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Preview: Thomas Müller will start for Bayern vs Hannover

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Jupp Heynckes has a few more options at his disposal to tackle a scrappy newly promoted team.

HANOVER, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 24:  Salif Sane of Hannover 96 in action during the Bundesliga match between Hannover 96 and VfB Stuttgart at HDI-Arena on November 24, 2017 in Hanover, Germany.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Salif Sané tackles an attacker with his mind.
Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images

Shout it from the rooftops: Thomas Müller starts! “I’m very glad he’s back,” Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes remarked at the pregame press conference. “He could have played against Gladbach, too, but we didn’t want any risk.” Müller is now at 100% and will make his return to the starting lineup.

Bayern on the mend

The sobering 2:1 loss to Gladbach is history, and the materials with which to seize a positive result against Hannover are there. James Rodriguez suffered no lingering effects from the concussion he suffered in Gladbach. He will again be in the squad, as will Rafinha, who has recovered from the ankle injury that sidelined him the past weeks.

David Alaba (back pain) and Franck Ribery (knee) are questionable, but have made significant progress in training. Ribery has participated in full team training several times, and Alaba also has now completed two training sessions without experiencing pain. Alaba may be ready to return to his accustomed position at left-back - and in good time as well, since Juan Bernat is still ironing out the muscle hardening he experienced after making his own comeback.

As for Ribery, Heynckes will proceed cautiously and decide on short notice whether to include in him the squad. Arjen Robben may return to training early next week, leaving Manuel Neuer and Thiago the only long-term convalescents.

Given the options, here is how Heynckes may line up the team:

Since James is fit to play, he could ideally fill in on the right wing for Robben, while Müller returns to his favorite place behind Lewandowski. Given his strenghts, James would very probably also drift inside and overlap with Müller, in some instances playing the part of central attacking midfielder and coordinating with the midfield.

A midfield of Javi Martinez and Arturo Vidal would provide a potent mix of offense and defense, but Sebastian Rudy and Corentin Tolisso are also both viable options for a place alongside Javi.

As for the defense, the biggest question mark is Alaba, who may not be ready after all. If he isn't, Rafinha may have to play at left-back. I expect Jerome Boateng to return to the starting lineup, since Niklas Süle started last week against Gladbach.

Hannover: “Nothing to lose” - except the game

Hannover got off to a fantastic start after returning to the Bundesliga this season, even briefly holding first place on the table. A number of losses has sent them back down to earth, but still comfortably in mid-table. After stunning Dortmund in a 4:2 win, they lost to both Leipzig and Bremen, and drew 1:1 with fellow promotee Stuttgart last weekend.

Hannover play with a back three anchored by one of the best center-backs in the Bundesliga, Salif Sané. The team generally lines up in a 3-4-3, now fronted by Martin Harnik (5 goals in 13 games) after regular striker Jonathas suffered a ligament tear.

Harnik is recovering from the flu and is qustionable, as is another important offensive player, Ihlas Bebou, who has muscular issues. Midfielder Pirim Schwegler still was running a fever as of yesterday and is not expected to play. Presuming Harnik and Bebou make the squad after all, Hannover may line up like this:

Hannover will play a defensive game, looking to capitalize on mistakes, but head coach André Breitenreiter hopes to do more than hold Bayern to a draw. He remarked,

We've shown this season that we can play soccer succcessfully and well, and have beaten big teams. We won't give away this game. But we also have to have a special day . . . It's always possible to lose badly there. But it's also possible that we win points. Why not?

Jupp Heynckes in turn is not taking any chances by underestimating his adversary:

They are a difficult, hard-running team with a defined playing system and a strong game forwards. It will not be as simple as many think.

Bayern will undoubtedly approach Hannover with all due respect as they attempt to rebound from the first loss of the new Heynckes era.

Update

Bild spotted Ribery and Alaba boarding the team bus for the team hotel ahead of tomorrow’s game. That makes it all but certain that the two will be in the 18-man squad tomorrow.