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Preview: Bayern Munich host Werder Bremen at the Allianz

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Robert Lewandowski returns to action, but Jupp Heynckes must replace two defenders.

Werder Bremen v SC Freiburg - DFB Cup
“Dilly, dilly!” Bremen’s Max Kruse finds something amusing as Bremen knocks Freiburg out of the DFB Pokal.
Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty Images

Bayern Munich welcome a somewhat revived Werder Bremen to the Allianz Arena this Sunday, but the greeting party ominously includes Robert Lewandowski. Jupp Heynckes announced that the Polish striker will be available. That is a good thing, too: Lewandowski has scored more goals this season (15) than Bremen (14)!

Bayern: ample attackers, but fewer defenders

Jupp Heynckes will have to compensate two absences in Bayern’s defense this Sunday: Mats Hummels was unable to train earlier in the week on account of a severe cold and fever. He is feeling better, but playing this weekend is out of the question. Fortunately for Bayern, Niklas Süle is ready to line up alongside Jerome Boateng.

David Alaba likewise fell ill this Friday. Heynckes related at Bayern's pre-game press conference that Alaba had reported sick with a stomach bug. This affords Juan Bernat a welcome opportunity to start for the team after tentatively recovering from the ligament and muscle injuries that have frustrated him this season.

Here is how Heynckes might line up the rest of the lineup:

With Javi Martínez anchoring the midfield as usual, Heynckes might opt to give Corentin Tolisso an opportunity to run at Bremen’s defense and pressure their key midfielders, above all Thomas Delaney.

Heynckes could, of course, start either Sebastian Rudy or Arturo Vidal respectively instead of Javi and Tolisso. It seems unlikely that Heynckes would rest Javi so soon after the Rückrunde. As for Vidal, although he played well against Leverkusen last week, he is flirting with a suspension for yellow cards (4 thus far). If he gets his fifth card against Hoffenheim next week, he will sit out the match against lightweights Mainz.

On offense, Kingsley Coman may return to the starting lineup and Ribery play the part of supersub, while James may continue his electrifying performances as CAM. Arjen Robben struggled to find his way into the game last week, so Thomas Müller may man the right flank instead. Lewandowski returns to his customary place at striker.

Bayern's plan will be business as usual: they will seek to control possession and create chances by breaking down Bremen's defense at all points, both on the wings - especially on the left, if Coman starts, and through the middle via either James or Müller (or both). The attacking member of the double-pivot, whether Tolisso or Vidal, will loom just outside Bremen's box to capitalize on any mistakes or misdirected clearances.

Bremen: staving off the 600th loss

Bremen may write another chapter in their club history of things go as Bayern Munich plans this Sunday at the Allianz Arena. A loss would be their 600th since the Bundesliga was first formed in 1963. Obviously, Bremen would prefer to reach that milestone another day, but they will have to break a 13-match losing streak against Bayern.

Bremen found themselves headed for relegation not long after Bayern beat them 2:0 in their first encounter. After Alexander Nouri was replaced by Florian Kohfeldt in late October, their fortunes have improved. Bremen currently is sitting in 16th place, the relegation playoff. But a handful of recent draws and victories - including a 2:1 win over Dortmund (Bosz’s last game) - have given them hope.

Kohfeldt has a relatively healthy squad from which to choose his lineup. Striker Fin Bartels is the most significant absentee, although midfield ace Thomas Delaney has also struggled recently with muscular issues. Presuming he is fit, here is how Kohfeldt may line up Werder:

Kohfeldt has generally lined up Bremen in a 4-3-3. Although it is possible that he opts for a back three and sacrifices an attacker, he may decide instead to take the game to Bayern and hope for the best. The key players to watch are Gebre Selassie on the right flank, Thomas Delaney in the midfield - one of the Bundesliga’s most underrated creative attacking midfielders - and the dynamic Max Kruse at striker.

Bremen will probably play conservatively and hope to strike on the counter. If Bayern is weakened at the left-back position - that is, if Bernat is not yet at his best - Bremen could attempt to crack Bayern’s defenses there.