Ancient Mayans prophesied an apocalyptic 2012, when a 5,126 year-era of humanity would end with unrivalled chaos and destruction.
Bayern Munich fans aren’t known as a superstitious bunch but they could be forgiven for starting to believe in the predictions of the ancient South American culture, which was brought to a cinema near you by Mel Gibson’s 2006 film, Apocalpyto.
At Christmas, life could hardly have been rosier for Jupp Heynckes’ men.
Having dominated Napoli, Villarreal and Manchester City in a tough Champions League group, the Bavarians led the Bundesliga in style.
Their new, expensively-assembled defense had bedded in nicely, even going 12 games without conceding a single goal.
In January my Never Mind the Ballacks colleague Ian Holyman blogged: Who can stop Bayern?
Five weeks later, we have the answer: Borussia Mönchengladbach, Hamburg, Freiburg and Basel.
Bayern’s Champions League defeat in Switzerland this week piled the pressure on the club, pressure that it seems not all are comfortable with.
“Wake up now, you have to get angry,” roared club chief Executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. “It doesn’t make sense to go onto the pitch and think things will sort themselves out. That won’t be the case. Together we have to pull ourselves out of the (expletive deleted) we find ourselves in.”
It’s less surprising to hear club president Uli Hoeness swear in front of the media, but his comments after that Basel defeat were still noteworthy.
When asked why Franck Ribery didn’t shake hands with Heynckes after being substituted, Hoeness lost his cool.
“Why ask about a (expletive deleted) handshake when there is football to talk about?”
Bayern should have been warned about the Swiss side, who after all knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League. But the visitors failed to make their superior possession (57 percent) or shot count (13, to Basel’s 7) make a difference.
Captain Phillip Lahm blamed bad luck but it could have been worse for Bayern: in the first half Manuel Neuer did superbly to push
Aleksandar Dragović’s header onto the post, and Alexander Frei was desperately unlucky to see his shot smack the underside of the bar.
Basel finally scored when Stocker made the most of Rafinha’s lack of concentration.
“This is very upsetting, but I can’t say that it was undeserved,” a gloomy Neuer said after the match.
Once they leave their Munich fortress, nothing seems to be going right for Bayern in 2012. First, they were thoroughly outplayed by Borussia Mönchengladbach, before scratching a draw at struggling Hamburg. At the weekend they threw everything at the Bundesliga’s worst defence, Freiburg, with no reward.
Even Bayern’s luggage didn’t arrive on time when the team jetted into Switzerland for the Basel match.
What’s gone wrong? At the back, Bayern suddenly look short of confidence. Rafinha’s mistake was not his first, Neuer looks jittery and the weight of a 14 million euro price tag seems to be weighing on Jerome Boateng.
But the real problems are at the other end. The team is badly missing its driving force, the injured Bastian Schweinsteiger.
The normally dynamic Thomas Muller is listless, and was even dropped for the Basel match. Mario Gomez is missing chance after chance, and Bayern fans grumble that the famed ”Robbery” duo of Ribery and Arjen Robben are playing for themselves and not the team.
Put simply, there’s a growing feeling that Bayern peaked too early this season.
“It’s clear that the alarm bells are going to be ringing,” Heynckes admitted.
Bayern’s dream of playing in a 19 May final on home turf is in real danger. Statistically, Basel and favourites to advance — since 1970, six out of ten teams that have won 1-0 at home in the first leg of European competitions have advanced.
Bayern’s eight-point Bundesliga lead has been turned into a four-point deficit behind a rampant Dortmund. Gladbach have even sneaked into second spot.
Rummennigge issued a rally cry (”we have to start playing on Sunday, my gentlemen”) but Bayern could hardly have tougher opposition this weekend.
Visiting Schalke are in rampant form, with Raul rolling back the years and a set up players looking for revenge after being thoroughly turned over at the Veltins Arena by Bayern earlier this season.
But Bayern must beat Schalke. Without their two most creative forces, Mario Götze and Shinji Kagawa, league leaders Borussia Dortmund have learnt to win ugly and have gone a club record 16 matches without defeat.
Another off day for Heynckes’ men and 2012 might turn into a year to forget.
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This weekend’s Bundesliga action gets underway on Friday with Moenchengladbach against Hamburg (20:30 CET). On Saturday, we have a derby match, Cologne v Bayer Leverkusen (15:30), and Bremen v Nurenberg (18:30) both LIVE. Then on Sunday catch Bayern v Schalke (15h30) and Dortmund v Hannover (17h30). Coverage in North and East Europe. From this week catch Bundesliga 2 action on Friday as well as Monday.