It’s game #2 of the Lewandowski-less era, and Bayern Munich face Schalke in the DFB Pokal. With both Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig knocked out of the competition, Schalke are one of the few remaining sides that can feasibly challenge the Bavarians for the cup. In both league meetings this season, Bayern swept aside David Wagner’s men with ease — but everyone knows that knockout games have different stakes, and the loss of Robert Lewandowski leaves a void that is hard to fill.
The headline absentee, of course, is Robert Lewandowski, who is out four weeks with a knee injury. Niklas Sule and Ivan Perisic are still out with their respective injuries, while Javi Martinez is still not at 100% and unlikely to play. Kingsley Coman is yet to resume team training after the minor hamstring issue he suffered against Chelsea. Most worryingly, Jerome Boateng and did not travel with the team due to a stomach bug. If he does not recover in time for the game, Hansi Flick may be forced to make changes to the XI that won so heavily against Hoffenheim.
Let’s talk about the lineup. In his press conference, the coach said he wanted to keep changes to a minimum. So, we can expect to see teenage sensation Joshua Zirkzee up top, supported by a trio of Philippe Coutinho, Thomas Muller, and Serge Gnabry. The onus will be on these four to make up for the productivity lost by not having Lewandowski in the lineup.
In midfield, the Thiago-Kimmich pairing will probably continue. Joshua Kimmich is slowly coming into his own as a mobile deep-lying playmaker, while Thiago Alcantara has been sublime since the winter break. Their combination is clicking at the moment, and Hansi will not want to break it for a crucial knockout game.
Finally, the defense. This is tricky. If Jerome Boateng doesn’t play, then we could see the dreaded left-footed combo of David Alaba and Lucas Hernandez in central defense. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Alphonso Davies will probably reprise his role at left back. There’s a small chance Benjamin Pavard could be moved to center back and Alvaro Odriozola given an outing at right back, but it’s unlikely given the stakes involved in the game.
Therefore, here’s what the lineup should look like:
@LucasHernandez did not travel to Schalke because of a slight tendon irritation. #S04FCB
Let’s hope Boateng is fit. If not, we may see Odri at right back.
Bad news, according to Bild, Jerome Boateng did not travel with the team and will not be available for today’s game due to stomach problems. Joshua Kimmich is expected to take his place in defense. This changes the entire composition of the lineup.