Forget last season’s scare. Bayern will kick off its Champions League campaign by visiting FC Villarreal on Wednesday at 14:45 (20:45 in Germany). It appears that foxsoccer.tv and DirecTV Soccer have it in the United States. Setanta Sports carries it in Canada.
Since things have been going well at Bayern, let’s focus mostly on the opponent, in order to evaluate how the reds can fare against them.
On the Villarreal side
First and foremost, one has to remember that Villarreal competes in the same league than Real Madrid and Barcelona, but those two teams are a few notches superior.
However, Villarreal has a few years of Champions League experience under its belt, having reached the semi-finals in 2006. Therefore, the Yellow Submarine knows how to deal with sharks like Bayern.
They play a very Spanish brand of football, with technique and flair. When they get going, they can stretch a defense and put the perfect cross in goal at top speed. Especially from the right wing.
The heart of the team is captain Marcos Senna, a competent central midfielder. Solid passer, good shooter, he has been with Villarreal for almost a decade and he commands respect.
Cani, a midfielder, has great vision. He dribbles with skill, passes very well and can score a goal on a pass that’s difficult to control, while charging towards the net.
Strikers Giuseppe Rossi and Nilmar combine well for a double attacking threat.
You can see on YouTube how such players punished Odense BK in a Champions League qualifier.
However, Villarreal has serious defensive problems, especially in the middle. Gonzalo is a respected defender but he is not in top form these days. The ranks are thin.
The team has conceded 7 goals so far in the domestic league, which makes them the worst defensive team. Defensive woes also have affected them in Copa del Rey.
Also, Villarreal can sometimes have the same problem than Bayern, by dominating possession without finding a way to score.
On the Bayern side
If Villarreal has a good day with the ball, this could be the first real test of the season for the Bayern defense. On the other hand, I don’t see attacks being easy on the right wing, with Philipp Lahm defending at left-back.
The real test will be managing that ever-annoying clash of the German type of football with the Spanish. This could be a psychological breakthrough with interesting consequences on future international games.
If inspired, the Bayern attack could have a field day against Villarreal’s central defense. Mario Gomez will probably wake up at night, relishing the scoring chances!
As far as the Robben situation is concerned, we will publish an update to this post as soon as FCB makes a statement. If he cannot be there, A Kroos-Müller combination should work fine alongside Ribéry.
Overall, even though Villarreal has quality, Bayern are the favorites. I would smile if a 1-0 victory was achieved.