Coming fresh off a massive win at Stamford Bridge, you’d think Bayern Munich would be more than ready to waltz back into the Bundesliga and keep the 2020 unbeaten streak going. However, the game against Chelsea exacted a heavy toll, and the Bavarians will be without Robert Lewandowski for the next four weeks.
With almost 40% of Bayern’s league goals missing from the lineup, Hansi Flick has his work cut out trying to figure out a strategy to beat Hoffenheim. With Leipzig breathing down Bayern’s neck, and the club missing its most important player by far, Saturday’s game looks like it’s going to be an uphill struggle.
While the main headline absentee is Robert Lewandowski, the additional injuries are what really compound the situation. Ivan Perisic and Kingsley Coman are both injured, limiting options for the wings. Javi Martinez only just returned to team training this week, which likely rules him out of the selection, and Niklas Sule is still far from making a comeback.
So what will the lineup be like? Well, it’s very difficult to say. Flick held his cards close to his chest in the press conference, refusing to confirm whether Joshua Zirkzee or Serge Gnabry or anyone else would take Lewandowski’s place in the lineup. The only thing he did say was that Philippe Coutinho “will definitely play”, allowing us to maybe guess what he’s thinking.
Now, there are plenty of options for a lineup without Lewandowski, so here’s an article discussing them all. For the purposes of today’s preview, let’s take a look at one possibility that seems the most likely. That is a front three of Thomas Muller, Philippe Coutinho, and Serge Gnabry, with Muller up front, supported by a three-man midfield consisting of Leon Goretzka, Thiago Alcantara, and Joshua Kimmich.
If that doesn’t sound ideal, that’s because it isn’t. However, it’s the closest thing to a functional lineup without Lewandowski and Coman we’ve seen this season. Against Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League, Muller came on when Coman went out injured and played as the sole striker for the rest of the game (with Lewy being rested). In a high-pressure title chase like this, Flick is expected to rely on the players he’s most familiar with, so Thomas Muller is likely going to be called upon to play as the striker, despite being deeply uncomfortable playing as one.
With all the changes up top, the coach probably wouldn’t want to make too many alterations to a functioning defense. Alphonso Davies will play on the left, and his role will be to support Coutinho by providing width on that side. David Alaba and Jerome Boateng will continue their partnership at center back, and you can also expect Benjamin Pavard to reprise his usual role at right back.
So here’s how we think Bayern Munich will line up against Hoffenheim: