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Analysis: Should Bayern Munich bench Joshua Kimmich against Chelsea?

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One of Bayern’s most important players faces the prospect of missing the quarter finals if booked. Should Hansi Flick make the decision to keep him aside?

Bayer 04 Leverkusen v FC Bayern Muenchen - DFB Cup Final Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

With the Champions League set to come back later this week, Bayern Munich fans have started to turn their attention to the state of the squad heading into the final stages of the knockouts. Chelsea have been obliterated by injuries, so it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to mount a four goal comeback at the Allianz Arena. Therefore, with qualification seemingly just 90 minutes away, the team might need to address an impending concern.

Joshua Kimmich is currently on two yellow cards. If he gets one more, he would get suspended for the next game — a potential quarter final against either Barcelona or Napoli. With Benjamin Pavard injured, Kimmich is the only qualified right-back on the squad. Depending on the severity of the Frenchman’s injury, he may have to be Bayern’s starting right-back for the rest of the campaign.

Missing Kimmich for a key game in the quarter finals would be a huge blow to Bayern’s chances of progression. Last season, Josh’s suspension in the second leg of the Liverpool tie was one of the key catalysts for Bayern’s eventual loss and early exit from the tournament. Hansi Flick will be keen to prevent such an eventuality, so he might be tempted to rest Kimmich and “save” him for the quarter finals. Per UEFA, yellow cards reset after the Ro16, so provided that Kimmich can then go another 90 minutes without doing something stupid, he’d be clear for the rest of the tournament.

The argument for a rest

The logic behind keeping Josh from playing against Chelsea is sound. Here are some of the arguments:

  • With Christian Pulisic out injured, Chelsea have lost one of their main weapons on the wing. Kimmich was the one slated to mark him — without the American present, the need to put Kimmich on the pitch is minimal.
  • Bayern Munich are 3-0 up, and Chelsea are missing some of their best players. Their captain, Cesar Azpilicueta, as well as Pedro and Christian Pulisic are injured. Jorginho and Marcos Alonso are suspended for the game. N’Golo Kante is doubtful, and nobody knows what’s going on with Willian. Given all those factors working against them, Chelsea making the 4-goal super-remontada comeback seems unlikely.
  • Alvaro Odriozola isn’t very good, but he’s (probably) not going to score four own goals while on the pitch. Unless he really is a Real Madrid double-agent, the Spaniard should suffice for what is basically a dead-rubber game.

The arguments against

  • Bayern Munich have not played a proper competitive game in almost a month. The Chelsea match was supposed to give the team a chance to get warmed up and clicking before the real games start in the quarter finals. The club’s friendly against Marseille showed ample signs of rust in all areas of the pitch, so you could argue that Hansi Flick needs to field his first XI against the Blues, not a B-team.
  • Joshua Kimmich hasn’t played at right-back for almost a year. As talented as he may be, he needs match practice to get back into the groove of things. The team also needs to adjust to having him back there, given that Kimmich and Pavard have radically different styles of play. Given how much Josh likes to attack, Flick might need to figure out some adjustments in the team’s defensive structure. The game against Chelsea would provide invaluable data to help make those adjustments.
  • There’s a chance that Alvaro Odriozola is so terrible he could actually let Chelsea make the comeback.

The compromise solution

Of course, given what we know about Hansi Flick, he’s probably going to take the middle path. This means starting Kimmich at right-back, and then subbing him off around half-time (or the 60th minute). Kimmich is probably level headed enough to avoid getting a yellow card in 60 minutes of play, so this would be the ideal solution for the coach.

Unfortunately, there’s always the potential of a player getting a silly yellow card in the opening minutes of the game, or the ref just being a little bit too generous with the cautions. That can’t be helped. The coach will just have to trust his players to do the best they can, and hope that things work out in a positive way.

Bayern Munich almost never gets a break in the Champions League, but the team has all the tools to get it right this year. Now it’s all up to the players to execute the plan on the pitch. There are no shortcuts at this level. Bayern are rated as favorites for the trophy. It’s time to walk the walk.