FC Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola had to get a little creative on Saturday against arch rival Borussia Dortmund, counteracting the absence of both world class wingers in Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, while also dealing with the sidelined jack-of-all-trades, David Alaba, by fielding an unusually defensive 3-5-2 (or 5-3-2, whichever way you want to look at it) lineup. Well, things aren't getting any easier.
Ribery ruled out
In addition to the long-term injured Javi Martinez, along with the aforementioned Robben and Alaba, there was hope that Franck Ribery would recover in time from his recent ankle injury to contribute in the cup game, but he has already been ruled out, according to FC Bayern's website.
Schweinsteiger hoping to be ready
To make matters worse, Bastian Schweinsteiger, who is also dealing with a sprained ankle, sustained from some questionable tackles against Dortmund over the weekend, is still feeling pain in the injured joint. The good news is that the injury is not considered serious, but he faces a race against time to be able to be ready for Leverkusen this week. The vice-captain took Monday's training session off.
In the only good news on the injury front, Holger Badstuber (aka Badstu) returned to team practice, after having to deal with a minor muscle strain which he picked up over the international break while on duty with Germany, giving Guardiola a little bit of added flexibility on defense.
What will Pep do?
So, what does that mean for the lineup for the game in Leverkusen? Well, trying to figure out what Pep will do is like trying to guess the Powerball numbers, but that's never stopped us before.
Will Sebastian Rode replace Schweinsteiger in the three-man central midfield, or will Pep take a chance and put more creativity beside Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso, by plugging in Thiago? Rode has shown he can an effective box-to-box midfielder, making tireless runs while supporting the attack, and helping out in the back. It's probably too early for Thiago to start, considering that he just got his first 20 or so competitive minutes, and probably doesn't have the stamina to start, as he admitted himself in an interview with FCB.tv.
Will Holger Badstuber push Dante to the bench, despite a very solid showing by the Brazilian in the last game, playing the left side CB in the three man back line?
Will Pep try to create some more offense against the third-stingiest BL squad (behind Gladbach and Bayern), inserting Mario Götze alongside Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski?
Of course, it wouldn't completely shock me if someone like Gianluca Gaudino or Claudio Pizarro ended up starting, because, let's face it, Pep likes to keep opposing coaches on their toes.
Other injury news
Tom Starke, after losing his backup spot to Pepe Reina at the beginning of this season, now has to deal with a torn ligament in his ankle, which he picked up in training, sidelining him for about four weeks, making this a season he would rather erase from his memory.
Update: Bastian Schweinsteiger has now been ruled out of Wednesday's game.
In today's press conference, Pep Guardiola confirmed that the vice captain will not be available to play against Leverkusen on Wednesday.