Time for a Bayern celebration
Doubts over manager Pep Guardiola and his tactics; disappointment with Bayern Munich's thrashing at the hands of Real Madrid; a last quarter of a season that seemed to go awry after everything was coming up roses: It all goes away -- temporarily -- in a flurry of Paulaner showers on Saturday as Munich finally collect their 24th Meisterschale in front of a packed house at the Allianz Arena, before continuing on their celebratory parade to Marienplatz and the balcony of Neues Rathaus.
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History is in favour of the German champions, having beaten their weekend opponents, VfB Stuttgart, in their last 10 competitive matches, as Bayern has again asked all in attendance to come tricked out in Tracht. To see Lederhosen and Dirndln throughout the arena is a Bavarian dream come true!
Stuttgart, on the verge of falling into Hamburger SV's relegation spot last weekend after losing to Wolfsburg at home, could breathe a sigh of relief as the Rekordmeister turned over an insistent HSV, ultimately running out 4-1 winners after a dominant second half.
Huub Stevens was appointed manager of Stuttgart on March 10th after a drop in the side's Rueckrunde form, calling for "ten finals" to see the team stay up in the first division. But, despite being safe after last weekend's results, Stevens said there's still much to play for: "We have players in the squad who will be travelling to the World Cup and need to present themselves for their respective national teams. We also have players who are leaving the club and will want a positive send-off -- as will the whole team!"
"We are also playing away to the German champions -- that's always something special," before he added, "I wouldn't be feeling quite so relaxed now if everything hadn't already been decided for us."
Sami's younger brother, midfielder Rani Khedira, misses this (rehabilitation) as well as forward Martin Harnik (shoulder). And Georg Niedermeier, taking a knee-knock in Wednesday's training session, is currently doubtful. Also, 33-year-old former German international striker Cacau will feature in his last match for VfB after 262 appearances and 80 goals for die Schawben.
"We want to end the season just as it began -- with a win, which is exactly what German champions should do," said Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge pre-match. "We're going to celebrate together and enjoy the moment."
Those who will not be on the pitch for the celebrations are Jerome Boateng (red-card suspension) and Franck Ribery (back), but Holger Badstuber is likely to make the bench -- the first time since 2012 -- after finally, hopefully overcoming two ACL tears.
Thiago Alcantara and Xherdan Shaqiri, both in rehab, are definitely out for Guardiola, with Philipp Lahm and Mario Goetze both facing fitness tests on Saturday. Should Lahm and Goetze both fail to be fit, the Startelf will be a complete puzzle to me -- much like it's been all season long.
But for now, Bayern can quash down the misgivings and the dressing room rumours and just enjoy their 24th title. And beer. Lots and lots of beer.
"I know it's a big tradition here," Guardiola said of the ritual Bierdusche at Friday's pre-match press conference, "and I'm a fan of traditions. I have no problem with it. If that's what the players want to do, let them do it," cheekily adding, "Of course if they do, they don't stand much of a chance of playing in Berlin."