After eight days of no action, Bayern Munich finally return to the pitch, This time, it’s VfB Stuttgart who are in the way, led by coach Marcus Weinzierl. The last time these two sides met, Stuttgart were handed a thumping 3-1 defeat by the Bavarians. While Stuttgart haven’t been great this season, Niko Kovac has a ton of injuries to deal with. How will he set up the team?
In the pregame press conference, the coach confirmed that Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery would not be ready in time for this game, but could be back by Leverkusen. Along with them, Corentin Tolisso will miss out as he continues to work on his ACL recovery.
️ Kovac: "@SergeGnabry was back in training today, I'm confident he can be involve on Sunday. @JB17Official has a cold, we'll have to wait and see with him. @FranckRibery and @ArjenRobben are ruled out."#FCBVfB #packmas pic.twitter.com/8wdH73Yu2g— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) January 25, 2019
While Serge Gnabry and Jerome Boateng may not be injured, it’s highly unlikely that they will start, given that their fitness may be questionable at this point in time. With that in mind, we can try to form a clear picture of the starting XI.
The striker will obviously be Robert Lewandowski. On the left, we’ll probably have Kingsley Coman. Now, here’s where it gets complicated — Kovac has three options at attacking midfield, Leon Goretzka, Thomas Muller, and James Rodriguez. I’d like to think that he might start James Rodriguez as the #10 with Muller on the right and Goretzka as a central midfielder behind him. However, that’s probably just wishful thinking.
With all the injuries at winger, Alphonso Davies has an outside chance of being on the starting XI, or at least getting his Bundesliga debut. Stuttgart are in a relegation scrap with a grand total of 12 losses this season — with all these injuries, it’s as good a time as any to give Davies a chance.
In midfield, expect Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez, just like in the last game. Of course, this being Stuttgart, there’s a decent chance of Renato Sanches getting a start, but let’s play it safe.
In defense, things will almost certainly stay unchanged, with David Alaba at left back, Mats Hummels and Niklas Sule at center back, and Joshua Kimmich at right back.
Here’s the lineup we think is most likely:
In case that seems familiar, it’s because that is the exact same lineup we fielded against Hoffenheim. Niko Kovac really dialed back the rotation near the end of the Hinrunde, and we expect that to continue. However, the coach is welcome to surprise us.
UPDATE: According to Bild, Jerome Boateng was able to take part in the final training session on Saturday before the match. It remains to be seen if he’ll be able to take part in the match due to his illness, but him taking part in the training is a great sign that he may at least start the match as a substitute.