Here we are — with just three more games to go, Bayern Munich are poised on the brink of a domestic double. The team have come a long way from drawing at home to Dusseldorf and being nine points behind Borussia Dortmund, but now RB Leipzig will want to throw a wrench into the Bavarian’s hopes for a seventh consecutive league title.
What will Niko Kovac do to meet them? Let’s take a look:
RB Leipzig have a poor record against Bayern, but they always make the game difficult. Manuel Neuer (calf problems) and Javi Martinez (shin splints) are certain to miss the game, and their absence will be felt in the lineup. On Leipzig’s side, Dayot Upamecano is one notable absentee, with Tyler Adams also out injured and Kevin Kampl serving a suspension.
Despite missing Upamecano, Leipzig still have the best defense in the league, and Niko Kovac will have to throw the kitchen sink that them. That kitchen sink is pretty predictable, and comes in the form of our go-to front four — Kingsley Coman on the left, Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller in the middle, and Serge Gnabry on the right. Taking advantage of Upamecano’s absence will be critical to the success of the team, so we better hope that Mullendowski perform on the night.
In midfield, things don’t look very rosy. Thiago Alcantara is a surefire starter, but he’s been off-color for several games now. It wasn’t a problem before, as he was assisted defensively by Javi Martinez — but with Martinez now injured, Leon Goretzka will have to start in his stead (we assume that Corentin Tolisso is still not ready for a start in such a big game). Because of the kind of player Goretzka is, Thiago will have to work very hard to keep the midfield ticking against Leipzig’s heavy counterpress.
In defense, we don’t expect any surprises. David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich will be the left and right backs respectively, and their performance against Leipzig’s pressing could determine the outcome of the game. Mats Hummels and Niklas Sule will be the central defenders, and it will be their job to defend against Yussuf Poulsen and Timo Werner who have a combined total of 38 goals and 19 assists across all competitions this season.
This game really does promise to be a nail-biter. Here’s our final lineup:
Sky’s Torben Hoffmann spotted Robert Lewandowski limping to the team bus today. Although Lewandowski is traveling with the team, he may be injured and doubtful for the game against Leipzig. Hoffmann seems to allude to a hard tackle in training (“painful duel” = schmerzhafter Zweikampf) If Lewy is hurt, then may the Fußballgötter help us all!
Da @lewy_official mit nach Leipzig fliegt, hat die physiotherapeutische Abteilung wohl noch Hoffnung?!— Torben Hoffmann (@Sky_Torben) May 10, 2019
Aber rund sieht das nicht aus beim Torjäger!
Ein Ausfall neben @Manuel_Neuer und @Javi8martinez wäre extrem bitter!@SkySportNewsHD @SkySportDE pic.twitter.com/71GjARIreV
Since @lewy_official is flying with the team to Leipzig, does the physio-therapy division still have hope?!
But things don’t look right for the striker!
It would be extremely harsh if he’s out along with @Manuel_Neuer and @Javi8martinez
Now, according to Bild, Lewandowski took a hard knock on his right foot in Bayern’s final training session today. Bayern declined to give Bild any official diagnosis. Bild also observed that Lewandowski trained individually in the performance center on Thursday and had his knee taped in training today.
James also out — Kovac’s lineup puzzle
And to top it all off, James Rodriguez apparently will be unavailable as well. James is still suffering from a lingering calf injury. He missed the final training session and worked instead individually in the performance center.
If both Lewandowski and James are unavailable, Franck Ribery is the obvious person to add to the starting lineup. The most obvious candidates to replace Lewandowski are Thomas Müller and Serge Gnabry. If Kovac goes with Gnabry, Coman could play on the right wing and Ribery could take his usual place on the left.
That is probably the simplest solution. If Kovac were to put Müller at striker, Gnabry would stay out wide and Leon Goretzka would probably have to move into Müller’s position behind the striker. Of course, if Goretzka plays as Bayerns attacking midfielder, that would leave Thiago without a partner in the midfield. Corentin Tolisso has resumed training with the team, but it would probably be too much to ask him to jump into the starting lineup against Leipzig. The other options are either Renato Sanches or — less ideally — Joshua Kimmich, plugging Rafinha in at right-back. Given all these complications, Kovac will probably take the simpler solution.
If Lewandowski is fit after all, all this speculation is moot. We will find out tomorrow.