Defending champions Bayern Munich host second-bottom Hoffenheim on Sunday evening but despite picking up where they left off before the winter break, coach Pep Guardiola is not a happy man.
GUARDIOLA EXPRESSES CONCERNS ABOUT OFF-FIELD ACTIVITIES
Played 18, won 16, drawn one and lost one. Bayern Munich are eight points clear at the top of the Bundesliga but coach Pep Guardiola has made it crystal clear to his players, that he expects a vast improvement on last week’s laboured 2-1 win in Hamburg. The Catalan tactician has expressed concerns in the press this week about the condition his players returned in after their winter recess, stating that with many spending much of their spare time travelling backwards and forwards to their respective homelands, their fitness is being severely tested. The 45-year-old supremo may be leaving for pastures new in the summer, but if any of his squad thought that was to cue to take their foot off the pedal, then they better think again. With the Champions League about resume, Guardiola does not want to carry any passengers and he won’t be afraid to ring the changes if he believes his players aren’t pulling their weight.
HOFFENHEIM IN DEEP RELEGATION TROUBLE
Sunday’s visitors to the Allianz Arena are facing the very real possibility of a return to Bundesliga 2 after a wretched campaign so far. The latest odds from the betting exchanges don’t offer much hope either, with the club quoted at *2.20 to face the drop. Veteran coach Huub Stevens took over the coaching job in October but the 62-year-old has only managed one victory since. Recent results suggest they may be able to make a fight of it however; the team are unbeaten in their last three games and got a creditable draw at home to Bayer Leverkusen last weekend. Whilst Sunday’s match from a survival point of view is not a fair barometer, Stevens will want to see fight from his players to stand them in good stead for the long battle ahead.
Jerome Boateng becomes the latest casualty for Bayern after picking up a groin strain in last week’s victory in Hamburg, which will keep him out until the latter stages of the season. He joins Mario Gotze, Franck Ribery, Medhi Benatia, Rafinha and Sven Ulreich on the treatment table. Holger Badstuber is likely to deputise in the heart of the defence. Kingsley Coman, who was brilliant in the Hamburg win, may keep Arjen Robben out of the starting XI on Sunday. The league’s deadliest strike duo, Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller will look to continue their incredible scoring records and the best online football betting sites will give you *2.30 and *2.87 respectively, for either player to hit two or more this weekend.
For the visitors, Kai Herdling, Tarik Elyounoussi and Pirmin Schwegler are all missing through injury with former Napoli striker Edu Vargas, likely to get the centre-forward starting berth over Andrej Kramaric. Steven’s will probably line-up with a 4-2-3-1 formation which will almost certainly revert to a 4-5-1 in an attempt to try to contain the champions.
PROBABLE STARTING XI’S
Bayern Munich (4-2-3-1) Neuer; Alaba, Badstuber, Martinez, Lahm; Alcantara, Alonso; Coman, Muller, Costa; Lewandowski
Hoffenheim (4-4-3-1) Baumann; Kim, Schar, Sule, Kaderabek; Strobl, Rudy; Schmid, Volland, Hamad; Vargas
HEAD TO HEAD
Hoffenheim are still searching for their first ever league win against Bayern Munich. The Bavarian giants have won seven of the last eight meetings, rifling in 23 goals in this time. March 2014 was the last time Hoffenheim escaped from the Allianz Arena with a point, after a thrilling 3-3 draw. The first meeting this season ended in a 2-1 win for Guardiola’s men.
Bayern Munich 1.083 Draw 13.00 Hoffenheim 21.00
*odds courtesy of Bet365
Steve Mitchell (@barafundler)