After watching everyone else have all the fun last week, fans of Bayern Munich finally get to see their beloved club return to the Champions League. For the second year in a row, the Bavarians face an English club in the Round of 16. This year: Frank Lampard’s Chelsea.
Hansi Flick MUST win this game. Unlike last year’s Liverpool, the Blues are vulnerable and ripe for the taking. Bayern Munich have all the tools to make their visit to Stamford Bridge a very successful one — it’s just a question of whether the players and coach can perform when it counts.
This is the big one, so there’s no question of rest or rotation. Hansi Flick is expected to go all out, and that means playing a full Champagne XI. Expect Robert Lewandowski to start up top, with Thomas Müller backing him up from the second-striker position. Philippe Coutinho, who is probably familiar with Chelsea from his time at Liverpool, is unlikely to feature at all in the game — except maybe as a substitute.
The flanks will be key for both teams on Tuesday, so it’s a good thing that Bayern have both starting wingers fit (for the moment). Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry should start on the right and left respectively, and their job will be to stretch Chelsea and help create chances for Lewandowski and Muller to tap home. Of course, Gnabs is a former Gunner, so he’ll want to get some goals as well — if things go anything like the last time he visited London, Bayern will be set.
The attack is just one part of the equation, however. We all know that Lampard will go with the tried-and-tested pairing of Kovacic and Jorginho in the center, so it’s up to Flick to counter them with his own dual pivot. Joshua Kimmich and Thiago Alcantara are the favorites to start in the role, with Leon Goretzka likely to start on the bench despite taking part in team training.
Thiago and Kimmich will arguably have the most important jobs on the pitch, as they are the lifeblood of the team’s counterpress and will be expected to keep the Blues from progressing the ball. The ability of both teams to move the ball up field is what will determine the outcome of the tie, more so than the speed of their wingers or the lethality of their strikers.
According to our friends at WAGNH, Lampard will look to fight fire with fire, so Thiago and Kimmich will also be responsible for playing through Chelsea’s own counterpress, which can be formidable. It’s not an easy job — the Blues limited Manchester City to less than 50% possession when they met in the Premier League last November, and every single Bayern fan knows how good a Pep Guardiola team is at keeping the ball. Kimmich and Thiago are in for a tough night, and if they’re not up for it, Lampard’s midfielders will cut through Bayern like a knife through butter.
Of course, momentary lapses happen, which is where the defense comes in. Jerome Boateng and Benjamin Pavard can finally return to the lineup, removing the need for Hansi Flick to play two left-footers in central defense. Alphonso Davies will start his first ever Champions League knockout game; luckily he has the experienced David Alaba at left center-back to guide him. If all else fails, there’s always Manuel Neuer — Bayern’s last line of defense. Hopefully, he won’t be called into action much on Tuesday.
Therefore, without further ado, here’s how we think Bayern Munich will line up against Chelsea: