Yet another week has passed without a midweek cup game for Bayern Munich, which makes Bundesliga fixtures feel extremely spread out. At least this means that Julian Nagelsmann doesn’t have to overplay his players, but the injury situation at Bayern Munich remains poor.
Bayer Leverkusen travel to the Bavarian capital in great form, and look poised to avenge their crushing defeat at the hands of a much healthier Bayern Munich in the Hinrunde. What can Nagelsmann come up with?
In terms of the major long term absentees, the coach addressed all of them in his pregame presser. Manuel Neuer is back in training but will have to sit this one out, though he should be ready for midweek’s Champions League game against Salzburg. Leon Goretzka has finally shown some positive signs in his recovery and could be back in training in the next week or so, while Alphonso Davies will still be out for a couple of weeks (at minimum). The Canadian's prolonged absence is doubtless frustrating for the coach, but given the nature of his illness it makes sense to be careful.
In terms of other team news, Thomas Muller is back in training and should be able to start, as should Niklas Sule. Meanwhile Lucas Hernandez received his 5th yellow card of the season against Frankfurt, so he’ll have to sit this one out. Marcel Sabitzer had a cold and is doubtful for the game tomorrow, but he was unlikely to start anyway. Why? Let’s talk about the lineup.
Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller should start up top as usual, with the three-winger formation poised to make a comeback. With Lucas Hernandez out, one of either Kingsley Coman or Serge Gnabry will have to double-up as a wingback in a back-three based system, which will put to the test against Leverkusen’s excellent attacking line.
The midfield is set to receive a full shakeup, with Jamal Musiala poised to start next to Joshua Kimmich in the pivot. Why Musiala? Well, as mentioned before, the board sees Musiala as someone who can take over the Thiago-role at Bayern, i.e. someone who can control the ball and dribble forward in tight positions. Leverkusen will be the litmus test for the young man, who only just made his first start last week after a short absence due to COVID. Musiala’s been able to step up whenever he’s been called upon, but can he really hold the midfield against a powerful pressing team like Leverkusen? We’ll have to wait and see.
The defense ... is not looking good. Without Lucas Hernandez, Nagelsmann has practically no choice but to start Dayot Upamecano, Niklas Sule, and Benjamin Pavard in a back-three setup. Its risky given the sheer offensive firepower Leverkusen have with the likes of Florian Wirtz and Moussa Diaby, but the coach really has no choice. This game might end up looking like a Flick era game with zero defending from either side. Of course, Flick won his games more often than not, so Nagelsmann needs to prove that he can live up to that precedent.
With Neuer still out, Sven Ulreich is set to start in goal. Here’s how the XI might look like:
Last week fleetwell named this formation “The Broccoli”, which seems like an appropriate description.
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