Depth is an important part of any championship winning side, so it was expected that Bayern Munich would want to add some depth to their defense. They moved quickly --- Bayern didn't even wait for the transfer window. --- to snatch up Borussia Mönchengladbach's Dante on a free transfer. Everyone spoke about Bayern adding the Brazilian to the club's centerback rotation with Jerome Boateng and Holger Badstuber.
Days after the announcement of Dante's move to Bayern, the club announced another personnel move to a lot less fanfare. Centerback Daniel Van Buyten agreed to a one year extension. The particularly tall Van Buyten was generally left out when people spoke about Bayern's elite defenders and, let's be honest, for good reason. With the three other quality centerbacks under contract, it was tough to see where the 35 year old Belgian would see a lot of playing time in the 2012-13 campaign. Sure, most players at this stage in Van Buyten's career would be more than willing to play spot duty in a club like Bayern's treble campaign, but Van Buyten kept pushing for more.
At the start of the season, Van Buyten was fourth on the depth chart, as expected. While Badstuber, Boateng, and Dante all saw regular playing time at the start of the season, Van Buyten didn't see his first action of the season until November 10th when he came on as a first half substitute for an injured Boateng. Now, heading into the Champions League semifinals against Barcelona, Bayern are leaning on Van Buyten's veteran presence in the backline.
Van Buyten has found himself in the backline of only one third of the Bavarians' league matches, but he's been stunningly efficient in that time. The centerback has won 64% of his tackles, 67% of his aerial challenges, and 60% of his normal challenges. However, there's no doubt that the most impressive stat that Van Buyten has put together this season is his 93% passing completion.
Since the turn of the new year, Jupp Heynckes has preferred Van Buyten as a partner to the ever-steady Dante. This stretch includes the DFB Pokal quarterfinal against Borussia Dortmund, the DFB Pokal semifinal against Wolfsburg, the Champions League Round of 16 tie against Arsenal, and the Champions League quarterfinal tie against Juventus.
The question heading into this match is simple: Will Heynckes stick with Van Buyten against the smaller, quicker Barcelona in Tuesday's Champions League semifinal first leg? If Van Buyten remains in the Bayern starting eleven, keep your eyes on the hulking defender. There's a certain diminutive forward for Barcelona that he'll have to match-up against.