This game has a lot more meaning than it did even a week ago. After a series of under-performing efforts, Niko Kovač has found his career with Bayern Munich hanging in the balance and will entrust a team that may or may not support him, to make a push to save his career in Bavaria.
Worse, Kovač will do so without Corentin Tolisso (season ending injury), Kingsley Coman (ankle injury), Thiago Alcantara (ankle injury), James Rodriguez (knee injury), Mats Hummels (illness), and possibly Serge Gnabry (adductor injury).
Serge Gnabry was not able to join the final Training-Session for the match against @benfica (adductor problems)— Christian Falk (@cfbayern) November 26, 2018
If ever there was a game where Bayern - and Kovač - needed the likes of Thomas Muller, Robert Lewandowski, Jerome Boateng, Niklas Süle, Joshua Kimmich, David Alaba, and Manuel Neuer to step up, it is now. If not, the club runs the risk of Kovač going “Full Carlo”, which could result in a second, consecutive year where the manager was sacked in the first half of the season.
Neuer’s precipitous drop in performance has been one of the difficult situations to watch unfold. Perhaps not as mobile or agile as he was before the foot injury he sustained last season, Neuer has assuredly been hung out to dry by his defenders, while also maybe not making some of those saves that he may have even 18 months ago.
Manuel Neuer just hasn't been himself lately pic.twitter.com/I6s11ZzfFr— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 26, 2018
Still, maybe it’s the optimist in me (or at least the subconscious desire to avoid another Carlo vs. PSG-type meltdown), but I’ll go with Bayern in this one. With Muller’s excellent play on Saturday and Lewandowski, Boateng, and Süle all certainly ready to prove they can all move past poor performances against Düsseldorf, this should be a game that Bayern can control - IF the players have not already initiated a mutiny to oust Kovac (as some think). Even without Mats Hummels (illness), this should be a game that the Reds can win.
But hey, on the bright side and no matter what today’s result may hold, at least the squad will be back in red and white for home games next season.
Prediction: Bayern 3, Benfica 1.
The staff at FCBayern.com does a terrific job pulling historical notes and game day facts on each opponent; here are a couple nuggets of wisdom:
Unbeaten against Benfica
Overall, the two European giants have crossed swords on nine occasions, with Bayern winning six and the points being shared on three occasions. The record German champions have only conceded six goals in those nine matches, scoring 21. When looking at teams who Bayern have played at least nine times in European competition, their win percentage against Benfica (67%) is higher than it is against any other club. Furthermore, the Reds have only lost two of their 27 games against Portuguese teams in general (16 wins, nine draws).
Bayern in good position
With ten points from four matches, Bayern have one foot in the last 16. The Reds have had nine points at this stage of the competition in each of the last three years, while the last time they were unbeaten after four group games was in the 2014/15 campaign. One reason for their strong showing this season has been their solid defence – Bayern and Bundesliga rivals Schalke 04 boast the joint-best defensive record in the Champions League having conceded one goal each. The club’s record in a UCL group stage is the two goals they conceded during the 2001/02 campaign.
We’ve all read at least some iteration of this by now, but here you go (AND it allowed me to use the word lurk, which I am big fan of).
Arsene Wenger is interested in a high-profile return to football management with Bayern Munich. As reported by Telegraph Sport, Wenger this month rejected the chance of making a comeback with Premier League strugglers Fulham.
The Frenchman is adamant he will not take over at another English club, having spent 22 years at Arsenal before leaving in the summer. Having been out of work for six months, Wenger has stated he hopes to return to management in the New Year and Telegraph Sport understands he has an eye on the Bayern post.
Sources close to the 69-year-old claim Wenger is keen to return to management in a job that offers him the chance to end his career with silverware and compete at the top level. Bayern would give him that chance and Wenger would have no problem settling in, as German is one of the many languages he speaks fluently.
Bayern expert Mark Lovell has also added his input in translating a tweet from Max Bielefield, which indicates #WengerIn may not be such a sure thing:
per @Sky_MaxB— Mark Lovell (@LovellLowdown) November 27, 2018
1. Bayern Munich have not made any approach to Arsene Wenger.
2. Wenger ideally does not want a return to coaching.
3. Former Arsenal boss has not completely ruled out making an exception for a "special" task. https://t.co/TTaZnLrAEL
Alleged Bayern target Christian Pulisic is causing Premier League rivals Chelsea and Liverpool to starting readying their bids.
Borussia Dortmund are willing to strike a £70million deal with Chelsea or Liverpool for Christian Pulisic – as long as he stays in Germany until the summer. Chelsea and Liverpool, along with Paris Saint-Germain, have a long-standing interest in United States international Pulisic, whose contract is due to expire in 2020.
Dortmund are adamant the forward will not leave in January, but are prepared to negotiate a transfer for the summer if they receive a big enough bid. Chelsea would have to smash their record transfer, which stands at £57m for Alvaro Morata, to secure an agreement for the summer over Pulisic.