Any good Bayern Munich fan knew this moment was coming: The injury — and illness! — gods have come for the Bavarians.
Hours before clinching the Club World Cup title Bayern Munich was hit with the news that Thomas Müller tested positive for COVID-19 and hours after winning the crown, the Bavarians found out that they would be without Serge Gnabry, who is out indefinitely with a thigh injury.
Alexander Nübel (ankle) is also likely out, while Javi Martinez (COVID-19) is doubtful at best after reportedly not being able to train individually yesterday.
On the flip-side, Leon Goretzka (COVID-19) could be back depending on how he feels, while Jerome Boateng (personal reasons) also could potentially be back in the lineup.
Still, at a key juncture of the season, Bayern Munich will be facing the prospect of missing some critical players. Müller simply cannot be replaced, while Gnabry, whose performance in the Club World Cup was uneven, will be missed as neither Leroy Sane nor Douglas Costa has shown enough consistency thus far to be relied upon.
If there is a positive or optimistic view on this, it is that Sane could finally find a way to break out of his own funk with an extended opportunity to start. More, if Goretzka is ready to go, the 26-year-old could seamlessly slot himself back into Hansi Flick’s starting XI — and perhaps even offer Flick the chance to rest Kimmich at some point.
The key, of course, is seeing who will be available for Bayern Munich’s Champions League first leg tie against Lazio on February 23rd. Should Müller’s COVID-19 experience show him to be asymptomatic or with mild symptoms, there is a chance the Raumdeuter could be back to face Ciro Immobile and company.
What does this all mean? Opportunity for players like Sane, Corentin Tolisso, Jamal Musiala, and Marc Roca. It appeared that Gnabry would have been the player to slot in for Müller, but now we could get a look at players like Tolisso, Musiala, or Goretzka in the 10-role. More, Musiala could get more chances at wing and Roca and Tolisso are likely to get additional minutes depending on where Goretzka is slotted.
Clearly, Flick has some possibilities for shifting his boys around — and, again, the manager has earned the trust to handle that situation accordingly. It might not always look pretty or even sensible when the lineups are released, but Flick always seems to make it work.
During this stretch, Flick will absolutely earn his paycheck as he works through his lineup and roster creatively.
What is going on with Borussia Dortmund?
One of the crazier subplots of this season is the collapse of Borussia Dortmund — and the rumored roster fallout that could happen if the team does not qualify for the Champions League.
Earlier this week we captured WAZ’s report in the Daily Schmankerl that indicated that quite a few players could push for an early exit. Among those listed as potentially wanting out include Jadon Sancho, Axel Witsel, Manuel Akanji, Mahmoud Dahoud, Giovanni Reyna, Jude Bellingham, Raphael Guerreiro, and Erling Haaland.
If true, those players would represent a massive loss for BVB, but it is extremely debatable how accurate the report is at this stage.
Regardless of all of that, things are not exactly going swimmingly at Signal Iduna Park anyway. Edin Terzić is not excelling in his caretake role as the team has one win, three losses, and one draw in its last five games. More, Borussia Dortmund is in sixth place of the table with the same point total (32) as seventh place Borussia Mönchengladbach.
The bright side for Dortmund is that it is only four points behind fourth-place Eintracht Frankfurt. It is totally conceivable that the raw talent on BVB’s roster along will carry it back into fourth place by the end of the season — it just won’t be easy given the competitive landscape of the league this season.
Eintracht Frankfurt is scorching hot, while Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig almost certainly will not cede their spots in the top-four. More, Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen are not exactly slouches this season, so Borussia Dortmund will clearly have their work cut out for them.
All of those clubs stand between Borussia Dortmund and a potential roster purge if you believe the WAZ report. Good luck Edin, hopefully you’ve got a plan and a strong stomach. It seems like you will be battling turbulence for the immediate future.
There is no rest for the weary as Bayern Munich will have to ramp right back up for its Monday Night Football match against Arminia Bielefeld.
As we covered above, who will actually be available for that tilt remains a bit of a mystery.
Whoever shows, they’ll be facing an Arminia Bielefeld side that is desperate. Sitting in 16th place, Bielefeld has three wins, five losses, and one draw over the last nine games. More, Bielefeld has been outscored 8-2 in its last two games.
If there was any team the Bavarians would welcome playing after a grinding week, it is probably Arminia Bielefeld.
As always, though, who Hansi Flick uses will play a key role in how Bayern Munich performs. Given how many top-rung players are already going to miss the game, it would seem as if Lewandowski, Kimmich, and Neuer are all sure things to start. After that, Flick could get creative if he decides to rest some of his other regulars — which is a possibility.
Regardless of Flick selects, Bayern Munich should be well-positioned to secure three points.
Prediction: Bayern Munich 3-0 Arminia Bielefeld
Other Bundesliga matches include:
- RB Leipzig 3-1 FC Augsburg
- Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 Mainz 05
- Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Hoffenheim
- VfB Stuttgart 3-2 Hertha Berlin
- Werder Bremen 2-3 SC Freiburg
- Union Berlin 4-2 Schalke 04
- Eintracht Frankfurt 3-1 FC Köln
- Wolfsburg 2-2 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Here is to hoping for another successful week. A couple of “gimmes” for the Club World Cup pulled me back over .500. This Bundesliga season is wild, though.
Last Bundesliga match day record: 5-3*
(*Arminia Bielefeld vs. Werder Bremen was postponed)
Club World Cup record: 2-0
Overall record: 95-93**
Guest predictors’ record: 22-4
(**includes DFL-Supercup, DFB-Pokal, and Champions League)