Bayern Munich enjoyed the ideal preparation for their meeting with Arsenal on Wednesday with a comfortable 4-0 win over Freiburg to cement their massive advantage at the top of the Bundesliga.
Against a Freiburg side battling against relegation, Bayern had the match settled by half time, courtesy of a Dante header and two deflected strikes from Xherdan Shaqiri. Claudio Pizarro then completed the rout with a fourth goal two minutes from time. The win takes Bayern 16 points clear of second placed Bayer Leverkusen, who take son Schalke later on Saturday.
With the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Premier League side Arsenal upcoming, Pep Guardiola couldn’t have wished for a less strenuous afternoon. It says much for the relentless quality and momentum of this Bayern side that they won at such a canter, despite rarely getting out of second gear. Looking to keep his players fresh, Guardiola made five changes to the lineup that beat Hamburg 5-0 in midweek. Yet, it was a Bayern side that could still hardly be described as weak.
It was one of the players brought into the team that set up Bayern’s opening goal on 19 minutes, with what was Bayern’s first attack of any real note. After a free-kick was half cleared, Diego Contento swung in a shallow cross from the left and Dante was allowed to get in front of his marker and direct a fine header into the bottom corner from 15 yards.
Bayern, already exhibiting a keen element of control, essentially already put the match beyond their willing but woefully outgunned opponents 15 minutes later. A clever flick from Pizarro set Shaqiri away and the Swiss winger got the benefit of the run of the ball following a failed challenge before striking a left-footed shot from the angle that got a helpful deflection off Freiburg defender Oliver Sorg to take it into the net at the near post.
It was a similar scenario that brought Shaqiri his second goal soon after. Freiburg’s defense was caught terribly exposed by another nice touch from Pizarro to allow Toni Kroos to burst clear down the left. His unselfish prod back found Shaqiri, whose effort again benefited from a deflection, this time off his own teammate, Tomas Muller, who to the chagrin of Freiburg was in an offside position.
Arjen Robben had earlier missed a golden chance to get the third goal himself, after a brilliant slalom run past several Freiburg players failed to be complemented by a finish of equal quality on his weaker right foot. The Dutchman was one of two Bayern players, along with Contento, to miss presentable chances with their head in the second half.
It was a period in which Guardiola engaged in further experimentation with his side. Pizarro and Robben both switched into unfamiliar positions, with the Chilean dropping deep off the front and Robben often as the furthest man forward -- the two in almost false 10 and false nine roles, respectively. It’s hard to think of another coach in the world who has so many options, both tactically and in terms of personnel, at his disposal, a fact further emphasized as Bastian Schweinsteiger continued his comeback from injury off the bench.
And there was to be one final flourish from Bayern, with Pizarro getting the goal his play arguably deserved. It was all too easy for the veteran front man as he strolled inside a defender on the edge of the area and placed a shot into the far corner of the net.