The second half of each season always tends to be more exciting than the first, but the second half of Bayern Munich's campaign may be even more unique. For starters, their world-renowned coach has already announced his departure in the summer, and he may still have goals he has to accomplish. The transition of the squad may also reach a breaking point with some of the club's biggest names coming back from injury. Here are the top storylines to watch as Bayern kick off the second half of their season.
The effect of Pep Guardiola's departure on the club
In every interview involving a Bayern player, one question had to be asked: what each player thinks of Pep Guardiola's departure. His impending departure will loom over the club as much as they want to avoid the topic. The strange aspect of the narrative right now? Jérôme Boateng told kicker Guardiola has not addressed the team regarding his decision, even though it has been a month since he has made it. No one will be able to get a pulse on the locker room atmosphere as Guardiola's time with Bayern comes to an end, but the mood of the squad may manifest itself on the field.
Can Bayern finally find the right solution in the Champions League?
The early assurance of a Bundesliga title seems like it would be a great blessing for a club competing on three fronts. That was the case in Jupp Heynckes's final year, for the coach was able to effectively rotate his squad to keep his top players focused on the Champions League. Guardiola has not been able to replicate that success, partly due to the fact his squad has not been fully healthy in the crucial part of the season. Guardiola has a lot more toys to play with this time around, which may make rotation easier. Squad rotation has not been a Guardiola calling card during his coaching career, so whether he will be able to set up his teams correctly in April and May is still a big question mark.
How fit Bayern's squad remains at the end of the season
Despite acquiring four outfield players in the summer, Bayern limped into the winter break in a way reminiscent of the end of last season. When healthy, Bayern has perhaps the deepest squad in Europe, but only a handful of players – Thomas Müller, Robert Lewandowski and Boateng to name a few – have been able to stay fit. Franck Ribéry's return from injury will probably be the most interesting to watch, but the returns of youngsters Mario Götze and Juan Bernat could also make a real difference. Arjen Robben and Arturo Vidal will also have to remain healthy in order for Bayern to achieve their end-of-season goals.
How the roles in the squad eventually shake out
Guardiola can only play eleven players at a time, even though their squad is 26 players deep. A big name is going to have to sit – whether Vidal, Ribéry, Robben, or Douglas Costa – and someone's role is inevitably going to diminish. The conundrum is not only what roles the players are going to get as Guardiola sorts out his squad, but also whether those players accept those roles. If they do not, it may disrupt the chemistry of the squad.
Which players will commit their futures to Bayern
As previously debated, several big names have contracts expiring in 18 months. The talks are probably occurring at the moment, although Mario Götze revealed in January his contract extension talks have yet to begin. These are negotiations that may affect the mindset of some of the players, and will be an underlying narrative the media will try to unearth when squad selection questions arise.