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The Bavarians are a well-oiled machine at present and they should succeed in keeping Hoffenheim’s attack quiet.
Back Bayern Munich to beat Hoffenheim in a shut-out (+140)
Sometimes it can take a while for a new manager to get into his stride. That has not been the case for Julian Nagelsmann. His appointment as Bayern Munich boss in the summer is already paying dividends. The Bavarians have made a superb start to the season and look like the strongest team in world soccer right now. Nagelsmann has taken the side he inherited to another level, and although no one will be getting carried away in October, Bayern could well sweep the board this term.
Their performances and results in recent days have been especially impressive. Bayern traveled to Bayer Levekusen on Sunday knowing that a defeat would see their opponents overtake them at the top of the Bundesliga table. By the time the referee’s whistle sounded to signal half-time, Bayern were 5-0 up. Leverkusen pulled a goal back in the second half, but that was nothing more than a consolation after the champions had taken their foot off the gas.
Equally eye-catching was Bayern’s 4-0 thrashing of Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday. Nagelsmann’s side has maximum points at the midway point of the group phase, and one more win could potentially see them through to the round of 16 with two games to spare. Trips to Leverkusen and Benfica are supposed to be difficult, even for a club of Bayern’s size. Back-to-back wins by four-goal margins make a mockery of that idea.
The only negative for Bayern this week was positive: the club revealed on Thursday that Nagelsmann has caught COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated. He will therefore be required to isolate at home and will not be on the touchline when Hoffenheim visits the Allianz Arena this weekend.
Nagelsmann’s absence tilts the balance ever so slightly in Hoffenheim’s favor, but avoiding defeat will still be a tall order. Sebastian Hoeness, who spent two years as Bayern’s Under-19 manager and one year in charge of the club’s reserve team, will know that as well as anyone.
Hoffenheim finished 11th last season and made a poor start to the current campaign, winning only one of their first five games. A 4-0 thrashing of Augsburg on matchday one therefore proved to be a false dawn, but Hoffenheim have shown signs of improvement in recent weeks. A return of seven points from the last 12 available is not to be sniffed at, and Hoeness’ side gave Borussia Dortmund a game in August, narrowly losing 3-2.
Scoring goals has not been a problem so far: Hoffenheim have found the back of the net 17 times, a higher tally than anyone but Bayern, Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen. They are still searching for consistency, though, and have largely struggled away from home. Since that demolition of Augsburg on the opening weekend, Hoffenheim have collected one point from a possible nine on the road.
Hoeness likes his team to play on the front foot where possible. Hoffenheim are averaging the sixth-highest possession in the division so far, but they have not always been able to turn control of the ball into goal attempts – nine teams are taking more shots per game than die Kraichgauer. That is one of the reasons why they could struggle to deny Bayern another win on Saturday.
There are plenty of other reasons why Bayern are red-hot favorites, even without Nagelsmann. The absence of the manager should not cause too many issues. The 34-year-old has been working with the team up until Wednesday and Bayern is such a well-oiled machine that they should cope without him on this occasion. Nagelsmann will have been in contact with the players in the build-up to the match, and his coaching staff is perfectly capable of overseeing matters on the day – as they did in the 4-0 win against Benfica.
For all that they have made a magnificent start to the season, Bayern has not been as defensively secure as one might expect. They have conceded eight goals in as many matches in the Bundesliga – by no means a terrible record, but one which they will seek to improve upon.
Yet there are signs that a new-look defense is beginning to bed in. Bayern kept the Benfica attack reasonably quiet on Wednesday, and Leverkusen’s thrilling forward line was limited to one goal at the BayArena last weekend. It is still possible to put Bayern’s backline under pressure, but their relentless possession higher up the pitch tends to restrict their opponents to few opportunities.
Hoffenheim have scored in six of their eight games in the Bundesliga this season, but those encounters do not really prepare them to face the juggernaut of Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. Even without Nagelsmann bellowing instructions from the dugout, odds of +140 on a Bayern win to nil are too good to ignore.
|Bayern Munich vs Hoffenheim Information|
|Teams||Bayern Munich vs Hoffenheim|
|Location||Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany|
|Time||Saturday, 23 October 2021, 9.30 AM EDT|
|How to watch||ESPN|
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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