Bayern Munich must avoid complacency against Bochum in cup
Seventeen-time German Cup winners Bayern Munich face second-tier Bochum in a proverbial David versus Goliath clash on Wednesday with their sights set on sealing a seventh straight semifinal appearance.
Bayern battled past Bochum on the way to the 2011-12 final thanks to Arjen Robben's last-minute winner in a narrow 2-1 victory. Manuel Neuer, Holger Badstuber, skipper Philipp Lahm, and Arjen Robben are all survivors from that starting lineup, as well as David Alaba, who came on after the interval with Bayern a goal down and chasing the game. Bayern ended up being dismantled 5-2 by Borussia Dortmund in the Berlin showpiece that season, courtesy of a hat trick from a certain Robert Lewandowski.
Ultimately, that campaign was not one that Bayern fans will remember fondly as the club achieved a Treble of second-place finishes under Jupp Heynckes: an agonising Champions League final defeat on penalties to Chelsea in their own backyard, coupled with runners-up finishes to Jurgen Klopp's Dortmund in the Bundesliga and domestic cup.
Bochum is often an awkward and intimidating atmosphere for away sides and Bayern will be wise not to underestimate the underdogs. The hosts are unbeaten in five games and haven't conceded a goal in 418 minutes. Bochum cruised past Bayern's not-so-noisy neighbours TSV 1860 Munich in the last round of the competition, denying fans the possibility of a rare Munich derby.
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For those who still believe in the romance of the cup, the underdogs have shocked the German giants before in the competition, dumping Sepp Maier, Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller and co. out in the 1968 semifinal.
"We know what to expect," says Bochum's ex-Fulham defender Tim Hoogland: "Bayern are the best team in the world at the moment."
The Bavarians' only fit central defender Holger Badstuber said: "We know it's going to be a tough match. Bochum have nothing to lose, they're playing in front of their own crowd ... and the visitors are FC Bayern."
Badstuber coped admirably with the threat of the in-form Chicharito Hernandez alongside Joshua Kimmich in Saturday's goalless draw in Leverkusen.
Chances were a rarity at both ends and, somehow, Xabi Alonso found himself the only player booked on either side in an ill-tempered encounter on the Rhein. The 34-year-old had to do the walk of shame in the 84th minute after picking up two yellows within six feisty second half minutes. With Alonso suspended for Sunday's Bundesliga derby at Augsburg, the Spaniard is likely to start in midweek before taking an enforced break.
Despite the frustrating draw in Leverkusen, Treble-seeking Bayern maintain a comfortable eight-point advantage over nearest challengers Borussia Dortmund at the top of the table, who also drew 0-0 at third-placed Hertha Berlin.
It's fair to say that blog readers aren't feeling the love for Arturo Vidal. Judging by many of the comments, there's no contest as to which Bayern player is having the most disappointing season. Vidal will be desperate to impress against former side Juventus in the Champions League in a fortnight's time, but the Chilean was ineffective once again on his first start of the year against another old employer, Leverkusen.
In addition to some recent off-field controversy, Vidal suffered knocks to his knee and ankle and was taken off seven minutes after halftime. He's featured in every league game this season for the record German champions, but needs to step up his level of performance to be considered for a starting place against Juventus in the Champions League.
Thomas Muller was unexpectedly dropped to the bench for the Leverkusen affair. Bayern's second top marksman failed to find the net as a substitute, missing a couple of decent chances to put Bayern ahead. Perhaps this shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. In three outings with Muller as a substitute this season, Bayern played out tepid 0-0 draws in Frankfurt and Leverkusen and also failed to score after Muller came on as sub against Darmstadt when already leading 3-0.
In fact, Muller is no super sub. He's only ever scored in one game in 28 Bundesliga appearances as a substitute -- a brace in a 5-1 romp for Louis van Gaal's Bayern against Borussia Dortmund in Klopp's record home Bundesliga defeat in September 2009, over six years ago.
Wednesday's cup affair at Bochum would be a good place for Muller's to dust off those scoring boots.
Mark Lovell is a Germany-based journalist who covers the Bundesliga for ESPN FC and BBC Sport. Twitter: @LovellLowdown.