It’s finally time for some Champions League action, as Bayern Munich travels to Portugal to face an opponent they haven’t met since Pep Guardiola was in charge — SL Benfica. In their last meeting, during the 2015/16 quarterfinals, the Bavarians were pushed hard and eventually squeaked by on a 3-2 aggregate victory. Therefore, this game against the Portuguese heavyweights promises to be one of the toughest in the Hinrunde.
Can Niko Kovac and his boys rise to the challenge?
Niko Kovac’s press conference was basically devoid of any real team news, so all we can do is speculate. In attack, Robert Lewandowski is sure to lead the line, and he should be joined by Thomas Muller in attacking midfield. Serge Gnabry started against Bayer Leverkusen on the weekend, so expect him to sit this one out in favor of Franck Ribery.
In midfield, Thiago Alcantara is confirmed to be out. The Spaniard missed the final training session with a toe injury. Therefore, James Rodriguez is basically guaranteed to start because Bayern doesn’t have another midfielder with Thiago’s ability to pass and control the game. Expect Javi Martinez to partner him as a defensive midfielder, but Renato Sanches could be a dark horse pick for the role as well.
Finally, as far as the defense is concerned, there won’t be any surprises. David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich are Bayern’s only healthy fullbacks at this point, so they are guaranteed to start. In defense, it isn’t know whether Mats Hummels has completely recovered from the problems he had picked up with his Achilles tendon during the international break, but owing to the nature of the injury, Kovac might opt to play it safe and start Niklas Sule and Jerome Boateng. At goalkeeper, none other than Manuel Neuer will start.
Well, that’s about all there is to say. Here are our best guesses for tomorrow’s lineup:
Over to Niko #Kovac ️— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) September 18, 2018
" @slbenfica_en are record champions. Last season wasn't ideal for them - the club wants to attack the European stage again with their fans behind them. It won't be easy for us tomorrow, but we will be prepared." #SLBFCB #UCL #packmas pic.twitter.com/9QgzB70C33