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Next man up: How could Bayern Munich line up against Borussia Mönchengladbach?

Or better yet, can they even line up against Borussia Mönchengladbach?

Training start FC Bayern Photo by Peter Kneffel/picture alliance via Getty Images

The new year couldn’t have started worse for Bayern Munich. Ravaged with COVID-19, injuries, and international duties, Bayern’s once adequate squad has now been stripped down to its bare bones. Here’s a list of who’s missing at the moment:

  • COVID-19: Manuel Neuer, Dayot Upamecano, Omar Richards, Leroy Sané, Kingsley Coman, Lucas Hernández, Tanguy Nianzou, Corentin Tolisso
  • African Cup of Nations: Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Bouna Sarr
  • Injuries: Leon Goretzka, Josip Stanišić

That’s a whopping twelve players. Never before have Bayern been this depleted this season, not even when they made the trip to snowy Kyiv in the Champions League, when they had to make do with a bench of just six players, two of whom were goalkeepers.

This should make for a decent case to reschedule Friday’s game against Borussia Mönchengladbach. But will it really happen? According to DFL rules, a team must have a minimum of fifteen players to be eligible to play. Bayern currently have thirteen first team players available, but should Goretzka and Stanišić be available by some miracle, they could squeeze in a lineup against the Foals.

So let’s say that the crazy thing does happen and Bayern are forced to play on Friday. What could the lineup look like? Well, it’s not really hard to imagine. Sven Ulreich will replace the COVID-striken Manuel Neuer in goal. The back line is where it gets a bit complicated - Bayern only have one operational center-back in Niklas Süle. This could mean shifting Benjamin Pavard into the middle of defense per his wishes, and perhaps slotting the returning Joshua Kimmich at right back in his place. So that would be a makeshift backline of Kimmich, Pavard, Süle, and Alphonso Davies. Whoopee doo.

The main problem with moving Kimmich to right back is that the midfield then remains wide open. As it is highly doubtful that Leon Goretzka will be fit to start, Marc Roca could get his third consecutive start in the Bundesliga. Alongside him is likely to be Marcel Sabitzer, whose form hasn’t been that impressive since joining Bayern, but for lack of a better choice.

The attack is crystal clear. One of the few good news that has come out in the past few days is that Serge Gnabry has rejoined team training and seems fit to start. He would man one flank, with the other going to Jamal Musiala. Musiala hasn’t seen that much game time on the wing this season, but again, Bayern doesn’t have a choice. Thank God at least Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski are ready to go.

The real question is, then how will the bench look? Christian Früchtl will be Ulreich’s backup in goal, but how about the remaining eight spots? Let’s say again, by some miracle, Goretzka and Stanišić are at least fit to make the bench. That’s two spots filled, and one more will be filled by Malik Tillman, who has been making the first team squad since late last year. The five other spots would likely go to players from Bayern II, probably players who impressed Nagelsmann during last year’s pre-season (which isn’t really saying too much, considering Bayern’s awful preseason record).

To sum up, here’s what the team could look like in the best case scenario(?).

Starting XI: Ulreich - Kimmich, Pavard, Süle, Davies - Roca, Sabitzer - Gnabry, Müller, Musiala - Lewandowski

Bench: Früchtl - Goretzka, Tillman, Stanišić, and five other Bayern II starlets

Likewise, the situation is bad. Very bad. One can only hope that the DFL postpones the game and gives the team some time to recuperate from its many wounds. Forget Gladbach, even next week’s away trip to Cologne could be in jeopardy at this point. But then again, postponing games isn’t that much of an advantage either, considering they’re likely to be rescheduled during the business end of the season. One way or another, Bayern are in utter chaos, and it will take nothing short of a miracle to get them out of this mess and back on track for that elusive tenth consecutive Bundesliga title.