There’s just two more weeks to go until Bayern Munich face off against Chelsea in the Champions League, but a slim lead in the Bundesliga means Hansi Flick can’t relax as much as he would like. Koln had a tough start to the season, languishing in the relegation zone when Bayern faced them last, but since then they’ve turned their fortunes around and sit at 13th place in the table.
With the Bavarians looking to maintain their lead over Leipzig, the coach has to figure out a way to rotate the lineup and still beat the Billy Goats at their own ground.
In his press conference, Hansi Flick confirmed that Niklas Sule and Javi Martinez were the only long term injuries left to return. He forgot to mention Ivan Perisic, who was sidelined for a month due to an ankle fracture, but that was probably just a mistake. Unless Ivan the Terrible magically fused the bones in his ankle back together, he’s still a few weeks away from making a recovery.
So the lineup — Robert Lewandowski will start up front, as usual. This would be a good time to rest Thomas Muller, so Hansi Flick may have him benched in favor of Philippe Coutinho. Kingsley Coman, who recently returned from injury, probably isn’t fit enough to complete the full 90, but should start anyway to get some game time under his belt. Serge Gnabry can be expected to start on the right flank.
In midfield, this could be another opportunity to give Corentin Tolisso some game time. The Frenchman was solid in his last outing next to Joshua Kimmich against Hoffenheim, so expect that particular pairing to make a return.
In defense, it’s anyone’s guess. Alphonso Davies should reprise his role at left back, with David Alaba being at center back — but there’s doubt as to whether Lucas Hernandez or Jerome Boateng will partner the Austrian at the back. Flick mentioned the idea of trying two left footers together in central defense in his press conference, so maybe he’ll test it out against Koln. Benjamin Pavard is most likely to start at right back, while Real Madrid loanee Alvaro Odriozola can only expect a substitute appearance at most.
Finally, Manuel Neuer has made a full recovery from his gastrointestinal issues, so he will start in goal. No Sven Ulreich for poor Koln to deal with. Here’s how we think Bayern will line up: