Two games remain to be played this season for Bayern Munich, but the outcome of the first of them is of no interest whatsoever to anyone besides the clubs involved. Köln are firmly fixed in last place and will be relegated at the end of the season. Bayern Munich enjoy a massive, 24-point lead over second place (Schalke: 57 points). Köln simply want to bow out before their dedicated home fans with dignity, while Bayern are licking their wounds from their Champions League elimination.
Will Heynckes let his remaining starters rest their legs?
The Champions League semifinal dramatically lengthened Bayern's injured list. The season is over for Arturo Vidal and Jerome Boateng. David Alaba is questionable on account of his back problems. And Arjen Robben is still plagued by muscular issues. Kingsley Coman and Manuel Neuer are making solid progress, but are still not fit to play. The question thus boils down to whether Jupp Heynckes will allow the players who started in Tuesday's semifinal match to rest their legs a game.
We asked the staff to predict the lineup. Here's what we came up with:
Chuck Smith: “Kill them dead”
No quarter will be given to Köln if Chuck has his way. His lineup features a complete professional squad. The back line is the strongest still available, while Javi Martinez (who did not start in Madrid) pairs with Thiago in a double pivot behind James on the left wing, Tolisso on the 10, and Müller out wide. Robert Lewandowski has another chance to score some goals in his quest to crack 30 for the third consecutive season (currently: 28).
Gopika: “Let the kids play—except Tom, he's old as the hills”
Gopika takes the opposite approach, starting three of Bayern's youngsters called up against Eintracht Frankfurt last weekend. Lars Lukas Mai at center-back, Niklas Dorsch in the midfield alongside Tolisso and Javi, and Meritan Shabani on the right wing. Sandro Wagner starts at striker. Way at the back, Tom Starke gets one final farewell, giving Sven Ulreich a break after his particularly brutal Champions League game in Madrid.
John Dillon: “None of the above”
Who knows what Heynckes will do? I fully expect, however, to see several of the youngsters who started and played so well against Frankfurt. It seems obvious that Lars Lukas Mai should start again in the back four. Mats Hummels can take a day off. Sebastian Rudy is well overdue for a start. He can hold down the midfield in his favorite position as regista, while Niklas Dorsch, who scored his debut goal in his Bundesliga debut, can try his luck again alongside Müller behind the striker. James can play out left, and Meritan Shabani out right. Lewandowski's quest for 30 is real: I expect him to start, although Sandro Wagner should also get some #WagnerLove before the game is through.