Tottenham Hotspur continue their Champions League campaign later today as German champions Bayern Munich visit north London for the first time since 1983 in the UEFA Cup. Bayern lead the group on three points after dispatching Red Star Belgrade in their opening contest while Spurs are level with Olympiacos after a draw in Greece. Joining us for Know Your Opponent this week is Philip Quinn of our SBN sister site Bavarian Football Works. We talked about Niko Kovac’s tenure at the helm, who can break up the usual two horse race in the Bundesliga and if Robert Lewandowski is still the threat to be concerned about.
CFC: What’s the view of Tottenham Hotspur from the eyes of Bayern Munich fans?
BFW: I think it’s fair to say that, at this point, most Bayern fans clearly see Tottenham as England’s third best team. They’ve surpassed Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester United in that regard. It’s just hard to project out last season’s run to the Final since you’ve never really done anything like that before. You’re kind of trapped in that awkward “Will this continue/Was that it?” phase, but I think Spurs are edging closer and closer to that “semi-perma-elite” status that is hard to for clubs to hold on to these days barring a few.
CFC: We all know the Bundesliga race will usually come down to Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Are there any clubs rising up that you can see turning the title race into a three club affair?
BFW: Through their investment over the last decade, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that RB Leipzig are going to be a permanent thorn in everyone’s side for a long time. Some of our writers even picked Leipzig to win the Bundesliga this season, that’s how highly we think of them over at Bavarian Football Works. Their problem is going to be, as it is for all but a select few clubs, is a) how can you keep your elite talent and b) if that talent leaves, can you replace them with equal quality talent so there’s no drop off.
People underestimate exactly how hard option B there is for clubs. Even the best swing and miss sometimes, but for big clubs, those misses aren’t always as painful as they can be for smaller ones.
CFC: Robert Lewandowski: Still lethal or is there a sign of decline in his ability?
BFW: Robert Lewandowski has received a lot of criticism from a certain section of Bayern fans over the last couple of seasons for his “inability to score in big games”. It’s starting to look like he’s tired of the criticism. Now, I’m not one to make wild predictions like “Lewandowski is definitely going to score in this game.”, because I know how this sport goes sometimes. However, I’ll just lay this out there for you: Lewandowski has played in seven games for Bayern in all competitions so far this season, and he has scored eleven goals.
CFC: What in the world happened to Renato Sanches during his time at Bayern?
BFW: I really like Sanches. I think his problem at Bayern was two-fold. First, I don’t think he was necessarily ready for the move. When Bayern announced his signing in May 2016, he hadn’t even completed a full season of first team games at Benfica. Then, he had the breakout Euro 2016 for Portugal. He comes to Bayern Munich with this now crazy, near-unreachable expectations, and he started the season injured and could never get on track on or off the field.
Second, I just don’t think Sanches’s style fits what Bayern does, no matter who is the coach. Every time that I’ve watched him play, you can see glimpses of what everybody wanted, but if you watched just a little bit longer, you would see him get bogged down in a possession game that wasn’t suited to his strengths. He was the kind of player that wanted to pick the ball up in midfield, sprint 30-60 yards down the field, and then figure out what to do. He’ll find his spot at a powerful, counterattacking team. Somewhere.
CFC: What’s the Bayern faithful’s outlook on Niko Kovač? Is he the long-term solution?
BFW: There are two camps really. Camp 1 is “FIRE HIM! HE SHOULD’VE NEVER BEEN HIRED! I DON’T CARE THAT HE WON THE DOMESTIC DOUBLE LAST SEASON!”. Camp 2 is “I mean, he won the domestic double last season in a turnover year for Bayern. We should probably see what he can do?” I don’t know if a club like Bayern will ever move into a “long-term solution” for a head coach ever again, but Niko is as good a candidate as any.
However, keep an eye on the upcoming “changing of the guard” at Bayern over the next few years as Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge move off into retirement and a younger generation come to power. As crazy as it sounds, Bayern has always favored stability.
CFC: Shag/Marry/Shove off a cliff: Robben, Tomas Muller, Manuel Neuer?
BFW: Shag: Manuel Neuer. Marry: Thomas Muller. Shove off a cliff: (I’m sorry...) Arjen Robben.
CFC: What’s the expected lineup for the German champions Tuesday?
BFW: It’s hard to really predict this in certain aspects, because while most everyone is healthy now, a few players have picked up recent knocks. Do you want to run them out in what is, essentially, a game with little meaning considering both teams are getting through this group?
However, in recent weeks, Kovac has favorited a 4-3-3 that looks like this: Neuer -- Alaba, Hernandez, Sule, Pavard -- Coutinho, Kimmich, Thiago -- Coman, Lewandowski, Gnabry.
CFC: How about a prediction?
BFW: I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict a nice 1-1 draw. I think Bayern are still finding their footing so far this season, but that should be good enough to take a point in London.
We appreciate Philip stopping by and chatting with us. I did a quick Q&A for him over at Bavarian Football Works that touches on the state of Tottenham Hotspur and what the future looks like for the club.