Bayern Munich dusels its way to Gladbach this Saturday evening for a modern installment of one of the most fabled rivalries in German soccer. The two traded blows from the 1960s through the 1980s - when Jupp Heynckes himself played for Gladbach. Modern history has been less kind to Gladbach, although they still enjoy the best record against Bayern, 19 wins, 18 draws, and 12 losses.
Javi, James, and Tolisso
Heynckes left little room for speculation at his pre-game press conference. Javi Martinez and James Rodriguez will start. Corentin Tolisso will also enjoy a second consecutive start. Kingsley Coman is pain free and all but certain to return to the lineup. On top of Thomas Müller and Franck Ribery, and long-term convalescent Manuel Neuer, Arjen Robben and Thiago Alcantara will not be available. The former has a minor and the latter a major muscular injury.
That answers some questions, but others remain. Here is one hypothetical lineup:
Heynckes has said Tolisso will start, but where is another matter. Given Robben’s injury and the lack of a natural replacement, it makes sense for Tolisso to fill in on the right wing, where he played very effectively against Anderlecht (one goal, one assist). That leaves a space free for human-wrecking-ball Arturo Vidal to rampage through the midfield.
The other major question is who plays left-back. Juan Bernat started last week against Augsburg - at left wing - and sat out against Anderlecht, but so did David Alaba. Alaba’s injury status is unknown, but he seems to be still rehabilitating his muscle injury from the international break
. Here he is filmed by Ribery:
Presuming that Bernat is healthy, he is more likely to start at left-back than Marco Friedl or Rafinha. Mats Hummels should also return to the starting lineup alongside Jerome Boateng.
In spite of the lineup shuffling, this team still has the quality to beat anyone in the Bundesliga.
Gladbach looking to leap into second
A strong run of form has lifted Gladbach into fourth place in the Bundesliga table and a win against Bayern could see them claim second place. Gladbach beat Hertha 4:2, drew with Mainz 1:1, and beat Hoffenheim 3:1, but they also have imploded dramatically, falling 6:1 to Dortmund and 5:1 to Leverkusen, despite leading 1:0 at halftime.
Dieter Hecking is likely to run out a 4-4-2 against Bayern Munich fronted by Lars Stindl and Raffael:
Thorgan Hazard is far and away Gladbach’s most dangerous player this season, with four goals and four assists to his name. Stindl and Raffael each also have four goals (and Stindl a single assist). The lion’s share of the rest of Gladbach’s goals have come from center-backs Jannik Vestergaard (3) and Matthias Ginter (2). Vincenzo Grifo, who transferred from Freiburg this season, has not found the success he enjoyed as a playmaker in the Schwarzwald, although he still has a respectable three assists.
Bayern defenders will have to concentrate on shutting down Gladbach’s wings to starve Raffael and Stindl of service, while they also must beware of the Foals’ strength on set-pieces. Bayern is likely to dominate possession (Dortmund won an incredible 79.2% possession in the thrashing the gave Gladbach), but they will have to beware quick counters.