Without Bastian Schweinsteiger in their team, Bayern Munich have looked like a shell of the side that looked like Bundesliga's best team early in the season. They managed a home win in their last UEFA Champions League match against Villarreal, but have dropped two straight in the league without Schweinsteiger, who broke his collarbone against Napoli on November 2. On Saturday, they face a Werder Bremen side who have won three of their last four.
Bayern could also be without Toni Kroos, who is first choice in midfield even when Schweinsteiger is fit. Without their two best midfielders, the Bavarians will be in a serious pickle. Anatoliy Tymoshchuk will return from suspension and likely slot into the midfield next to Luiz Gustavo, providing Bayern with a competent double pivot with plenty of tackling ability. However, they lack the technical skill and creativity that Schweinsteiger and Kroos provide.
Werder have problems of their own, as starting keeper Tim Weise is out for family reasons and Claudio Pizarro is doubtful due to injury. Without Pizarro in the lineup last week against Stuttgart, Werder opted to start Markus Rosenberg up top next to Arnautovic in a 2-0 win. This will probably continue, as Thomas Schaaf has opted to play two strikers throughout this season.
The good news for Bayern is that they picked a good week to have fitness problems in the center of midfield, as they probably won't want to play too much through the center anyway. Werder's midfield is solid through the middle but tends to get scored on a great deal by teams with great width, which Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery obviously provide when healthy. Both are expected to start against Werder. They sit in fourth place, but have allowed 21 goals. None of Germany's top three teams have allowed ten goals so far this season.
Expect Werder to try to get the ball to the feet of Marko Marin, who will play in the hole behind the strikers, early and often. While Tymoshchuk and Gustavo are not great passers, at least compared to the men they're replacing in midfield, they are excellent at cutting off supply to strikers and attacking midfielders. Schaaf is going to have to find creative ways to get the ball to Marin or alter his tactics.
As evidenced by their losses to Borussia Dortmund and Mainz, there are teams who can take advantage of Bayern's shortcomings without Bastian Schweinsteiger in the team. With him, they are in a small, elite group of teams in Europe capable of winning the Champions League. Without him, they're just a bit above average. Werder are simply a bad matchup for Bayern, though, and it's unlikely that Schweinsteiger's absence is going to make too much of a difference in this particular instance.
Kickoff of this game is at 9:30 a.m. ET, 2:30 p.m. GMT and 3:30 p.m. local time. You can catch it on ESPN Deportes in the USA.
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