inside the top three of the Bundesliga. Considering their elimination from the UEFA Europa League leaves them without distraction, the Finn will be calling for one last push from Stefan Kießling and Co. ahead of the international break, and three points would be a welcome reward.
Bayer Leverkusen: Leno - Carvajal, Wollscheid, Schwaab, Kadlec - Bender, Reinartz, Rolfes - Castro, Kießling, Schürrle
Bayern Munich: Neuer - Rafinha, van Buyten, Dante, Alaba - Javi Martinez, Schweinsteiger - Shaqiri, Kroos, Robben - Gomez