Mario Mandzukic, Thomas Müller, Mario Gomez and Franck Ríbery came into the day having combined for 39 Bundesliga goals, but with a Tuesday trip to Juventus ahead for Germany’s eventual champions, Jupp Heynckes elected to start a second-choice attack against visiting Hamburg. Claudio Pizarro got the call up top, while Xherdan Shaqiri played wide in Bayern Munich’s 4-2-3-1. Along with Luiz Gustavo at left back and Jerome Boateng starting in the middle of defense, almost half of Bayern’s team differed from their choice XI.
That’s what makes Saturday’s final score so scary: 9-2. With three goals in the first 30 minutes, five by halftime, and their final goal at the 79-minute mark, Bayern put up their most convincing performance of what’s becoming a ridiculously dominant season.
Consider where their league record stands after today’s avalanche. They have 23 wins in 27 games, having only lost once. Bayern have scored 78 times and, only conceding 13 goals, have a +65 goal difference. Break out your TI-85s and you’ll see FCB’s on pace for a 90-point season and 98 goals.
Perhaps as scary as the scoreline was the quality of opponent. Hamburg did not play well on Saturday, but having recovered from a slow start to the season, they’re a solid mid-table club. The 34 goals they allowed coming into today’s match put them in top third of Bundesliga defenses. Rene Adler is considered one of the best goalkeepers in Germany, yet starting with Shaqiri’s fifth minute opener, Bayern put in nine goals in 74 minutes: Pizarro had four, Arjen Robben put in two, while Bastian Schweinsteiger, Ribery, and Shaqiri each scored once.
Juventus fans will be hoping Bayern used all their goals on Saturday, but ahead of the teams’ Tuesday meeting in UEFA Champions League, München’s only affirming the notion they’re the class of Europe.
With the Community Shield in tow, Jose Mourinho aims for his first full tournament trophy as Manchester United boss when his Red Devils meet Southampton at 11:30 a.m. EDT Sunday.
Wembley Stadium is the venue for the EFL Cup Final, a trophy United has claimed four times. The last one came in 2010, as the Red Devils clinched their third League Cup in five seasons.
[ JPW: Southampton comes full circle ]
Sunday marks Southampton’s first final since 1979, when Saints fell 3-2 to Nottingham Forest.
Saints continue to make due without Virgil Van Dijk and Charlie Austin, but newcomers Manolo Gabbiadini, Sofiane Boufal, and Martin Caceres could all feature on Friday.
Gabbiadini almost certainly will, and he’s been a difference maker for Saints since arriving from Napoli. The 25-year-old has three goals in two Premier League matches.
[ MORE: Projected lineups for EFL Cup final ]
United will not have Henrikh Mkhitaryan back after the Armenian midfielder limped off the pitch midweek, but fellow walking wounded star Michael Carrick will be back for the Red Devils. Wayne Rooney, Ander Herrera, and Eric Bailly will be available.
The Red Devils won the FA Cup last season and the league in 2012-13. Mourinho has three League Cups from his time at Chelsea.
But Antonio Valencia says that United has to act like this is a chance for a new era. From ManUtd.com:
“We have to forget about the fact that we might have won there three, four or five times,” he added. “We have to put that to one side. This is another final, and a totally different story. We cannot afford to make one single mistake, this is a final and we cannot lose our concentration for even one minute.”
Saints will be underdogs for this one, but this trophy isn’t alien to avoiding the hands of the big boys as we’ve seen with Birmingham City, Middlesbrough, and Swansea City since the turn of the century.
Claudio Ranieri has issued a statement on his somewhat surprising firing from Leicester City, less than 10 months after winning the Premier League title.
[ MORE: Chelsea-Swans preview ]
The Italian manager with a knack of word play pulls on the heart-strings in discussing his exit from Leicester, a club he did not plan to leave any time soon.
From the Leicester Mercury:
Yesterday my dream died.
After the euphoria of last season and being crowned Premier League champions all I dreamed of was staying with Leicester city, the club I love, for always.
Sadly, this was not to be.
He went on to thank his family, Leicester City, saving the kindest words for the Foxes’ supporters.
No one can ever take away what we together have achieved, and I hope you think about it and smile every day the way I always will.
It has been a pleasure and an honour to be a champion with all of you.
No surprise to read class from Claudio. Read the full statement here.
- Chelsea leads all-time 14W-11D-7L
- Sides drew 2-2 in September
- Swans unbeaten vs Blues since Jan ’15
Premier League leaders Chelsea face a resurgent Swansea City side which has given it fits (Watch live at 10 a.m. EDT Saturday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
The Blues have dropped points in two of their last three Premier League matches, and also have two draws and a loss to Swans in the past three match-ups.
Swansea has won three of four in Premier League play, the lone setback a 2-1 loss to Manchester City. New manager Paul Clement has led Swans from deep in the relegation zone to four points clear of the drop zone.
To succeed, Swans will have to avoid conceding often and early. According to Chelsea’s club statistician:
Conte’s players have scored the opening goal more times than any other Premier League team this season (19) and have yet to lose (16 wins, three draws).
What they’re saying
Antonio Conte on former Chelsea assistant Clement: “He has had a great impact on the team. Also, with the transfer window, they reinforced the team, and we must pay great attention. If you watch their games against Liverpool, against Man City, you understand the difficulty of the game. I am sure my players understand this. They have worked very well to face them in the right way.”
Clement on staring down Chelsea: “I have said to the players that yes we have put ourselves in a good position, but how hard are we willing to work to make sure we continue to improve? How much do we want to avoid suffering at the end of the season? Because unless we keep winning games and progressing up the table, we are going to find ourselves in a position where we need, say, four points from the last two games of the season.”
Stamford Bridge will be the difference here, as Chelsea keeps it tight against Swans. 2-0.
The latest Premier League Download makes its debut on Sunday, as we dive deep into Tottenham Hotspur.
With a brand new stadium under construction and a solid look at perennial top-end pushes, Spurs are among the more intriguing stories in the Premier League.
[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League Picks ]
Spurs host Stoke City on Sunday at 8:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN, and “Tottenham Hotspur: To Dare Is To Do” debuts at 11 a.m. EDT, right after the match.