FC Bayern's home game against VFL Wolfsburg on Saturday afternoon marks the start of the year-end spurt. The German record champions have three matches left before the start of the winter break and the target for these matches is crystal clear: "With three wins we could end a very successful 2016 in top spot," said FCB chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
Even though the unofficial mid-term title will not be decided until matchday 17, to be played in the middle of January this season, "we would still like to be sitting under the tree as the top team at Christmas on Christmas Eve," continued Rummenigge. The first hurdle to achieving that goal comes on Saturday when 15th-placed Wolfsburg visit the Allianz Arena (15.30 CET).
And even if the omens for a home victory for FCB are good in terms of position in the table and overall record – 21 out of 22 games against VfL in Munich have ended in victory for the Reds –, the game against Wolfsburg will not be a walk in the park. "I'm expecting a very tough game because the quality of their team is very good," warned Bayern head coach Carlo Ancelotti ahead of Saturday's match.Ancelotti astonished
"It's a big surprise to see Wolfsburg at the wrong end of the table because they have very good players," said an astonished Ancelotti looking at the Wolves
league form to date. Ten points from 13 games is less than satisfactory for a club that started the season with aspirations of being a contender for a Champions League finish. And the change in the managerial hot seat from Dieter Hecking to former Bayern pro Valérien Ismael has not yet produced the desired change in fortunes.
"I think they'll defend and play on the break," said Ancelotti in expectation of a defensively-minded VfL. The Italian concurs with Rummenigge's thoughts on the last three games of the year against Wolfsburg, away to Darmstadt and at home to league leaders RB Leipzig: "We know we can be top of the table with three wins. We have to end the first half of the season with three victories."Boateng could replace Hummels
Ancelotti will have to find a replacement for central defender Mats Hummels for the Wolfsburg game as the Germany international was unable to train on Friday due to a bout of gastroenteritis. "He can't play," reported Ancelotti. Jérôme Boateng could replace Hummels. The World Cup winner currently has a shoulder problem he has not fully recovered from according to Ancelotti. A final decision on the return of Boateng will be made on the day of the match.
The former Bayern man Ismael will have to make do without Maximilian Arnold and Paul Seguin on his return to Munich ("It's a good feeling when you meet up with your old club"). "It's obviously the most difficult away game of the season," said Ismael. The Wolfsburg coach knows "everything has to go right on the day" if he is to get a result in Munich. "There are definitely easier games. But it's also a huge challenge."