Bayern Munich needs just a single point to secure a spot in the knockout round of the Champions League. The Bavarians are currently leading Group E with 10 points and a 3-1-0 record, followed by Ajax (8 pts, 2-2-0). Their opponent, SL Benfica, is in third place, with just 4 points, having beaten AEK and drawn against Ajax.
But Bayern cannot take anything for granted. Not now. After giving away what should have been an easy victory against newly promoted Fortuna Düsseldorf in the Bundesliga on Saturday, Bayern remains stuck in fifth place, and the pressure on Niko Kovac to deliver results is overwhelming. Club president Uli Hoeness said on Saturday that Kovac would coach this game. Beyond that, as rumors of potential replacements swirl, no one knows.
The good news is that Arjen Robben, who was recovering from a minor knee injury, is now definitely ready to play. The Dutchman sat out Saturday’s match against Fortuna Düsseldorf and will be ready to play. The timing is convenient, because it appears that Serge Gnabry, who suffered an adductor injury at practice earlier in the week still will not be ready. Kovac said as much at the pre-game press conference this morning.
Squad update:— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) November 26, 2018
"#Coman will not be invovled tomorrow. We've got to wait and see today with @SergeGnabry, but I don't think he'll be fit in time for tomorrow."#FCBayern #MiaSanMia #UCL #FCBSLB pic.twitter.com/pEHaTyw3Ym
As Kovac also said, although Kingsley Coman has been running again and is nearing his comeback, he too is not ready. In addition, Corentin Tolisso is unlikely to play again this season, James Rodriguez unlikely to play until January, and Thiago Alcantara is still recovering as well.
Renato Sanches spoke alongside Kovac at the press conference today. He is virtually certain to start against his former club. He earned a standing ovation, after all, from the Benfica fans after his electric performance in Lisbon.
Here then are three guesses as to how Kovac may line up the remaining players.
Kovač: "We need a draw tomorrow to advance but we want to win. Benfica need to win to keep their chances alive. They have a strong team, but we want the three points" #FCBSLB pic.twitter.com/zvDqXoBi01— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) November 26, 2018