MUNICH, GERMANY - AUGUST 20: Toni Kroos of Bayern runs with the ball during the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern Muenchen and VfL Wolfsburg at Allianz Arena on August 20, 2010 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
What's happened to Bayern Munich this season? As injuries continue to sideline some of Munich's brightest stars, some key squad players continue to step up and fill in the gaps while Bayern climb the table.
Nov 5, 2010 - After a dreadfully slow start to the Bundesliga campaign, the reigning German champions and Champions League runners up from last season have gained seven points in their last three league matches. The much needed spark in form in recent weeks has witnessed Bayern jump from 12th to 7th in the table and qualify for the round of 16 in the Champions League. The movement forward from Germany's biggest club comes while a number of their star players remain stranded in the desert of football injury.
Strains, knocks and bumps to key players in last season's massively successful campaign such as Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Mark van Bommel, Ivica Olic, Miroslav Klose and now Daniel van Buyten have kept Bayern Munich out of a Champions League spot in the table and ten points off the pace of table toppers Borussia Dortmund.
While some of Munich's star men have languished near a physio's table for some time, it's been a decent crop of squad players that have stepped up to prove their worth. 20 year old German international Toni Kroos can attack from midfield at pace, has good on the ball skills and is widely regarded in German football as an international for the future. Kroos has made 15 appearances for Munich so far this season and has netted twice.
Ukrainian utility man Anatoliy Tymoschuk has filled in at the center of defense for Munich and can also play in midfield. Having captained Zenit St Petersburg to the UEFA Cup Final in 2008, Tymoschuk then joined Munich in 2009 and has appeared eight times for Munich this season as a solid defender.
Andreas Ottl has attempted to fill the boots of van Bommel in the center of midfield and like Tymoschuk, can play in defense as well as midfield. Ottl has only appeared three times for Munich in the Bundesliga, but has been effective when implemented and gives coach Louis van Gaal another alternative to choose from.
Mario Gomez has already appeared in 15 matches for Munich and has returned a healthy nine goals in all competitions up front in Klose's spot. Gomez was already a star in the making before joining Munich from Stuttgart in 2009 for a massive transfer fee, but a fee that was often laughed at especially when last year Ivica Olic, who came to Munich on a free, was preferred over Gomez who only scored a modest 14 goals. This year, Gomez seems to have located his scoring form at the perfect time to prove to van Gaal he's ready for his shot.
Current injuries aside, Bayern are now within striking distance of at least the European spots well before the winter break. Time continues to heal all wounds for Bayern as Franck Ribery, van Bommel, Diego Contento and Klose all eye returns before December.
As good news continues to emerge concerning certain key players returning to the squad, Bayern will hope to trim Dortmund's ten point lead to at least five or six points before the winter break, certainly an optimistic and realistic goal the Champions should be able to achieve.
On a good run of form in the Bundesliga, Bayern will travel to bottom of the table Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday looking for another three points to continue their surge up the league and keep pressure on those ahead of them. Should Bayern regain their stars at the right time and remain healthy throughout the rest of the season, don't bet against them vanquishing Dortmund's ten point advantage before it's all over.
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