In this edition of Bavarian Football Works round table, we discuss the health of Benjamin Pavard and Niklas Süle and how their graduate return to match fitness offers a plethora of options and questions for how Hans-Dieter Flick could organize his defense and midfield for FC Bayern’s upcoming Champions League semi-final vs. Olympique Lyonnais.
Joshua Kimmich needs to go back to the no. 6 role, especially if Pavard is healthy. Lyon can counter-attack with the best, and as much as I love Kimmich, Pavard offers a bit more pace and is more defensive as a traditional RB. With Kimmich in the midfield, it allows Thomas Müller more freedom to trek and weave through the midfield as Der Raumdeuter. Having Leon Goreztka in over Thiago allows a more physical midfield which will help. But also, having Thiago off the bench as an instant impact player should Bayern need it also sounds salivating.
In terms of defense, I think a healthy Süle is essential. I love Boateng as much as the next person and am beyond thrilled with his late career renaissance, but he lacks the necessary speed to deal with Depay and Dembele. Pair that with David Alaba and it’s a great combination. As chunky as Süle looks, he’s our fastest CB by far and that speed will be absolutely necessary to help negate Lyon’s rapid counter-attack considering we have an absurdly high line (another conversation all together).
Evan J. Vanderpool
This depends 100% on fitness. We can’t be sure how the club really views Pavard and Sule’s return to full match readiness.If Pavard is ready to go I say we return to our standard starting lineup of:
Pavard has been a great presence all season at RB and the Kimmich/Thiago midfield was elite. This comes at the expense of Goretzka but Thiago has been amazing and let’s let him direct the midfield on his last UCL campaign. Having Süle to come in and spell Boa to continue working his knee back leads an outstanding bench.
Bayern should keep things as they are — Jerome Boateng at RCB, Joshua Kimmich at RB. First, there is a good argument to be made that this is the STRONGEST Bayern side, regardless of injuries. Second, Pavard hasn’t played competitively in a long while and definitely won’t be up to 100% fitness and match sharpness in time for the game. While Sule has just returned from a lengthy injury and only played a handful of minutes in 10 months.
Both Thiago and Goretzka are playing too well for one of them to drop to the bench. At the moment, the benefits of having Pavard in the team are not high enough to drop one of those players. Having Boateng and Kimmich in defense enhances Bayern’s control on the game. Both Sule and Pavard aren’t as good contributing to the attack and the team would lose the x-factors of both players passing if they were moved. Kimmich was great going forward vs Barcelona, and Boateng’s long diagonal passes are crucial to the Bayern counter-attack and directness.
I would want Kimmich to continue at RB and Thiago and Goretzka to continue in midfield. The reasoning behind this is that Pavard has just returned from an injury layoff and rushing him into an important champions league game might not be the best way forward. Kimmich has been superb at RB and sure, he leaves a lot to be desired in defense, but he more than makes up for it with his attacking prowess.
With respect to the defense, I’d want it to be the same one that started against Barca, except for Boateng. I’d want Süle to take his place, because he is more conservative, faster and more physical. Boateng and Alaba are both defenders who venture forward to help in the press and maintain a high line, which might cause problems for us, given Lyon have plenty of pacey attackers. I’d be more reassured with Suele at CB. He’s quick enough to get back in time, is an underrated passer and his presence will repel attackers, if you may.
Kimmich should return to the midfield. Thiago has been amazing so far but a Kimmich-Goretzka pivot is better suited to play against Lyon’s gritty Aouar-Guimarães-Caqueret midfield. Against Dortmund, Kimmich displayed his one-man midfield qualities. He carried/distributed the ball under pressure, joined his teammates in attack, gegenpress-ed and quickly positioned behind the ball while defending. In the defensive phase, Lyon often overcrowd their box and leave lots of space at the edge of the box. The majority of the shots against Lyon in Ligue 1 have come from outside the box (160). In this case, Kimmich’s long shooting will be crucial in breaking the deadlock. In regards to Pavard, positional awareness has always been one of his strengths. Lyon’s right wing-back Cornet is physically robust and a great distributor of the ball but Pavard’s intelligent pressing and relatively larger cover shadow will be important in neutralizing Cornet’s threat.
While Niklas Sule has the pace to keep up with Depay and/or Ekambi, Bayern’s focus on keeping possession of the ball means Boateng’s distribution will be crucial in breaking Lyon’s compact core. He is great at anticipating vertical ground passes and together with Pavard, he will form a strong and stable right side of the defense.”