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Preview: Bayern Munich can clinch the title in Augsburg

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Victory on the pitch of next-door-neighbor Augsburg would seal Bayern Munich’s sixth consecutive title.

AUGSBURG, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 25: Alfred Finnbogason of Augsburg celebrates after scoring his team`s second goal during the Bundesliga match between FC Augsburg and VfL Wolfsburg at WWK-Arena on November 25, 2017 in Augsburg, Germany.
Augsburg’s Alfred Finnbogason.

After defeating Sevilla FC in Spain on Tuesday, Bayern Munich swiftly returned to Germany to prepare for the next domestic challenge: their neighbor Augsburg. Augsburg is a solid mid-table team with a +1 goal difference and plenty of bite. Jupp Heynckes will undoubtedly rotate the starting lineup in anticipation of the second leg of Bayern’s tie with Sevilla.

Celebrate today or tomorrow, the time to rotate is now

Bayern Munich intends to clinch its sixth consecutive Bundesliga championship by defeating Augsburg, but the club’s real priorities lay elsewhere: namely, in resting key players and remaining healthy ahead of their second clash with Sevilla on Wednesday next week. Heynckes may have to rotate the lineup even more than he had anticipated because of injuries suffered in the last match.

At the pre-game press conference, Heynckes stated that Arturo Vidal and David Alaba will not be available. Vidal suffered a sprained ankle in Sevilla, and David Alaba also has not yet been able to rejoin full training. Alaba was abruptly scratched from the squad in Sevilla after he pinched a nerve in his back. There are three other players are also on the mend: Corentin Tolisso “still has problems with his leg,” Thiago is recovering from a knock on the knee. Juan Bernat, who was removed at halftime in Sevilla after suffering a deep cut, “trained normally again.

At least Bernat seems likely to be available. Here is how Heynckes may line up the team:

For once, Bayern has a dearth of midfielders. Although, it would presumably be useful of Javi Martinez could sit this game out, with Vidal definitely out and Corentin Tolisso doubtful, it seems inevitable that he will play. I think Sebastian Rudy will have a chance to play as his partner in midfield. This would give Bayern a 4-2-3-1 system rather than a 4-1-4-1, allowing Franck Ribery, Bayern’s only left winger still standing, to sit the game out.

Arjen Robben is all but guaranteed to start, having sat on the bench is Sevilla. Since Thiago, like Tolisso, is questionable, Thomas Muller may play behind the striker—I think Wagner is the likely choice—while James Rodriguez dictates the game from the left.

On defense, if Bernat is indeed healthy, he should start again on the left. As for his blunder in Sevilla that led to a goal, it is better to forgive and forget. He stands a chance of finding his form with more playing time, and that could help Bayern more in the Champions League. Rafinha can give Bayern’s workhorse Joshua Kimmich a rare rest, and Niklas Süle can relieve Jerome Boateng.

Augsburg: Alfred Finnbogason’s comeback

The good news for Augsburg is that their Icelandic striker Alfred Finnbogason (11 goals, 3 assists) is finally fit to make his comeback. If Finnbogason starts as striker, his teammate Austrian Michael Gregoritsch (11 goals, 5 assists) may move behind him as a false 9, where he is arguably even more dangerous. Philipp Max (not to be confused with Dortmund Max Philipp) has played excellently at left-back and left wing-back, and Augsburg’s defense is anchored by central defenders Rani Khedira (Sami’s brother) and Jeffrey Gouweleeul.

Coach Manuel Baum generally lines Augsburg up in a 4-2-3-1, but also occasionally uses a 3-4-1-2 system. He stated that he intends to take the game to Bayern and give the fans a good show after three losses at home. “We have to be brave in going forward; otherwise, Bayern will eat you alive!” Augsburg may indeed have a fighting chance against a heavily rotated Bayern.