The moment has come: Bayern Munich already stand with one leg in the Champions League semifinals, after defeating Sevilla FC away 2-1. With an advantage of two away goals and the atmosphere of the Allianz Arena to buoy their spirits, the team simply must maintain focus, especially in the early minutes of the game, and play to its potential.
Boateng ready: Alaba and Vidal out
Jupp Heynckes has a handful of significant decisions to make ahead of Bayern’s second quarterfinal contest against Sevilla. First and foremost: how to fill the gap in Bayern’s midfield left by Arturo Vidal. Vidal injured his knee early in the first leg and was subbed off after playing on for over half an hour.
According to Heynckes at the pre-game press conference, the injury is minor, but it is enough to keep Vidal off the pitch until the weekend. “Arturo Vidal is doing well; he might be able to train with the team again on Thursday.”
Assuming that Javi Martinez is, as usual, all but guaranteed to hold down the defensive midfield for Bayern Munich, Thiago Alcantara could start in the more advanced position of a double pivot (by coincidence, the opposite positions implied by their jersey numbers).
But then what to do with the offense? Here is a hypothetical 4-2-3-1, that Heynckes could deploy:
The question comes down to how Heynckes handles Robbery: Franck Ribery went the full 90 minutes against Augsburg, and is also carrying a yellow card (more on that below), whereas Robben sat out the match, making a brief cameo at the end to savor clinching the title with the team.
Thomas Muller and James Rodriguez both should start, but James may take Ribery's spot on the left, while Müller roams behind Lewandowski. The system can shift to a 4-1-4-1, if Thiago plays forward, but his defensive qualities may be more in demand.
On the back line, Juan Bernat should receive a second chance. He was outstanding against Augsburg, and Rafinha played the entire game, as well, so neither one is fresher. As for the center-backs, Heynckes will probably field Boateng and Hummels again. According to the coach, “Jérôme is pain free.” He could, however, be replaced by Niklas Süle by reason of yellow cards. David Alaba is not quite ready, but may play on Saturday.
Bayern will have to be particularly careful in this match because several key players are in danger of being suspended for the first leg of the semifinals if they receive another yellow card. The players in question are: Franck Ribery, Robert Lewandowski, Jerome Boateng, Joshua Kimmich, Corentin Tolisso und Sebastian Rudy.
Tolisso and Rudy will probably not see the pitch unless as substitutes, and would not normally be first choices for the semifinals. The situation is much more precarious with Ribery, Boateng, and especially Kimmich and Lewandowski. The latter two absolutely cannot collect another yellow card in this match. If Bayern can take a comfortable early lead, look for Jupp Heynckes to get them off the field as soon as possible.
Sevilla: Benaga back, Kjaer out
Sevilla lost more than face when it was squashed by Celta Vigo 4-0 this past Saturday: starting center-back and Danish national player Simon Kjaer suffered a muscle injury that will sideline him for Sevilla's second clash with Munich. Joachin Correa, who also started against Bayern in the first leg, complained of muscular problems during warm-ups and was scratched at the last minute. He is questionable.
Sevilla's game plan will very likely be exactly what Jupp Heynckes predicts:
Sevilla will undoubtedly be very offensive tomorrow. They have to take risks. They will attack us; their pressing game is very good. But we know what we have to do. Banega will be there this time. He's a magnificent player and the heart of Sevilla FC.
Éver Banega missed the first leg due to a yellow-card suspension. Yellow cards are in fact one of the risks that Sevilla will have to take against Munich. Five starters risk a first-leg semifinals suspension in the event they pull off an upset, including Wissam Ben Yedder.