Bayern Munich finally returns to Bundesliga action on Friday, and Niko Kovac’s league debut comes against perhaps the trickiest opponent in the Germany — Julian Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim. It’s no stretch to say that the losses Nagelsmann handed down to Carlo Ancelotti were a big factor in his demise. Will Kovac suffer the same fate at his much more experienced predecessor?
This being the first game of the league season, and against a tough opponent at that, the coach is expected to start his best possible XI. In the press conference, Kovac said that he had all his players except Serge Gnabry fit and ready to go. David Alaba returned to team training this week, having recovered from the bone bruise he recieved in the Supercup — the coach confirmed that he would be an option for tomorrow.
As for James Rodriguez, the answer was very cryptic.
There is a difference between ‘I’m fit’ when the player says it and ‘fit’ when the coach decides it. Players always say that they are fit.
What is that supposed to mean, Herr Kovac? Is James fit but not ready to start? Does he still have work to do? There’s really no way to answer these questions. We will just have to wait and hope that our Colombian superstar takes to the pitch soon.
Onto the possible lineup: In attack, you are sure to have Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller, flanked by at least one of Arjen Robben or Franck Ribery, if not both. Almost everyone hopes that Kingsley Coman will get his first competitive start under the new coach, but it’s been two games now and people have been wrong both times.
In midfield, expect no surprises. Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez. Maybe Corentin Tolisso or Leon Goretzka could get a substitute cameo, but it’s unlikely that they will start. In defense, naturally it will be Joshua Kimmich at right back, David Alaba at left back (if fit, if not then replace him with Rafinha), and Mats Hummels at center back.
The question is whether Niklas Sule or Jerome Boateng will be given the nod by the new coach. Considering reports that the Bayern top brass prefer youngster, and Boateng’s rumored departure, it’s probably going to be Sule who starts on Friday. Behind the defense will be Manuel Neuer — Kovac has been unequivocal about that.
How do we think Kovac will line up? Here are some guesses from the BFW Staff: