It’s been less than a week, but the Champions League is back! Bayern Munich fans enjoy an early kickoff as the team squares off against Lokomotiv Moscow, the in-form team in Russia at the moment. Playing the Russians in their home grounds is always tough, and with fixture congestion becoming a bigger concern by the day, Hansi Flick has to tread carefully to keep his perfect record in the UCL intact.
This will be the first in a 4 away game gauntlet ending with Borussia Dortmund at the end of next week, the results of which could dramatically influence the season going forward.
The good news is that Serge Gnabry has been cleared by health authorities to return to the squad after testing negative for covid-19. The bad news is Alphonso Davies will be out for six to eight weeks with an ankle injury. Flick will need to find a replacement at the left-back position if he wants to give Lucas Hernandez a rest. More on that later.
So how will the team line up? Well, Robert Lewandowski was subbed out early after his hat trick against Eintracht Frankfurt, so expect to see him in the starting XI alongside Thomas Muller up top. Flanking them will be two of either Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry, or Leroy Sane — probably Coman and Sane, who have the most match practice of the lot. Douglas Costa is also an option, but Flick may prefer to save him for the weekend clash against Koln.
Corentin Tolisso is probably the pick of the midfielders at the moment, having sat out the Frankfurt game due to a red card. He can’t play against Koln either, so starting him in the UCL seems like the best move for the moment. Joshua Kimmich is the player most likely to join him, although there is an off chance Marc Roca could get his UCL debut with the Bavarians if Hansi deems him ready. For now, we’ll stick with Tolisso-Kimmich as the most likely options.
Finally, in defense — Flick clearly wanted to rest Lucas Hernandez over the weekend, but wasn’t able to because of Phonzie’s untimely injury. The Frenchman has played a lot as of late, so it may be time to move David Alaba back to the left-back spot to give him some rest. Niklas Sule, who sat out the game on the weekend, can come into the side to form a pairing with Jerome Boateng. Benjamin Pavard, meanwhile, can come in after being successfully rested against Frankfurt.
This would also be a good opportunity to give Alex Nubel some game time, but there’s no indication that Manuel Neuer would allow such a thing. Let’s hope the poor guy can survive off the scraps of a Pokal game here and there.
So, without further ado, here’s the lineup: