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Champions League preview: Bayern take the game to Anderlecht

Bayern fly to Brussels to chomp some sprouts.

MUNICH, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 12:  Niklas Suele of FC Bayern Muenchen jumps for a header with Lukasz Teodorczyk of RSC Anderlecht during the UEFA Champions League group B match between Bayern Muenchen and RSC Anderlecht at Allianz Arena on September 12, 2017 in Munich, Germany.  (Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images)
Niklas Süle and Lukasz Teodorczyk of Anderlecht, September 12, 2017 in Munich.
Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images

Beating Anderlecht: this time for real

When Bayern Munich first clashed with Anderlecht, alarm bells were sounding as the team agonizingly ground out a 3:0 win over a 10-man side. Far from giving embattled coach Carlo Ancelotti a much-needed boost, the game foreshadowed his undoing, which came soon enough.

Bayern have now won eight games in a row since Jupp Heynckes assumed control. Nothing short of a decisive, convincing victory over the Belgians will satisfy Heynckes and Bayern’s front office. Henckes wants “to win at all costs and keep in rhythm; we have great ambitions.”

The squad is missing a few key players, but no one irreplaceable. David Alaba and Rafinha both stayed behind in Munich. The former apparently twisted his back, while Rafinha is nursing a knock to the ankle in practice. It thus is all but certain that Juan Bernat will start his second game in a row, after filling in for Kingsley Coman in Bayern’s win over Augsburg.

The big question today is whether Coman is actually fit to play. Initial reports about the “tendon irritation” he suffered from fresh cleats he was obliged to wear for the French national team estimated he would be out a week or more. Yet Coman has traveled with the team to Anderlecht and seems prepared to play. The same goes for Thiago, who missed Bayern’s game against Augsburg with a knee contusion.

While Thomas Müller, Franck Ribéry, and Manuel Neuer are definitely unavailable, Jerome Boateng appears to be ready to start. Here is a tentative lineup:

Given that Thiago is questionable and Anderlecht a manageable opponent, Heynckes may seize the opportunity to test run an alternative midfield. Sebastian Rudy would be a good candidate to give Javi Martinez some rest in the defensive midfield, while Corentin Tolisso could play as his attacking partner à la Vidal.

Anderlecht: nothing to lose, but also nothing to win

Since their first clash with Bayern, Anderlecht have dramatically improved their standing in the Jupiler League, rising from tenth place to third in the table. At least in Belgium they are in good form, winning five of their last seven matches, with one loss and one draw.

The reason is a familiar one: shortly after their encounter with Bayern, Anderlecht fired their coach, René Weiler. Under new coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck, things have swiftly turned around for the reigning Belgian champions.

The Champions League is another story. The Belgians are last in the group with 0 points. Celtic beat them 3:0, and Paris Saint-Germain trounced them twice - 4:0 and then 5:0, as Layvin Kurzawa scored a hat-trick.

Anderlecht may play for pride, but since they are already effectively eliminated from the Champions League, their priorities lie elsewhere. Bayern will attack them ruthlessly in the hope of catching PSG in the group, should the Parisians stumble.

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