Once the young player of the tournament at the 2006 World Cup and still a star for Germany at the 2010 World Cup, the wonderful Lukas Podolski has struggled to duplicate his fantastic play in a Germany shirt while playing for club sides since that 2006 World Cup. Finally, for the first time in his career, he looks like a truly dominant player in club football (not counting his one dominant year in the 2. Bundesliga). He's put FC Köln on his back and has them well clear of the relegation places. On Friday, he'll be asked to work his magic again against Bayern Munich.
Podolski has an incredible 14 goals in 15 games, but that doesn't mean he's been a consistent factor for Köln. There are games where he is not terribly involved by literally no fault of his own. See, Köln is a bad team, especially while Podolski's strike partner Milivoje Novakovic is out injured. Remove Novakovic and Podolski from the equation and this team is no better than Freiburg or Augsburg.
Bayern Munich, meanwhile, are Bayern Munich. They haven't been in the best form while Bastian Schweinsteiger has been out injured, but they're still coming off of wins over Werder Bremen and Stuttgart. They're very vulnerable to counter-attacks through the center of the pitch without their rock in the middle, but Cologne doesn't really have anyone with the quality to expose them.
This should be another win for Bayern, but the way Podolski has been rescuing points for Köln, who knows? He's not going to see too much of the ball, but he doesn't need too many looks at goal to be a danger to the Bavarians.
Bayern Munich vs. FC Köln
Game Date/Time: Friday, Dec. 16, 2:30 p.m. ET, 8:30 p.m. local
Venue: Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
TV: ESPN Deportes (USA - Spanish), ESPN (UK)
Online: ESPN3 (USA)