Bayern host Hoffenheim with van Gaal's future at stake
Once the dreaded buzzwords begin to circulate that a coach has 'lost the dressing room', it tends to lead to a frenzied sharpening of media knives. These blades are currently being readied for Bayern coach Louis van Gaal ahead of this weekend's clash with Hoffenheim.
Fans and media alike have short memories. The successful Dutch coach won the German double in some style in his first season. This 'bonus' has not prevented 'the Nose' (as he has been cruelly christened by certain members of the current squad), from coming under increased pressure as the critics line up to slate him, including various members of the FCB hierarchy.
President Uli Hoeness has publicly criticised van Gaal. "It's difficult to talk to him, because he doesn't accept other peoples' opinions,'' complained Hoeness.
And Director of Football Christian Nerlinger recently felt bypassed over the Dutchman's decision to throw unproven goalkeeper Thomas Kraft between the sticks instead of the reliable but ageing Hans-Jörg Butt. At times it's been left to Board Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge to act as a mediator between the warring factions.
If one intensely scrutinises the proven coach's track record, you might say 'King Louis' has some 'previous experience' when it comes to massive fall-out after a successful 'honeymoon' period. Most famously, you might recall a similar period at Barcelona, where he left with all bridges burnt after running out of people to argue with at the Catalan giants.
The Bavarians have also built up some previous of pressing the panic button at similar stages of the season with Champions League qualification in danger. In 2009 Jürgen Klinsmann was ditched and Jupp Heynckes stepped in as caretaker. Prior to that, further evidence shows Felix Magath making way for Ottmar Hitzfeld after the winter break in 2007.
Bayern currently languish in unchartered waters, occupying 5th place in the Bundesliga table and out of the direct Champions League qualification spots. Another poor result against Hoffenheim and the game could be up for van Gaal (59) - especially given the sorry second-half collapse in Cologne last weekend, where the champions let slip a 2-0 half-time lead.
Having said all that, on paper the Hoffenheim game appears to be a formality for the Reds who have won 6 straight games at the Allianz Arena and possess the best home record in the Bundesliga.
Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben should be back to strengthen the Bayern ranks and offer some much needed R&R to the Bayern faithful. The last time both players started for the Reds was 8 May 2010. Top Scorer Mario Gomez should also start after overcoming his knee niggle.