Last season brought another Bundesliga clean sweep yet, despite their domestic dominance, mutiny remains in the Bayern Munich camp.
The eventual margin between themselves and VfL Wolfsburg was a chasm – 10 points – and yet Die Bayern supporters still finished the season feeling a large sense of unfulfillment.
Their eventual Champions League loss to Barcelona, as well as a DFB Pokal semi-final defeat to understrength Borussia Dortmund on penalties, disappointed those on the terraces.
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It seemed to epitomise their Rückrunde, which they started with a 4-1 defeat to Wolfsburg and they were rarely forced out of second gear therein.
Another ‘Buli’ title looks inevitable this season, but the fitness of two star midfielders remains a serious doubt for Bayern fans moving forward.
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AILING MIDFIELDERS LIMP OVER THE LINE
Little has been seen of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, stellar performers for the Bavarian outfit over recent seasons, during pre-season as both battle with injuries sustained at the back end of last season.
Ribery is a more pressing concern, having not featured since injuring his ankle in a 7-0 rout of Shakhtar Donetsk back in March. The 32-year-old suffered a setback after his injury failed to respond to treatment and his wellbeing looks an on-going concern – in each season since 2011/12, the winger has featured in less minutes and started just 15 Bundesliga games last term.
Dutchman Robben is less of a concern, having featured in the DFL-Supercup defeat to Wolfsburg, though he looks increasingly vulnerable as he ages.
With Mario Götze reportedly unhappy at a bit part role and clubs circling for the German international, Guardiola’s hand was forced in the transfer market.
DOUGLAS COSTA - THE UNKNOWN QUANTITY
The Spaniard turned to Douglas Costa, signed from Shakhtar Donetsk in a €30 million deal.
Costa, 24, was perhaps not the huge name fans were expecting and Guardiola was forced to defend the signing after ex-manager Mircea Lucescu declared the Brazilian “not yet strong enough” for the German side. But if first impressions in a Bayern shirt count for anything, Costa will light up the Allianz Arena and become a star in Bavaria.
After giving a decent showing in the Supercup, Costa whet the appetite for his home fans with a fine performance in the recent Audi Cup win over Real Madrid.
Alongside setting up Robert Lewandowski’s winning goal with a pinpoint free-kick, Costa’s skillful nature flourished on more than one occasion as the home fans begin to warm to him.
With the aforementioned Ribery and Robben increasingly susceptible to injuries, the signing of Costa could prove a pivotal one as Guardiola looks to ease any fears of a weakening side.