Frankfurt/Munich - Armin Veh is nothing if not a realist. Speaking to bundesliga.com at Eintracht Frankfurt's pre-season training camp, the head coach warned that in light of the team's "very tough schedule" at the start of the season, "we're going to have a battle on our hands to avoid slipping towards the lower reaches of the table. That's not being pessimistic, it's purely the way it is."
Indeed. A 6-1 drubbing at newly-promoted Hertha BSC Berlin on the opening matchday would be a heavy blow to recover from in the best of circumstances. But a follow-up game against FC Bayern Munich is, on the face of it, a cruel trick of scheduling fate - the German and European champions, fresh from a campaign-opening victory over Borussia Mönchengladbach which leaves them within a game of equalling their cross-season club record of 27 Bundesliga outings unbeaten.
"We won't exactly be going into this one brimming over with confidence," admitted Veh, whose problems on the back of that shaky showing in the capital have been exacerbated by the possible unavailability of defensive duo Carlos Zambrano (stomach bug) and Sebastian Jung (adductor strain).
The coach is not, at any rate, seeking the reasons for Frankfurt's poor start in the switch from last season's highly successful 4-2-3-1 formation to 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield. Neither, it seems, are the players, with Sebastian Rode - one of the more solid performers at Hertha - pointing out that "the system's secondary if you neglect the basics, like tackling and putting in the legwork."
New system at Bayern, too
Both those attributes will be required in abundance against an FC Bayern side who, while themselves still evidently battling with a tactical change of direction under Pep Guardiola, had too much in the tank over the 90 minutes for a resilient Foals side, whom they incidentally managed to beat on home turf for the first time in three years last Friday.
The players themselves are certainly not shying away from the task in hand or the demands being made of them by the new coach. "We were constantly on the attack and pressing them really hard, but you can't do that for the full 90 minutes," Franck Ribery reflected after the match. That said, the French attacking midfielder added that "this is all still new to us to an extent and we don't have it off-pat yet. We’re getting there though, and we’re happy with that.”
The next phase of the Pep experiment goes under the microscope at a sold-out Commerzbank Arena on Saturday afternoon. Guardiola's compatriots Thiago and Javi Martinez, both of whom missed the season opener, are in contention for at least a place on the bench this time around. And what a bench it could be, with Mario Götze perhaps squeezing onto it as well after a two-goal showing in his first brief appearance in a Bayern shirt.
Of far greater interest to the bulk of those in attendance, however, will be how the hosts bounce back from their Berlin away-day. "It's also a huge opportunity to make good on a bitter defeat," Rode pointed out. Frankfurt last beat Bayern back in March 2010, but they may take some solace from their home record in this encounter down the years. With 18 wins, 14 draws and ten defeats, no other current Bundesliga side has a better historical balance against the record champions from Munich.
Frankfurt: Trapp - Jung, Zambrano, Russ, Oczipka - Schwegler, Rode - Aigner, Meier, Inui - Joselu
FC Bayern: Neuer - Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba - Schweinsteiger - Robben, Müller, Kroos, Ribery - Mandzukic