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Julian Nagelsmann’s side have not kept as many clean sheets as you might expect, but a shut-out against Stuttgart is well within their capabilities.
Back Bayern Munich to win to nil (+125)
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The golden rule for Borussia Dortmund and any other would-be Bundesliga title challenger is to remain within touching distance of top spot when the league takes its customary break over Christmas and the New Year. With two rounds of fixtures to go before the three-week pause, Dortmund are in danger of letting Bayern open up a lead that could prove insurmountable. The gap between the top two was just one point at the start of the month; it has now grown to six.
The most decisive fixture in that time was Bayern’s 3-2 victory over Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park. But while that was a significant victory for the champions, there were positives for BVB to take from their performance. A tie would not have been an unfair result on the balance of play, and Dortmund were unfortunate to see a couple of refereeing decisions go against them. There was no need for them to be too down on themselves after a narrow loss to arguably the best team in Europe.
Unfortunately, though, Dortmund failed to respond to that setback as they would have wished. Marco Rose’s side was held to a 1-1 draw with Bochum at the weekend, while Bayern came from behind to beat Mainz 2-1. Both title challengers were below par, but the difference was that Bayern found a way to win.
As such they are now six points clear at the summit of the standings, and they have the chance to at least temporarily increase that gap to nine points ahead of Dortmund’s game on Wednesday. Given the financial disparity between the two clubs, it is hard to be too harsh on BVB for failing to keep pace with Bayern. But as the winter break approaches, it is becoming increasingly difficult to envisage Dortmund winning the title this season.
Stuttgart head into Tuesday’s contest on a three-match unbeaten run. Following a 2-1 victory over Mainz and a 2-2 draw with Hertha Berlin, they ran out 2-0 winners against Wolfsburg at the weekend. That was an impressive triumph, notwithstanding the Wolves’ recent downturn. There is now renewed optimism at the Mercedes-Benz Arena that Stuttgart can avoid the drop this season.
Despite his team’s uptick over the last three weeks, Pellegrino Matarazzo will not be getting ahead of himself. The Stuttgart boss knows that his side could be involved in a sustained battle against relegation this term. A ninth-place finish in 2020/21 was a fantastic achievement for a team that had just been promoted back to the top flight. But second season syndrome always looked like a distinct possibility, and simply staying up would be a decent outcome for 2021/22.
Matarazzo is a bright manager and Stuttgart may well pull away from the bottom three in the second half of the campaign. Their underlying numbers suggest Matarazzo’s men are decent defensively – they rank 10th for expected goals against. Creating high quality chances has been a problem so far, though. Stuttgart are fifth-bottom for expected goals and have been a little fortunate to find the net 22 times thus far.
Those attacking struggles are one reason why Bayern could keep a clean sheet on Tuesday. It is true that Stuttgart have scored two goals in each of their last three games, but other Bundesliga opponents cannot really be compared to Bayern. Scoring against Nagelsmann’s side is difficult, even if their defensive record is not quite as good as one might expect.
Indeed, Freiburg have conceded the fewest goals in the Bundesliga so far this season. Bayern are joint-second on that list, alongside eighth-placed Mainz. Their backline has been breached 16 times in their 15 fixtures – a good record, but not an exceptional one. Manuel Neuer has kept only four clean sheets in the Bundesliga, fewer than the first-choice goalkeepers of Freiburg, Bochum, Wolfsburg, Hoffenheim and Mainz.
None of which would seem to suggest a Bayern shut-out is likely this midweek. But there are other factors to consider. For a start, Bayern struggled in their 2-1 win against Mainz last weekend. They conceded the first goal and did not play with their usual fluency thereafter. With the winter break on the horizon, Nagelsmann will be happy to prioritize the result over the performance on Tuesday. That could lead to him emphasizing the importance of a clean sheet.
Stuttgart’s recent results mean that is even more likely than usual. Bayern will not underestimate in-form opponents, particularly after their unconvincing display against Mainz. They will treat Stuttgart with respect and will not take unnecessary risks. At +125, a Bayern win to nil is attractive.
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|Stuttgart vs Bayern Munich Information|
|Teams||Stuttgart vs Bayern Munich|
|Location||Mercedes-Benz Arena, Stuttgart, Germany|
|Time||Tuesday, 14 December 2021, 12.30 PM EST|
|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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