clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Preview: Bundesliga is back as Bayern Munich square off against TSG Hoffenheim

Hoffenheim are in trouble.

Bayern Muenchen v 1899 Hoffenheim - Telekom Cup 2017 Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images

The international break is officially over! The Bundesliga resumes with matchday 3, and Bayern Munich will travel to the Rhein-Neckar-Arena in Simsheim where they will face one of only two teams (the other being Borussia Dortmund) to beat them in a Bundesliga match last season: Julian Nagelsmann’s TSG Hoffenheim. This time around, the cards are stacked even more dramatically in Bayern’s favor.

Bayern: a colossus with two right feet (updated)

With one glaring exception, the international break has been kind to Bayern Munich: all of Bayern’s internationals returned safe and sound - only Sebastian Rudy took a minor knock in Germany’s rout of Norway and sat out a practice as a precautionary measure. The rest are all healthy and rearing to go - all except for David Alaba, who suffered an ankle injury in Austria’s match against Georgia. Thus Bayern returns from the break stronger than ever, but standing on two right feet.

Bayern may be strengthened further by the return of two convalescents: James Rodriguez is now apparently fit to start. He played the entire 90 minutes of Colombia’s 1:1 draw against Brazil - much to the chagrin of Bayern’s team doctors. Another potential returnee is was Jerome Boateng, who has been working on his return to full fitness virtually the entire summer. Boateng has had stated he hopes to make his comeback against Hoffenheim, but we learned just this morning that he will not be in the squad.

With so many starters competing for spots, Ancelotti must make a number of very difficult decisions. Here is one way he may line up the squad:

Neuer; Rafinha, Hummels, BoatengSüle, Kimmich; Rudy, Tolisso; Ribery, Thiago, Müller; Lewandowski

On the back line, a fit Boateng may With Boateng out, Niklas Süle will probably start alongside Mats Hummels, pushing Niklas Süle to the bench for the first hour before he joins the fray against his former club. A double pivot of Rudy and Tolisso could anchor the midfield against a depleted Hoffenheim, while Ancelotti cuts the knot on offense by starting Thiago and Müller together, with Ribery out wide and Lewandowski up front.

Arjen Robben can rest his legs and potentially come in as a joker, while James and Vidal, who are returning from South America, enjoy extra time to get over their jet lag.

Hoffenheim battered and bruised at both ends

Where to start with Hoffenheim’s problems? The European upstart has a hard task ahead, as two thirds of its centerbacks struggle with injuries and two of its best attackers will definitely miss this demanding home game against the Rekordmeister.

We’ll start with the defense, where the situation is bleakest. First of all, defensive stalwart Benjamin Hübner has been struggling with a thigh injury and is questionable to play. To make matters worse, acting captain Kevin Vogt is even “more than questionable,” having suffered a knee injury in Hoffenheim's 2:2 draw against Leverkusen. Oh, and backup centerback Stefan Posch injured himself on international duty for Austria.

If both Hübner and Vogt (and Posch) are unfit, that leaves Håvard Nordtveit (pronounce “Harvard nerd-fight”) and bag of soccer balls anchoring Hoffenheim's defense alongside a struggling Ermin Bicakcic. Recently arrived from Dortmund, Felix Passlack may find himself starting sooner rather than later.

On offense, Hoffenheim suffered two more severe setbacks in injuries to Serge Gnabry and Ádám Szalai. Szalai, who put on some spectacular performances late last season, has been laid low by an adductor injury that will potentially sideline him for weeks. Bayern loanee Gnabry, who missed his chance to shine in Germany's international fixtures due to a strained ankle, is still not ready to play.

Given the injuries and pieces available, Nagelsmann might hypothetically line up his squad in a 3-5-2 like this:

Baumann; Bicakcic, Nordtveit, Passlack; Zuber, Amiri, Grillitsch, Demirbay, Kaderabek; Uth, Wagner

But who can say what solution Nagelsmann will find for this injury puzzle? He hopes to “annoy” Bayern Munich, and it will indeed annoy Bayern greatly if what’s left of his starting lineup succeeds in tripping up even one of the colossus’s two right feet.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Bavarian Football Works Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Bayern Munich news from Bavarian Football Works