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FC Kaiserslautern vs FC Bayern Munich

FC Bayern Munich will seek to avenge one of its more dubious losses from a season ago when they visit 1. FC Kaiserslautern on Saturday. The match is set to kick off at 15:30 CET. GOLTV will carry live coverage in the US and Canada, while Eurosport 2 will also cover the match live in many European countries-check your local listing. The Bayern Report Fan Chat will be up and running right here.

Beat the Devils
Kaiserslautern hasn’t tasted victory yet this season, although no one seems to be hitting the panic button yet. Last season’s improbable 7th place finish isn’t likely to get repeated in my view, but that hasn’t stopped some knowledgeable commentators from projecting 1. FCK as this year’s Hannover/Mainz.

Their biggest summer signing was Hapoel Tel Aviv striker Itay Shechter, as a replacement for Srjdan Lakic. Shechter’s teammate Gil Vermouth (whose name alone would make him an excellent film noir protagonist) was also brought over, but is rehabbing an injury and won’t be available in this one. An additional new striker signing, Dorge Kouemaha, was injured in last week’s match and is also out.

Though they are essentially playing with the same back 4 as last season, if last week’s draw with Cologne was any indication, that group has taken a step backwards. Beyond a very high number of fouls, you won’t easily find the evidence in the stats alone, but they will need to have worked out their awkward positional play if they’re going to have a chance of shutting down Bayern. The task may be helped a bit by the growing confidence of keeper Kevin Trapp, who played very well last week after a shaky start to the season.

Turning away the Kaiserslautern attack involves shutting down twin playmakers Christian Tiffert and Ivo Ilicevic. It’s easier said than done of course, but Bayern would do well to make one the host’s new faces beat them. If the back line is as shaky as it was last week, then Tiffert’s potential effect in attack is somewhat muted. But I am really looking forward to possible Luiz Gustavo crunch action on Ilicevic.

To Have and Have Not
While it hasn’t gone overlooked by many readers here, a broader audience might find themselves surprised to find that Bayern has not allowed a goal in its last 4 matches. While the numerical data is encouraging, it doesn’t measure how much progress has been made in the fundamental areas such as communication between defenders and organization of set piece defending. The latter still seemed to be a trouble area in Zurich, even if there is not really a lasting lesson at all to be taken from that match.

With Ivica Olic and Breno out for a long while to come, the injury report focuses squarely on Arjen Robben and his pubic bone inflammation. I’m not really going to try to get into the science of how back pain, groin pain and pubic bone inflammation are inter-related, but suffice it to say that even Dr. Müller-Wohlfahrt doesn’t quite know how to guesstimate Robben’s longer-term prognosis. One has to guess that Robben’s not going to be available (or if he starts the match, he comes off 20 minutes into it) so you’re again looking at Müller and Kroos both in the starting lineup. Update: On Friday the club confirmed Robben would miss the match. Jupp might surprise me, but I don’t see any reason based on Tuesday’s match to keep Rafinha off the field, nor to restore Tymo as choice 1a next to Schweinsteiger. With Robben out of the squad, there will be just one healthy scratch.

Neither of the last two matches really tells us much about how Bayern will take up the puzzle of Kaiserslautern. Regardless of the scoreline, it ought to be a more exciting match. 1. FCK has routinely outrun its opponents in the opening matches of the season, and so as much as hustle and effort can make up for deficits in other areas, it will. Bayern needs to continue build on what really started early in the 2nd half against Wolfsburg, where Schweinsteiger’s footprint in the attack grew more pronounced. Although Bayern was just playing away the minutes in Zurich, there was at times a worrying tendency towards the “cross and spectate” approach of the ‘Gladbach match.

Kaiserslautern will routinely advance the ball more frequently on their right, and will also send more crosses in from that side of the field. Right back Florian Dick has attempted about a third of the club’s crosses alone. Bayern’s play has been more concentrated on its left in the first 3 league matches, so it does make for a picture of “one-sided” action, if you will. Cleaner deliveries and patience from Franck Ribery are likely to be rewarded, while recklessness may let the foul-happy 1. FCK defenders off easy and give their counterattack a boost.

One for the Road
The last meeting between the teams this past January in Munich was the final Bundesliga match for Mark van Bommel.

One for the Birds
In Manuel Neuer’s last apperance in Kaiserslautern, he conceded 5 goals.

One for the Scrapbook
The last Bayern player to score a goal at Kaiserslautern? That would be Andreas Ottl, in 2006. It was his first career Bundesliga goal.

Prediction
As much as I have the instinct to call this a 0:0, I can’t do it. Bayern copes with early pressure, parries the counters and eventually finds their way through..twice.
1. FC Kaiserslautern 0:2 FC Bayern Munich

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