As if 120 minutes of intense soccer were not more than enough for either side, Bayern Munich and Leipzig clash yet again on Saturday just days after Bayern spectacularly knocked the Saxons out of the DFB Pokal in a penalty shootout. Now the two teams will face each other again in Munich.
Will Jupp Heynckes call on Javi and James?
The loss of Thomas Müller to a muscle injury was hard enough. Combined with Javi Martinez's niggling shoulder injury, Heynckes's starting lineup against Leipzig in the Pokal was weakened at two crucial points. Now Javi Martinez should be fit to return to the starting lineup, to resume his role as the team's “breakwater” in the defensive midfield.
Bayern will need Javi to be on his game: Arturo Vidal and Corentin Tolisso were thoroughly outplayed by Leipzig's Naby Keita and Kevin Kampl, who forced Bayern out of the middle and provided excellent service to Leipzig's cagey attackers - especially Emil Forsberg. At times, it seemed as if Vidal and Tolisso could not coordinate which of them was supposed to cover the defense and which should go forward. With Javi back, the hierarchy should be clear.
The main question then is whether Thiago will play the attacking half of the double-pivot or stay in the 10 position behind Robert Lewandowski. Given Leipzig's stranglehold on the midfield on Wednesday, Heynckes may opt to return Thiago to the 6, alongside and ahead of Martinez on the left side of the field.
If Heynckes indeed moves Thiago back to the double-pivot, then we may indeed see James Rodriguez at last line up behind Lewandowski, where his passing and creativity may be most effective. James played a poor first half against Hamburg last week, but he deserves a second chance. Bayern showed on Wednesday that they need a reliable creative force to free Robert Lewandowski and draw Leipzig's back line away from Kingsley Coman and especially Arjen Robben.
Leipzig ain't broke
Leipzig's game plan worked beautifully at midweek, and there is no reason for coach Ralph Hasenhüttl to make any significant changes. Hasenhüttl complained bitterly about the performance of head referee Felix Zwayer, but his team was outstanding all the way down until the penalty shootout, when Bayern's superiority was beyond question.
If Hasenhüttl makes any changes, it will be to start Timo Werner alongside Yussuf Poulsen. Hasenhüttl opted to pair Jean-Kévin Augustin with Poulsen in the Pokal, subbing Werner on for Poulsen shortly before the end of regulation time. With Werner's fitness not in doubt, he will surely start this time around.
Naby Keita was far and away the best player on the pitch until he was sent off in the 55th minute. He will try to keep a cooler head this time around. Diego Demme is an option for Kevin Kampl as Keita's midfield partner, but Kampl worked so effectively with Keita, it makes sense to keep him.
In the back line, Hasenhüttl will probably stick with the four starters from Wednesday, unless he opts to replace Bernardo with Lukas Klostermann.
Bayern can expect much the same intense game play as in the Pokal. The key battle to watch will unfold in the midfield, where Heynckes's selection will face the same intense pressing and lightning-fast play-making that rattled Vidal and Tolisso and exposed Bayern's defense to dangerous attacks.