With only a day or so before Roma faces the monumental task of toppling Bayern Munich at the Allianz, our friends at Bavarian Football Works reached out across the aisle to put a bit of humanity behind this slightly imbalanced rivalry. While we're all proud of being Roma fans, we simply have no idea what it's like to get behind a team that so thoroughly dominates its competition each and every week at home and abroad. With that in mind, I spoke with Davis Vonopdorp at BFW to take us inside the mind of a Munich fan.
Bren: After the first match, Pep insisted that the gap between Roma and Bayern wasn't that big, do you think he's right? Munich is great, no doubt, but do you expect another 7-1 drubbing? Is there any difference between Munich's approach domestically and in Europe?
Davis Vonopdorp: Bayern will be on every shortlist of the best teams in Europe until they prove otherwise, but from what I have seen from AS Roma, the gialorossi are not very far off, even after the 7-1 performance Bayern showed. Complacency has been a bit of an issue in recent seasons, but the handful of new faces in the team (Robert Lewandowski, Xabi Alonso, Juan Bernat, Mehdi Benatia) will keep the team on track. Pep Guardiola takes all competitions on the same level of seriousness at this point in the season, and it wasn't until the end of last season where he really changed his approach to matches. He has settled on a framework group of personnel at the moment, one that has transcended the competition lines Bayern have crossed.
Cdt: Munich obviously has talented players in spades, but if you had to name one who was the most important to what they do and do so well, who would it be and why? Are there any areas of improvement or potential winter targets you have your eyes on?
BFW: Bayern Munich do not spend in the Winter transfer window very often - the last January purchase was Luiz Gustavo in 2011. Even though they have weathered a few injury roadblocks, they have remained two-deep at most positions. The only squad issues they have at the moment are minor ones, like "who is Manuel Neuer's backup" and "do they need a fourth center back." As far as who is the most important player in the team, we do squad rankings among the BFW writers to try and determine that, and at the moment Xabi Alonso has consistently been a top choice. The direction and orchestration he has brought with him from Real Madrid has kept Bayern organized and potent, and there is a reason he touches the ball more than anyone else in the team.
Q&A with BFW
Q&A with BFW
CdT: How familiar was your average Bayern fan with Mehdi Benatia before he was purchased from Roma? How is he fitting in? What do you think will happen if/when Javi Martinez returns?
BFW: I am making a generalization, but I would be surprised if even a fifth of Bayern Munich fans knew who Mehdi Benatia was before reports surfaced that Bayern was scouting him last April. He had fitness issues at the beginning of his time in Munich, but he has put in a solid seven shifts and Bayern have allowed just two goals in those appearances. He is slowly taking command of one of the center back spots, supplanting two-year starter Dante. When Javi Martínez comes back, I would not be shocked at all if Guardiola makes a permanent shift to a three-back system to accommodate both him, Benatia, and Jérôme Boateng, but to me that is still a long way off.
CdT: On a scale of 1-10, ten being the best, what's it like to follow a team that actually wins and wins a lot? What are your expectations every season? Are there any other teams you enjoy watching in other leagues?
BFW: Haha if anyone did not say 10, they take a different approach to football than I do. The minimum expectations every year is to sweep the domestic competitions, and it is a failed season if Bayern does not (well, maybe not winning the DFB-Pokal is ok). My feeling is that my personal expectations in the Champions League are always a bit lower than others, for I would be happy if they even made it to the final considering how incredibly hard it is to win at that level. As far as other leagues, I generally try to watch who Bayern's opponents are, so I have sampled a few other leagues and I do not really have a favorite. I like to watch football for the players more than the clubs so I can appreciate the unique skills that they have. I really have refined my rooting interests down to Bayern Munich and the United States though in order to watch football objectively (I personally think it is cheating to root for several clubs).
We'll hit you with the more standard preview tomorrow, but if you're ever curious about how the other half lives, head on over to BFW, they do some of the best work on the network.