Battle of the South - VfB visit the Allianz

Southern German Derby complete with BlasmusikFC Bayern play their last home game of the season today, considering the Champions League final as 'neutral', and welcome VfB Stuttgart in the 'Southern Derby'. FC Bayern have absolutely nothing to play for in the Bundesliga, they can neither move up nor down from second in the league. For VfB, the game is only slightly more important: they need one further point to secure a Europa League spot for next year. The Swabians come into this fixture on a great run of form having taken 24 points from ten consecutive unbeaten league games, allowing them to move into the European places. Much of this has been down to the good form of the Austrian Martin Harnik with seventeen Bundesliga goals this season.

That taken into consideration, FC Bayern have Mario Gomez among their ranks, who with 25 goals, equal to Schalke 04's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, will be looking to add to his eight goals in six games against his former club today. Indeed, Bayern have a fantastic record against VfB, having won the last five games scoring 17 goals in the process.

So nothing to worry about for the Bavarians then. As mentioned, the game is a dead-rubber for the home side but with the Champions League final just around the corner (19 May) and with Bayern having three players suspended, competition for places should be fierce and opportunities could arise for a coveted spot in the final. As the final is still some three weeks away, expect Bayern to go with a near full strength team today to end their home campaign on a high.

Making only one substitution in Madrid is testimony to the faith that Jupp Heynckes has in his starting eleven but it could leave his charges tired for today's game. He has several players in reserve who could come in, such as Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, Ivica Oli?, Rafinha and Danijel Pranji?, all unused subs in Spain but the feeling is Heynckes will start with the ususal suspects. That should mean that, despite the gruelling exertions of 120 minutes in the Bernabeu, the likes of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery (only player subbed in Madrid and that because he was running around like a madman trying to close down every ball) and Mario Gomez are expected to start. A more dubitable starter is Bastian Schweinsteiger, with reports in Munich suggesting that he is still working his way back to full fitness despite his tireless display in Madrid, right down to scoring the winning penalty.

It will be interesting to see how Heynckes goes about the last two league games. He is a manager who doesn't say too much but obviously has a profound effect on his players. He has won the Bundesliga twice in three spells at FC Bayern, won the Champions League with Real Madrid in 1998 and this year led die Roten to the Champions League final in their home city, without seemingly changing the tactics implemented by Louis Van Gaal. Perhaps what he has done that his Dutch counterpart was unable to do is unite a set of quality individual players to create a formidable team.

A few more special treats are in store for today's fans in the Allianz Arena. Firstly, there is the unveiling of next season's change strip - white with light red trimmings. Secondly, as a tribute to the support of the fans throughout the season, there will be a bayerischer Nachmittag - a Bavarian afternoon - involving Blaskapelle and Goaßlschnalzer - a brass band and a cracking whip. A fitting way to finish off the Bundesliga campaign at home. Auf geht's die Roten!


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