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Preview: Bayern Munich face Hoffenheim at the Allianz Arena

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It’s also a homecoming for at least two players, maybe three.

1. Fussball Bundesliga FC Bayern Muenchen - TSG Hoffenheim Photo by GASPA\ullstein bild via Getty Images

Well, it was coming. The third matchday after the winter break, and Bayern Munich are expecting a visit from TSG 1899 Hoffenheim to round out the month of January. On the surface, it looks like the big bad bullies of the Bundesliga are going to steamroll a mere 9th placed team, but the reality is very different.

It’s been a while since Bayern have actually beaten Hoffenheim in a competitive game. Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann earned deserved plaudits after drawing the Bavarians 1-1 in their own stadium last season. The return leg was no better, with Nagelsmann’s boys scraping a 1-0 win against a heavily rotated Bayern side. In the Hinrunde of 2017, Hoffenheim’s 2-0 win over the Bavarians signaled the beginning of the end of Carlo Ancelotti’s troubled tenure, and Bayern fans all over the world are grateful for it.

Hoffenheim drained but not defeated

Julian Nagelsmann has a bit of a talent drain issue at hand. Yes, he has a positive record against Bayern, but the squad that got him that record isn’t the one he’s bringing to the Allianz Arena on Saturday. Since last summer, Nagelsmann has lost his star midfielder and captain Sebastian Rudy, the young giant Niklas Sule, and German international striker Sandro Wagner. What’s worse, all of them went to the Bavarians, so they might line up against him.

It will be an uphill battle for Nagelsmann on the 27th, and the Bayern Munich will smell blood. Will the young manager suffer his first competitive loss to Bayern? One thing is for certain, at least one Bayern loanee will be on the other side:

Bayern without Javi Martinez, Mats Hummels

Jupp Heynckes confirmed in his press conference that Javi Martinez would not be in the squad for Saturday’s game. There was no mention of an injury, so it’s likely that he’s simply being rested. This opens the door for Sebastian Rudy to play at the defensive midfield position. Rudy has yet to start a game in 2018, and will be raring to go.

In defense, the Bayern coach is likely to continue with his go-to pairing of Jerome Boateng and Niklas Sule. Mats Hummels is fit, but reportedly not at 100%.. As far as the attack is concerned, Heynckes could literally start anyone. Maybe he could opt to rest Ribery and James, who have played both games so far - but strange things have happened this season. Place your bets in the comments section.

Here’s my best guess: