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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

FCB vs FCB: The Bavarian UCL Derby

Bayern Munich trains in St. Jakob-Park
For those of us who don't speak German, here there is lots of hype surrounding the FC Basel FC Bayern Munich fixture on Wednesday evening. Former youth coach Heiko Vogel is now the leading man at Basel and Basel starlet Xherdan Shaqiri has already secured a move to the German side in the summer. Last season Munich faced off against Basel in the group stage and won both fixtures, the first a 3-0 and the second a 2-1. Both sides are ridden with promising youth but balanced out by older players with Champions League experience. The Battle of Bavaria will certainly be a set Champions League fixtures you won't want to miss.

FC Basel coach Heiko Vogel at the press conference
It isn't often seen in football when a coach is the product of a youth academy. This was the case for FC Basel's brilliant young coach Heiko Vogel who has been in charge at Basel since October 2011. In his short time as the leading man, Vogel has given Basel an impressive six point lead ahead of FC Luczern at the top of the Swiss table, has put them through to the quarter finals of the Swiss Cup, a competition they failed to reach the finals of last season, and has made history by sending them through in the UEFA Champions League over English giants Manchester United.
Vogel has been at the club since 2009 but was the assistant to Thorsten Fink, the man he left Bayern Munich with in 2008. Vogel's career as a coach started in the Bayern youth ranks where he coached some of the top players on the Munich first team and the German national team. Vogel has already made history with Basel by earning passage through to the knockout stages, but he will be looking to capitalize on those against his former club.

Munich are wary of the threat posed by experienced Basel forwards Marco Streller and Alex Frei, who some of them may be familiar with after their stints in the Bundesliga before coming to Basel. They are also well aware of Swiss wonderkid Xherdan Shaqiri who signed with Bayern Munich in the January transfer window and will be joining them this summer. According to, Shaqiri has been granted permission to shoot on his new team and called his future manager to ask, "Sind sie mir bose, wenn ich gegen Bayern ein Tor schiesse?" or, "will you be angry with me if I shoot on goal against Bayern?" The Munich defense will be bracing for the hard shots from midfielders Shaqiri, Fabian Frei and Granit Xhaka as well as the smooth finishing skills from close range by Streller and Alex Frei.

Mario Gomez poses a large threat to the Basel back four
Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes was dissatisfied with his side's 0-0 draw with Freiburg at the weekend but is confident, as is striker Mario Gomez, that Munich, with all of their Champions League experience, will be the team to progress to the next stage. Basel need to be aware of the threat of an in-form Mario Gomez and the experience of attacking players like Frank Ribery and Arjen Robben, who were both key players in Munich's successful 2010 Champions League campaign where they reached the final but lost to Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan.

Predicted Lineups:

FC Basel: The home side will likely settle for a 4-4-2 with a back four of Markus Steinhofer on the right, Aleksandar Dragovic and David Abraham in the middle and Joo Ho Park on the left. The midfield is likely to be the same as it was against Manchester United with Xherdan Shaqiri on the right, Granit Xhaka and Adelson Cabral in the middle to support the back four and the attack and Fabian Frei playing on the wing, although his position is threatened now that Valentin Stocker is back from a knee injury and had a fantastic game against Young Boys Bern on Thursday. The front two will be Alex Frei and Marco Streller who have eleven and eight goals so far this season. Basel's first pick goalkeeper is the young and talented Yann Sommer.

Bayern Munich: The visitors from Bavaria opted for a 4-2-3-1 at the weekend. Manuel Neuer will likely be the visitors first pick in the goal while Rafinha and Captain Phillip Lahm will hold down the fullback positions. Center backs Jerome Boateng and Holger Badstuber will keep Frei and Streller at bay. The young midfielder David Alaba will likely play alongside Luiz Gustavo and Jupp Heynckes may face trouble when choosing his attacking midfielders to sit ahead of the defensive duo. He opted for Kroos, Ribery and Muller in the weekend draw but might want to work the Champions League experience much of Arjen Robben into his midfield. Mario Gomez is likely to be the man of choice as he leads the score tally with eighteen goals to his name.

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