Pitchside Europe

Bayern show they’re back to their best

Reports of Bayern Munich's demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Following a hitch in Matchday 9 against Bayer Leverkusen, normal service was well and truly restored with an emphatic 3-0 win at Hamburg, their first since 2006.

Leverkusen - the club known as the "factory Squad" had thrown a spanner in the works with their 2-1 win at the Allianz Arena a week before.

A fast improving Hamburg side was billed as big test for Bayern in front of a partisan capacity crowd of 57,000. Yet on a cold, wet, Saturday evening in the North, Bayern warmed their fans' hearts with a performance of such quality you wondered if Hamburg were actually in the same League.

Bayern laid to rest any doubts that the Munich machine was anything other than back up, running and fully operational

All three goals were of the highest order from Thomas Moeller, Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger whose reaction summed up his team's spirit:

"It was important to provide some answers after the Leverkusen defeat and we've not won that often in Hamburg recently. We were determined to do it today."

Moeller's goal was his best this season. In fact his seventh goal of the season means he's already equalled his total from the last campaign - a sure sign that he's now back to his best after a mediocre season last year.

So much for the ugly rumour circulating that despite their honeymoon start to the season, Bayern were about to be overhauled by the sleeping giant Dortmund. This was sparked by Bayern's shock home defeat to Leverkusen and Dortmund's first away win of the campaign, on the snow at Freiburg which reduced Bayern's lead over them to nine points.

Bayern's critics were fully expecting (or maybe hoping) that Dortmund would start to overhaul Bayern just as they did last season but neither side had read the script though because Bayern bounced back while Dortmund drew with Stuggart.

The champions have not won back to games all season and  Dortmund are wasting too many goalscoring chances. There are no such problems for Bayern though whose impressive goal difference of twenty six is nearly three times as much as their nearest rivals Schalke and Dortmund.

Bayern were in complete control from kick off to the final whistle despite missing Holger Badstuber in their only defensive change all season.

Moeller's goal stole the headlines but the man of the match was Toni Kroos who is playing his best football and whose fourth goal this season also equalled his tally from last season. He also picked out Schweinsteiger for the opening goal.

It's taken the 22 year old Kroos two seasons to finally reproduce the form for Bayern that he showed on loan at Bayer Leverkusen.

He hadn't been helped by being played out of position as a defensive midfielder but this season he's seized his chance playing in the "hole".

Both Kroos and Moeller are benefitting from the continuity that comes with playing in their favourite position. Along with Mario Mandzukic they've been so good that the absence of Arjen Robben and Mario Gomez has hardly been noticed.

This reflects a deep squad but also a strong team spirit which has not always been the case at Bayern.

KEY QUOTES

Jupp HEYNCKES

"I think we demonstrated today that we have not only a top class team but also a very good team spirit. The team played in a very harmonious and very smart way which is of course important in football. We have the capacity to move quickly from defense to offense. Also the key of success today was the way in which everybody works for the team."

Now you would expect the Bayern coach to stress team spirit but perhaps not its Dutch star. Times are changing.

Arjen ROBBEN:

"Of course, when you play football, you play because you love to. We have great qualities, we know that and today, we attacked really well. Which I think was a good thing for the fans and viewers. And for us too. It was collective work and that's something you always have to keep in mind".

It was a perfect weekend for Bayern who extended their lead over Schalke to seven points after "Die Konigblauen - the Royal Blues" were stunned 3-2 by a last minute goal from Hoffenheim 3rd place Eintracht Frankfurt and Dortmund drew.

The big test for Bayern was always going to be how they would react to last season's crushing treble disappointment.

It now looks as if this adversity has brought them closer together. Even by Bayern's high standards, this has been an exceptional start.

Last season Bayern and Dortmund's home records were similar. It was the champions away form which made the difference. This season the tables have been turned and it's Bayern who have now set another Bundesliga record thanks to their perfect away form.

P 5 W 5 F15 A 0  Pts 15

Watching from the stands was Hollywood actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. Bayern are sometimes known as "FC Hollywood" so maybe the actor was simply curious.

The American has made an impressive career as a supporting actor but even if he knows nothing about football he should have known that Bayern are no support act. This season Bayern are the Bundesliga's star attraction.

Due credit should go to Jupp Heynckes. The 67 year old is due to step down as Bayern coach at the end of this season but football is a very addictive drug, especially when you're winning. Remember that Sir Alex Ferguson was in the same position 10 years ago. He famously changed his mind and one Champions league crown and countless titles later the 70 year old's still in the Old Trafford hot seat.

I will confidently predict that nothing short of a spectacular collapse or a miracle for the chasing pack will prevent Bayern claiming a record 22nd title in May and that Heynckes will still be in charge next season.

Bayern's next game this Saturday is home to Eintracht Frankfurt who were surprisingly held 1-1 by struggling Greuther Fuerth after taking the lead after 21 seconds.

You feel this will be more of a test for Armin Veh's team as Bayern prepare to clip the wings of the high flying Eagles. It would be unthinkable to think of two consecutive home defeats at the Allianz. Bayern certainly won't be thinking about losing.

Tony Jeffers

Eurosport 2 Bundesliga commentator