Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 26 May 2019

After a shock home defeat, Arjen Robben-less Bayern Munich offer Dortmund reason for hope

Bayern Munich will look to bounce back from their pre-international break defeat when they visit Borussia Dortmund, writes Ian Hawkey.
Arjen Robben leaves the pitch injured during Bayern Munich's defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach on March 22. Christof Stache / AFP
Arjen Robben leaves the pitch injured during Bayern Munich's defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach on March 22. Christof Stache / AFP

Not much has gone right for Bayern Munich in the last two weeks. Defeat at home to Borussia Monchengladbach was a very unusual way to send their various internationals off to country-versus-country duty.

Even less familiar for a club that likes to think it controls its hiring and selling operation better than anybody would be the noise around David Alaba.

Alaba, the Austrian international and gifted jewel of Bayern’s scouting and nurturing network, has been the subject of some admiring glances from Real Madrid.

Speculation — always most rampant during the spring international break — about his moving on before the end of his current contract, which runs until 2018, has been eagerly fanned from Spain.

Pep Guardiola, Bayern’s coach, values Alaba and is developing him as a midfielder, not just a dynamic left-back, the position he has mostly filled with the Bundesliga champions.

The bad news is that while Alaba’s long-term future was coming under scrutiny, his short-term activities hit the brakes. Alaba picked up an injury playing for Austria last week and he will be out for at least six weeks.

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For Saturday’s trip to Borussia Dortmund, Guardiola is also short of Arjen Robben and fellow winger Franck Ribery.

You have to use pretty sharp and lengthy scythe to significantly prune Bayern’s deep squad its potential for pizzazz, but taking away the exciting Robben, the club’s leading scorer this season, Ribery and Alaba should give Dortmund an extra flicker of optimism.

Normally, at this time of the year, it is Dortmund who are looking fatigued and feeling vexed by stories linking one of their younger players with a move elsewhere.

Most years, it is to Bayern, where Mario Gotze, in 2013, and Robert Lewandowski, in 2014, have both transferred, having won championships with Dortmund in 2011 and 2012.

Gotze will collect his latest title with Bayern this season, Lewandowski his first, with Bayern already 10 points clear of second-place Wolfsburg.

The probability Bayern will prey again on Dortmund this summer to lure Marco Reus has at least reduced since he signed a new contract with the club.

That is viewed as a rare positive in a season that has been wretched for Jurgen Klopp’s team, in the bottom half of the table and still 14 points away from third place and its entitlement to Uefa Champions League qualification.

If there is no real adrenaline in the title race, there is always pride in the meeting of north and south, of the two finalists of the 2013 Uefa Champions League, the best squads in the Bundesliga, at the stadium, the Westfalen, with the highest decibel ratings.

“Bayern will have to deal with the heated atmosphere,” Neven Subotic, the Dortmund defender, told Kicker magazine.

“We feel we have turned a corner and can give them real problems. What we have to do from now on is show the teams in the upper half of the table what we are made of.”

Bayern, looking to bounce back from the Monchengladbach setback, only their second league defeat of the season, have some compensations for the absences of Robben, Alaba and Ribery.

Philipp Lahm, the versatile captain, is ready to make his first start after a five-month recovery from a knee problem, while midfielder Thiago, another who has missed most of the campaign injured, is also available again.

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Updated: April 3, 2015 04:00 AM

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