It’s Champions league time. Bayern Munich return to action after a month long break against Frank Lampard’s Chelsea in the Round of 16. Even though Hansi Flick’s men lead 3-0 from the first leg of the tie, the Bavarians will be wary of slip ups against a depleted Blues side that have nothing to lose.
Bayern’s potential lineup is fairly predictable, with a few minor exceptions. Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller will start up top, with Serge Gnabry on the right wing. Kingsley Coman is sidelined by some thigh problems, so either Ivan Perisic or Philippe Coutinho will take his place.
Hansi Flick praised both players in his pregame press conference, and kicker predicts that Coutinho will start on the left wing. Given kicker’s track record lately, that probably means Perisic will start instead. The Croatian was mediocre in his outing against Marseille in Bayern’s pre-UCL friendly, so let’s hope he’s tightened things up since then. A good performance here would make a strong case for making his stay permanent.
In midfield, Thiago Alcantara and Leon Goretzka are the only real options. Goretzka didn’t play against Chelsea in the first leg, so it will be interesting to see how he deals with Mateo Kovacic, who is a very similar player in terms of style. Thiago, meanwhile, will be under intense scrutiny given rumors of his impending departure from the club — we hope the Spaniard plays as professionally as he’s always done, since when he’s on form he’s one of the best midfielders in the world.
Expect few changes in defense. While Niklas Sule and Lucas Hernandez are fit and ready to play for the first time this season, Hansi Flick will likely stick with the tried-and-tested pairing of David Alaba and Jerome Boateng in the middle. Alphonso Davies will reprise his role as Bayern’s starting left-back, while Joshua Kimmich is expected to come in for the injured Benjamin Pavard at right-back. This will be Kimmich’s first official game at fullback since Niko Kovac was fired — so we hope he’s ready to step up and produce some strong performances.
Finally, Manuel Neuer will lead the squad as captain and goalkeeper. Here’s how we think the complete squad will line up:
As for Chelsea, we could try to provide some semblance of a prediction, but it’s hard to guess what they’ll do when they have so many players injured or suspended. With an in-form Christian Pulisic, they could’ve had a legit chance of overturning the deficit, but his injury has killed all hopes of that ever happening. However, that’s no excuse for Bayern Munich to get complacent. This game will serve as the beginning of the most important stretch of games this season — the team better be up for it from minute one.
Just a quick update: Lampard confirmed that N’Golo Kante and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are fit for Chelsea. They might be able to start the game.