Preview: Season finale without highlights?
That sentence also applies to Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso. There’s a strange atmosphere around FC Bayern at the moment. After many successful years, the fifth championship in a row has given an era a historical point which could be its last one. And yet the feeling is a little subdued. But why?
Certainly as a Bayern fan, you continually find yourself hungering. Hungering for titles. Hungering to achieve more and more, and to constantly set new, bigger records. Even a draw in the Bundesliga has become almost unbearable. In Munich, you’re not familiar with losing anymore.
For the club, there are lots of advantages. From this drive to improve every day and to chase our own records, we have seen the development of an attitude which pushes the players, even in the fifth year in a row, to give everything in the league and become the champions. At some point, an unavoidable tiredness sets in, which you could feel among the fan-base for some time now. This period of historical success has been acknowledged in many quarters, but is no longer celebrated euphorically.
That process is understandable. It’s not a criticism that the euphoria is now somewhat faded after these heavenly years. A fan of any other German team can’t possibly put themselves in the same emotional position. There won’t be euphoria in Munich. For that, this season will leave too many question marks that have nothing to do with titles. The competition is also too low in the Bundesliga, and the trophy won too early, for euphoria.
But there’s one thing that everybody should do if they aren’t obliged to be actively considering the club’s future: enjoy these last three games which at the very least herald the end of an era – perhaps they will even conclude it.
Just three more times, Philipp Lahm will lead the team out onto the pitch as captain, if he’s not rested any more. 270 minutes of football in which the focus should be on recalling the past, enjoying the incredible, historic success, and becoming aware that this time was and is unique in this club’s history so far.
That goes for the Bayern fans, at least. The players should be very aware that they have a certain responsibility going into the end of the season. For Darmstadt 98, this weekend’s game will be about preserving their minimal chance of survival. The Lillies competing will however depend on the Rekordmeister, who could interfere decisively with the relegation battle with a half-hearted performance. Bayern must avoid that unpleasant after-taste.
Should Bayern not lose, Darmstadt will certainly be relegated. As brutal as that may sound, the Reds’ goal should be exactly that. Giving gifts doesn’t come into the equation. And yet it has to be said that, from the experience of the last few seasons, the performances of the Rekordmeister have constantly fallen when the championship had already been sealed.
Darmstadt will need courage to win in the Allianz Arena and to make the most of precisely those missing percentage points in Bayern’s performance. No-frills defending in their own penalty area, which they opted for in previous games against the reigning champions, won’t be enough. With a little luck, fans will be able to await an interesting game.
Also interesting was the first match between Bayern and RB Leipzig. Leipzig could seal second place as early as this week. It’d be a fantastic performance from the newly-promoted side, even if not completely surprising. Not so much will rest on their game against the league leaders. Should they win their other two games, they’ll be runners-up.
On a sporting level, the tie could, however, become an interesting one. The team from Leipzig have lost just two games at home. On top of that, they’ll still have the previous game in their minds, and will want to avenge that. At the time, we analysed how the men from Sachsen press in our preview. Victory for RBL will depend on just how they implement that tactic.
The meeting may not have any significance for the league table, but Leipzig will lock horns with Bayern more and more often in the coming years. Maybe even seeing eye-to-eye. So it’d be absolutely worth the effort to set a marker in the return game too.
The season will be brought to a close with a home game against SC Freiburg. Christian Streich’s side are, as it happens, fighting to play in Europe. In Breisgau they don’t seem to want to entertain the possibility, but they’re currently in 7th place, just two points off Hertha BSC in fifth.
If they keep their chances alive by the time they walk out in Munich, the match could have huge potential. Bayern have already had their problems with brave Freiburgers in the past.
Either way, we’ll have three great farewell games for Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso. On the one hand, because they will be able to play with no pressure, and, on the other, because the opposition will still be really demanding of them. Obviously having a highlight at the end of the season in the shape of a final would have been lovely, but not even that would have been enough.
Yet the careers of these two legends won’t end completely without highlights. When we look back on this team in several decades, on the team that won at the very least five championships in a row, then the name Xabi Alonso will be mentioned fondly. Philipp Lahm, meanwhile, will probably even be on the cover of several books about the greatest success, teams and players of the club.
This season, FC Bayern may have “only” won the league title. For the coming years, there will perhaps be a lot of question marks. But first of all, the fans of this great club should sit back, recap the last few years, and enjoy. These last three Bundesliga games offer the opportunity to do so without tension or pressure.
- Bayern will beat Darmstadt by at least three goals.
- Lewandowski will be the Bundesliga’s top scorer.
- Bayern won’t win in Leipzig.
- Freiburg will score in Munich, but won’t play in Europe next season.
- The Rekordmeister will score at least eight goals over the three games.
107 predictions of my 200 so far have been right. Last season, it was 41/75, so a quota of 54.66% correct. Many more predictions were narrowly missed. For next season, we’ll think up a new concept.