Bayern Munich will be looking to bounce back from their shock defeat last week when they visit FC Koln at the RheinEnergieStadion on Saturday.
The hosts continued their excellent start to the season by winning their opening game of 2022 last weekend, whilst the visitors’ defeat means the Bundesliga title race has been resurrected.
After defeating Stuttgart and Wolfsburg immediately before the winter break, Koln made it three successive victories when they returned to action with a 3-1 win at Hertha Berlin last weekend.
A quick-fire double from Anthony Modeste and Ondrej Duda in the first half saw them take a 2-0 lead into half time, before Jan Thielmann sealed the three points in second-half stoppage time after Vladimir Darida had pulled a goal back for their opponents.
The performance was another impressive one to go along with the result as well, as Steffen Baumgart’s side continue to be one of the surprise packages of the Bundesliga season so far.
The former SC Paderborn boss has transformed his side from one that narrowly avoided relegation to the 2.Bundesliga last campaign under Markus Gisdol and Friedhelm Funkel, to one that is now remarkably challenging for the European places this season.
Just four defeats across their opening 18 matchdays have left the Billy Goats in sixth place heading into the weekend, 10 points above the relegation places and just two off Freiburg in the Champions League spots.
One of those losses did arrive at the hands of Saturday’s opponents though, as Koln fought bravely and respectably before falling 3-2 at the Allianz Arena back in August on matchday two.
Meanwhile, Bayern began 2022 looking to stroll to a comfortable 10th-successive Bundesliga title, with the Bavarians heading into the return from the winter break with a nine-point lead over Borussia Dortmund at the top of the table.
However, the champions’ shock 2-1 defeat at the hands of Borussia Monchengladbach at the Allianz Arena last Friday evening, coupled with Dortmund’s incredible 3-2 comeback win at Eintracht Frankfurt, means their lead has been cut to six points all of a sudden.
Julian Nagelsmann’s side were severely impacted by a COVID-19 outbreak last week however, with Marcel Sabitzer filling in at full back, Sven Ulreich being required in between the posts, Malik Tillman starting his first-ever game for the club, and a substitutes bench being filled by teenagers.
Despite this, Nagelsmann and the wider footballing world will still have expected a Bayern victory, but they were punished once more against an opponent that held them to a 1-1 draw on the opening weekend before humiliating them 5-0 in the DFB-Pokal back in October.
There is little time to dwell on the result though, as Saturday’s visitors must put in an improved display regardless of player availability, particularly if Dortmund cut the gap to three points in their Friday evening clash with Freiburg at Signal Iduna Park.
With 14 wins and a draw in their last 15 competitive meetings with their opponents at the weekend, then a comfortable victory would usually be expected, but Nagelsmann will be aware of the challenge his side faces against an in-form team battling it out for the European places.
Although, over the years when the giants that are Bayern Munich have seemed to have their backs against their walls, it is then that they have tended to bounce back to their devastating best to remind everyone of their title-winning credentials over and over again.
FC Koln Bundesliga form:
Bayern Munich Bundesliga form:
Bayern Munich form (all competitions):
We say: FC Koln 1-3 Bayern Munich
As mentioned above, Bayern tend to return to their best after a setback, so despite the hosts being in excellent form overall, particularly at home, we fully expect the champions to win on Saturday.
Koln will look to frustrate the visitors and will likely put in another hard-fought display, but Bayern should have far too much quality for them with many of their players returning.