Bayern Munich are on a 15-game winning streak in the Champions League, but all good things must come to an end. The Bavarians are set to face Diego Simeone’s Ateltico Madrid side for the second time this season, bracing for what is probably going to be the toughest game of the Hinrunde. Missing several key players due to either injury or fatigue, Hansi Flick will need to work a miracle to keep his unblemished record in the UCL intact.
The big news is that Robert Lewandowski, Manuel Neuer, and Leon Goretzka will not travel to Madrid. They’re all being held off to rest them for Bayern’s weekend clash with RB Leipzig, which could have huge implications for the title race. Corentin Tolisso is meanwhile injured, while Marc Roca is suspended following his red card against RB Salzburg last week. These absences all come in addition to the longer term injuries of Joshua Kimmich and Alphonso Davies, who are still working on their comebacks.
So, where does that leave Bayern? According to Flick, Angelo Stiller and Maximillian Zaiser have been called up from the B-team. The squad list also includes Chris Richards and Bright Arrey-Mbi, both of whom play in defense. Whether they will actually see the pitch remains doubtful. Flick mentioned that he has a problem to solve in defensive midfield, so maybe one of the younger players could get a debut. After all, Bayern’s already qualified for top spot in the group, so the game is little more than a dead rubber.
Well, let’s talk about the lineup. The GOAT himself, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, is set for his first Champions League start for Bayern tomorrow. He’s going to be joined up top by Thomas Muller, with Douglas Costa and Leroy Sane as the most likely candidates on the wings. Atletico Madrid have the best defense in La Liga, having conceded only two goals so far — breaking them down will be a tough for the attack. So, Flick might decide to add Jamal Musiala to the lineup, and switch to a 4-1-4-1. It didn’t work against Werder Bremen, but maybe it just might click against Atletico.
Of course, to make a 4-1-4-1 work, the lone pivot is crucial. Luckily, Javi Martinez is fit and ready to play, and he’s a good candidate to for the sole midfield position in the lineup. With basically no other senior midfielder available, expect Javi to drop deep between the defenders to create a pseudo three-man backline in order to keep Atleti at bay. Bayern’s absolute control of the midfield sunk the Colchoneros in Munich — replicating that will be the name of the game at the Wanda.
Finally, we have the defense. According to Flick, Niklas Sule has a good chance to start, so expect to see him alongside David Alaba to give Jerome Boateng a rest. Buona Sarr and Benjamin Pavard are fit, but I’m partial to seeing Chris Richards start at right-back tomorrow. This is a pretty outlandish prediction, because I don’t see any other outlets making it — but hey, against Stuttgart, BFW got it right while Bild and kicker got it wrong. Maybe lightning will strike twice.
Lucas Hernandez will likely start at left-back, while Alexander Nubel will take over for Manuel Neuer in goal. Hopefully Nubel shows us what he can do in this odd cameo — it’s his first start against FC Duren in the DFB Pokal.
Without further ado, here’s how we think Bayern will line up:
According to Diego Simeone, Luis Suarez could play if he tests negative tomorrow. Here’s what he said, via Football Espana:
Simeone told reporters at his pre-match press conference, as per Marca: “This virus is strange. If tomorrow he tests negative, he could be fit. He wants to help the team.
“He feels good, he wants to be with the team. The most important thing is that he is healthy. That he returns to normal, giving negative results. If he does not play tomorrow, he will play on Saturday.”
Suarez has been in fine form for Diego Simeone’s side in the early stages of the campaign – netting five goals in his opening six appearances for the team in La Liga.