The winter break was long and harsh, but it’s finally over. As Bayern Munich returns to action on Friday against Hoffenheim, Niko Kovac needs to decide on what kind of lineup he wants to begin the year with. What are his options? Let’s take a look.
At the moment, Bayern Munich have relatively few injuries on the squad, but this isn’t something we should get used to. Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery have both been sidelined with thigh injuries while Corentin Tolisso continues to work on his ACL recovery.
This means that Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry should be the starting wingers against Hoffenheim, unless of course Kovac decides to pull a fast one on us (and Julian Nagelsmann) by starting Alphonso Davies. It will be interesting to see which flanks they decide to occupy. Aside from this, we can very confidently conclude that Robert Lewandowski will lead the line for the Bavarians, as he has done all season.
The question is whether Thomas Müller or James Rodriguez will start. While Müller has been the go-to man for most of this season and even scored our first goal against Hoffenheim in the season opener, Kovac spoke highly of James in his pregame press conference. If I had to give the percentage of their respective chances of starting, I’d put it at 60/40 in favor of Müller.
In midfield, we will probably see Thiago Alcantara paired with Leon Goretzka. Renato Sanches will probably remain an option from the bench for this one, as there’s really no need to risk starting him here. Meanwhile, Javi Martinez’s chances of game time are slim. He might get a cameo near the end of the game as a defensive substitution, but it’s almost guaranteed that Kovac will not start him much (if at all) going forward.
On defense, expect David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich at the left and right fullback positions respectively. Bild predicts that Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng will start this game, with Niklas Süle riding the bench, and we have no reason to disbelieve them. Manuel Neuer, will of course, be in goal.
Without further ado, here’s our predicted lineup: