We’re now in the final stretch of the Hinrunde, and fixtures are coming thick and fast. Following his incredible win over Red Star in the Champions League, Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick is tasked with besting Peter Bosz’s Bayer Leverkusen at the Allianz Arena this Saturday.
While Leverkusen have been inconsistent as of late — their talisman Kai Havertz is yet to recreate his heroic performances of last season — they are capable of an upset, as shown when they beat Atletico Madrid in the Champions League earlier this month. Flick faces pressure to rotate his squad to keep everyone happy; will Leverkusen hand him his first defeat?
With the exception of the trio of Lucas Hernandez, Niklas Süle, and Jann-Fiete Arp, Flick confirmed in his press conference that all his players are available. This assuages fears that Robert Lewandowski, Benjamin Pavard, and Alphonso Davies might miss the game on account of their absence from team training following Red Star.
However, even though he has a full squad, the coach may find himself forced to rotate. Robert Lewandowski is a machine and is likely to start up top, and Thomas Müller should be expected to take his place behind the Pole at second striker. Having been rested in midweek, der Raumdeuter should be prepared for another lung-busting performance in midfield, which will be necessary against Bayer’s lethal attack.
Serge Gnabry was also rested in midweek, so he should be fresh and ready to start on the wings on Saturday. Whether Philippe Coutinho or Kingsley Coman will join him, it’s hard to say. Coutinho was subbed off at the hour mark versus Crvena zvezda, which implies that Flick was saving him for the Leverkusen game. Conversely, Ivan Perisic might get his first start under his new coach — his performances as a substitute have been impeccable thus far.
Bayern’s midfield is another tough one to call. Joshua Kimmich was rested for the Red Star game, which should mean that he will start against Leverkusen. The question of who will partner with him is a tricky one — Flick gave zero hints in his press conference about any of the midfielders. One would expect Leon Goretzka to be the primary name on the team sheet, but Corentin Tolisso also had a great game against Red Star. Of course, there’s also Thiago Alcantara, whose quality is undoubted, but who has not seen much game time since Niko Kovac left the club.
In the end, the decision might come down to load-management — Goretzka was rested against Dusseldorf, so he should be more fresh and better able to implement Flick’s high-intensity press against Bayer. In the pregame presser, Flick stressed the importance of pressing to a stable defensive structure, and Goretzka seems like the best man for the job at the moment.
In defense, Alphonso Davies should reprise his role, and David Alaba might return to the lineup after missing the game against Red Star. Whether Jerome Boateng or Javi Martinez will play at RCB is a matter of debate, as the coach might see this as an opportunity to rest the Spaniard for a bit. At right back, Benjamin Pavard is expected to start, as he has done for the entirety of Hansi Flick’s tenure.
With all that out of the way, here are our predictions for tomorrow’s lineup: