Well, that was quick — football really did come back in the blink of an eye. After the shortest winter break on record, Bayern Munich host a struggling Mainz side at the Allianz Arena to kick off a new year of games. After a sputtering end to 2020 that saw the team draw four of their last 10 games, the players will probably fancy the visit from a relegation candidate to get things underway.
Of course, the short winter break wasn’t enough for Bayern to get over the injury bug. Kingsley Coman is the headline absentee — the Frenchman is still struggling from the foot injury he sustained against Bayer Leverkusen in December. Meanwhile, Marc Roca, Bright Arrey-Mbi, and Joshua Zirkzee trained individually this weekend — they will all miss the game with various injuries. Finally, Tanguy Nianzou is still out with a long term hamstring issue, expected to keep him sidelined until February.
While it may be prudent to give the starters an extra little bit of rest, Hansi Flick seems like the kind of guy to kick things off with a bang. So expect as many star players as possible tomorrow — this means Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller up top, supported by Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane on the wings. With Coman out, it’s time for Leroy and Serge to step up to the plate with some good performances — the team will need their goals and assists when the latter rounds of the Champions League come.
In midfield, we can expect to see Joshua Kimmich start his first game since his injury against BVB. Even though Javi Martinez and Corentin Tolisso are both available, you can expect him to pair up with Leon Goretzka as usual. Portuguese youngster Tiago Dantas will also be in the squad tomorrow, but Hansi didn’t give any indication that he’s ready for minutes. If any youngster gets a cameo appearance against Mainz, it’ll probably be Jamal Musiala, who’s been exceptional so far this season.
Finally, at the back, we may see Niklas Sule reprise his new role at right-back, at the expense of Benjamin Pavard and Buona Sarr. From my perspective, I’d actually like to see Pavard get a shot, since Mainz is the exact kind of confidence-builder he needs. However, if Flick really wants to shore up the defense, Sule may be the way to go.
The next name in the backline will cause Bayern fans no small amount of frustration — David Alaba. The coach simply loves the Austrian for his intelligence and distribution, and recent transfer links to Real Madrid were not addressed in the press conference. Given that Alaba was a locked-on starter before the winter break, there’s no reason for him to be dropped now. Joining him will be Jerome Boateng at center-back, with Alphonso Davies likely to round out the backline. Manuel Neuer, as always, will be in goal.
So here’s how Bayern’s first lineup of the year could look like:
- Jamal Musiala on the wing ahead of either Gnabry or Sane.
- Lucas Hernandez at left-back ahead of Davies.
- Lucas Herandez at center-back ahead of Alaba.
- Benjamin Pavard at right-back ahead of Sule.
- Corentin Tolisso in midfield instead of Goretzka.
Bild gives their predicted lineup. Seems a little familiar: