As Bayern Munich slowly limp into shape and keep the Bundesliga title challenge going, Peter Bosz’s Bayer Leverkusen hope to stand in their way. Bosz has promised a strong attacking performance from his side, so what will Kovac be planning to counter it?
Corentin Tolisso has resumed training on the pitch, but he’s still a month away from being ready for game time. In his pregame press conference, Niko Kovac said that Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery were working on their comebacks, but were not ready to start on Saturday. Thiago Alcantara also missed team training on Thursday for unknown reasons, but the coach said he expected him to be back soon.
With that in mind, the lineup is not very difficult to predict. Robert Lewandowski will lead the line, with Thomas Muller behind him. Unfortunately, the chances of James Rodriguez getting a start are slim. Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry should be expected to man the wings, with Alphonso Davies as a backup on the bench.
In midfield, we should expect the dual pivot of Leon Goretzka and Thiago Alcantara, but if Thiago isn’t fit, then maybe Joshua Kimmich could slot in instead. That would mean putting Rafinha at right back for the duration of the game. Javi Martinez would be another option to start, but Renato Sanches can expect a cameo from the bench (at most).
In defense, the usual quartet of David Alaba, Mats Hummels, Niklas Sule, and Joshua Kimmich would be the most likely pairing. While Jerome Boateng is completely fit this week, it remains to be seen if Kovac would bother benching his preferred CB pairing without the pressure of playing a game every three days.
With all that considered, here’s the predicted lineup:
According to Bild, Manuel Neuer missed the final training session ahead of the game. The goalkeeper is expected to miss the clash on Saturday, and Sven Ulreich will be the likely replacement. The reason for his absence is not known.
Manuel Neuer confirmed to be out against Bayer Leverkusen.
#FCBayern will be without @Manuel_Neuer in Leverkusen, after our captain hurt his hand in training. #B04FCB pic.twitter.com/yxNGlcE2zf— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) February 1, 2019
More bad news, according to Bild (scroll down to see their update) Thiago also missed the final training session due to neuromuscular problems and will be out against Leverkusen. This probably means that either Joshua Kimmich or Javi Martinez will have to partner Goretzka in midfield — or perhaps the option of James Rodriguez might be on the cards.