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What to watch for in Bayern Munich's 2017 opener against Freiburg

Bayern will come out of the winter break a different team than they were in December

Bayern Muenchen v TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - Bundesliga Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images

Bayern Munich entered the winter break on the biggest upswing they could possibly have. That upswing was knocking their title rivals RB Leipzig flat on their bums as they took a three-point lead atop the table before the holiday season.

But they will have to start their 2017 football schedule playing a road game against one of the six teams that has five wins at home this season - Freiburg. The recently promoted Bundesliga club has been able to keep up with top flight teams thanks in part to a strong home record.

"We want to do the same thing [against Freiburg] that we just did against Leipzig," Carlo Ancelotti said in a press conference on Thursday.

Here are some things to watch for in Bayern's first match of 2017.

Thomas Müller's "new" position

Müller's lack of scoring has been somewhat of an issue for Bayern this season. Ancelotti has used Müller more in a wide role, but insisted to ESPN FC's Gab Marcotti that he is not playing Müller out of position:

He'll just do it in his own way and reinvent the position. I was criticised in Germany when I played him out wide and they said: 'Yes, but he is not a winger.' Well, gee, I'm not stupid. I can see that he's not a winger and that he can't play out wide the way Arjen Robben or Douglas Costa play wide, and I'm not going to ask him to try to imitate Robben. What he can do from a wide position is use his intelligence to find the right positions on the pitch at the right time, starting from out wide, and that creates mismatches and helps the team.

But Ancelotti has begun to changed Müller's role, not only in games in December but also in friendlies over the winter break. Müller has played mainly in a central role during Bayern's January friendlies with Douglas Costa, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben playing on the flanks. Ancelotti’s recent change in strategy could mean Müller's days on the wing have come to an end, and the result of his "new" position could be very positive.

A very young midfield

Bayern could have real problems in midfield against Freiburg. Thiago is already out for the time being and Arturo Vidal did not practice much this week - although Ancelotti said on Thursday he could still play.

Their absences could very well mean that Joshua Kimmich and Renato Sanches will be starting together for the first time since September. They played together eight times (including three starts) in the first half of the season, but every time they have started together (vs. Ingolstadt, at Hamburg and vs. Cologne) Bayern have struggled to get going and have even dropped points.

Since Bayern’s 2-2 draw against Frankfurt, Kimmich and Renato Sanches have been on the field simultaneously three times, each of which was five minutes or less. But they started together in two of the three friendlies over the winter break. What the pair will be able to do together will be worth keeping tabs on.

Freiburg's underrated attack

They are scoring around 40 percent less than they did last season, but Freiburg's offense is still a good one. They have three players who have five goals - Maximilian Philipp, Florian Niederlechner and Nils Petersen. They also have Vincenzo Grifo, who is perhaps the least talked about young playmaker in the Bundesliga.

Christian Streich is not necessarily the best tactician, but he knows how to get the best out of his players. Freiburg have snatched a few goals against the run of play against Bayern before and if the defending champs aren't careful it could very easily happen again.

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