It’s been about two months since the Euros ended, and the wait has been excruciating. However, the Bundesliga is finally back in action, with Bayern Munich kicking off the season against Borussia Monchengladbach at the Borussia Park on Friday. This will be Julian Nagelsmann’s first official game in charge of der Rekordmeister, and he faces a truly stern test against the Foals.
It’s never a good sign when you have an injury crisis before the season even begins. The major headline absentee is Benjamin Pavard, who will miss the next four weeks or so with an ankle ligament injury. Left-backs Omar Richards (foot) and Lucas Hernandez (knee) will also miss the game, but they’re much closer to fitness than Pavard.
Midfielder Marc Roca is also out for several weeks with an ankle injury, while left-back Alphonso Davies is back in training — the coach says he can start, but not play a full 90 minutes. Finally, striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting is a doubt for the game with back problems. Looks like the job of carrying the club finally caught up to him.
️ @J__Nagelsmann on the opponents: "Gladbach have a strong and ambitious squad. They are a tough opponent to open the season against. Every team has that extra motivation when facing Bayern. Everyone wants to prevent us from winning our tenth straight title." #BMGFCB pic.twitter.com/fRN2lzuyz8— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) August 12, 2021
With all that in mind, what kind of lineup will Nagelsmann go for? Assuming that his sanity remains intact, there will be NO back three — a standard 4-2-3-1 is still Bayern’s best bet for now. Robert Lewandowski will start up top with Thomas Muller playing behind him at the #10 position, flanked by Kingsley Coman and Leroy Sane on the wings. Serge Gnabry and Jamal Musiala could also be options for the wing, depending on what the coach decides.
Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich are thankfully both fit right now, so they can start together in midfield. Some may suggest moving Kimmich to right-back to cover for Pavard’s absence. To that I say — wait until he signs the contract extension.
Kimmich is a team player and will definitely move wherever the coach needs him to, but let’s not push our luck with one of Bayern’s most important players. Keep Josh happy please. Also, it’s not like there’s anyone who can take over his duties in midfield. Roca is injured and Torben Rhein has no experience at this level.
The defense is going to be Nagelsmann’s biggest headache for this game. The coach may not have any choice other than to start Alphonso Davies at left-back, and sub him off for Josip Stanisic at the 60 minute mark. Bayern have to worry about facing Borussia Dortmund in midweek after this game, so preserving the Canadian’s stamina (and his newly healed ankle) should be at the top of Nagelsmann’s agenda.
For central defense, new signing Dayot Upamecano will almost surely make his competitive debut for the club, paired with precocious Tanguy Nianzou. The two Frenchmen formed a solid pairing for the duration of preseason, and they’re really the only two defenders who have any match practice coming into this game. Their partnership will be crucial to keeping Gladbach’s attackers at bay, especially given the shaky state of Bayern’s fullbacks at the moment.
Right-back is the single most problematic part of the lineup at the moment, because the options just aren’t quite good enough. Buona Sarr is BAD. Starting him is like starting with a three goal handicap. Josip Stanisic has experience at RB, but played exclusively at LB during the preseason, and he might be needed to fill in for Alphonso Davies. This leaves only Niklas Sule and Chris Richards, both of whom are natural center-backs.
Sule is probably Nagelsmann’s best bet for now, because he showed last season that he can be a solid option at right-back and dribble circles around the opponent like he’s Ronaldinho. Still, it’s been a while since he played, and he’s been beset with fitness issues for months now. It’ll be a gamble, but if I were the coach, I’d go with the big man.
Of course, if all else fails, you have Manuel Neuer in goal. This season must feel strange for him — not only is he captain of the team, but he’s also older than the coach. His leadership will be more important than ever.
So here’s how Bayern should look against Gladbach tomorrow:
Bild have their predictions out. We’re mostly in agreement, but they put Gnabry in place of Coman.
Gladbach vs Bayern | Possible lineups [Bild] pic.twitter.com/4sWnR8Naez— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) August 12, 2021
Bad news for everyone who wanted to see Jamal Musiala start today. The youngster missed the final training session and his participation is in doubt.
Jamal Musiala missed the final training session yesterday and is a doubt for today's game [Bild]— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) August 13, 2021
This may be an opportunity for another youngster like Sieb or Scott to come into the squad and perhaps gain some minutes in the later stages of the game.