While it doesn't matter what kind of value you place on Bayern Munich's 2-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund in the DFL Supercup, there is zero questioning that Bayern suffered a major loss in Wednesday's match. Less than a half hour into the contest, Javi Martinez was forced to leave the match with a very serious knee injury.
Until the proper tests are completed on Martinez's knee, we won't know the full extent of the injury. However, if the midfielder's Facebook message is any indication, it appears that we should fear for the worst.
"I've just spoken to the doctors and I'm 99 percent sure it's a cruciate knee ligament injury." Martinez continue, "I'll find out for definite tomorrow. If it is a cruciate injury, I'll have an operation. It's extremely frustrating, but I'll come back stronger and a better player."
If you speak Spanish, then watch/listen to the words come directly out of the midfielder's mouth after the game.
This is terrible news for Javi, as he also missed large portions of last season due to injury and was never able to recapture his stellar form in the 2012-2013 season that helped Bayern win the triple. Pep Guardiola expressed his concern in his post match press conference. "We'll know what he's got tomorrow," said Guardiola, "but I think that he will be out for a long time. This is a big problem. He was in outstanding form."
Our own Ryan Cowper took a look at Guardiola's 3-4-3. He explored why Bayern's personnel fit the formation and how it's flexibility would give Bayern the opportunity at controlling their weak points better than last year's 4-1-4-1 did. A key point was the role to be played by Martinez.
The key element in the 3-man backline is the central centerback. While both wide centerbacks function like true classical centerbacks, the middle one has to play exactly like a distributing midfielder. This makes it a fantastic position for both Javi Martinez and Holger Badstuber and it also allows them the a certain license in freedom of movement. This is most helpful for Javi Martinez whose best ability is to read opposition attacks, creating interceptions and tackles. If need be the central centerback can step into holding midfield to bring more bodies into the attack or it can drop deeper to act as a libero depending on the offensive setup of the opposition.
We saw how perfectly Martinez fit into that center-centerback role of a back three in the DFB Pokal Final victory against Borussia Dortmund at the end of last season. With Dante to his left and Jerome Boateng to his right, Martinez was able to both step into the midfield to bolster the attack and drop deeper to help cut out BVB's speedy counterattack. The plan, at least with the depleted squad through the preseason, has been a continuation of that impressive performance.
As Ryan states, the role could also be filled by Holger Badstuber, but after a year and a half on the shelf due to knee injuries, it's not known quite yet how much Bayern and Pep trust the centerback. His play in the preseason has been extremely encouraging, but it must be remember that these performances are taking place in the preseason. I actually believe that, while Holger may not fit this role as well as Martinez, he could very much be a "fill-in".
Many will be pushing Matthias Sammer to find and sign a centerback before the transfer window closes at the end of the month. Those people will probably pine for the two players that the club was linked to earlier this summer in AS Roma's Mehdi Benatia and Atletico Madrid's Diego Godin. It will take tens of thousands of euros to pry either player from their respective clubs. However, with Martinez likely sidelined until after the new year, Bayern's centerback depth will stop after Badstuber, Boateng, and Dante. With the club selling Diego Contento to Bordeaux earlier this week, there is no fourth centerback in the squad as long as Martinez is out.
This weekend's DFB Pokal First Round match against Preußen Münster will be our first glimpse in what Guardiola's plans are without Martinez. It's not a match that we'll learn a lot from, but it's a competitive match nonetheless.