Matthijs De Ligt has not exactly been in favor so far this season for Bayern Munich under Thomas Tuchel. From their first three matches in the Bundesliga, he’s clocked a total of 31 minutes, as well as playing 45 minutes in Bayern’s 3-0 DFL-Supercup loss to RB Leipzig back in mid-August. So far, Tuchel has been showing a preference to starting the center back pairing of Dayot Upamecano and Kim Min-jae, which is different from the underlying expectation there was for De Ligt to be pairing Kim most often after the South Korean international was signed from SSC Napoli.
During the international break, De Ligt finally got his first 90-minute shift under his belt in the Netherlands’ 2-1 Euro 2024 qualifying win over the Republic of Ireland. In their other qualifier of the break, he had come on in the 85th minute to replace Denzel Dumfries in the 3-0 win over Greece in Eindhoven. For that match, Ronald Koeman had gone with a center back three of Virgil van Dijk, Nathan Ake, and Lutsharel Geertruida. They also used a back three system against Ireland and De Ligt had replaced Geertruida in Koeman’s starting lineup.
The last time De Ligt started and completed a full 90-minute shift was the final day of the 2022/23 Bundesliga season where Bayern beat FC Koln with a late, late winner from Jamal Musiala, granting Bayern their eleventh straight title. He was a regular feature in Tuchel’s back line most of the season, but he knows how much talent there is in Bayern’s defensive depth right now and it’s just more important for him to stay healthy coming back from his calf injury.
“My last 90 minutes were at the end of May. I had a calf injury, so you have to be careful not to get injured again and take it easier. There are many important matches coming up, therefore I’m happy I got 90 minutes in my legs,” De Ligt explained to the Dutch press after the win over Ireland in Dublin (via @iMiaSanMia).
Additionally, De Ligt doesn’t mind the center back competition he has we both Kim and Upamecano; it’s something he welcomes. “All three of us are monsters. Kim was the best defender in Serie A last season, Upamecano plays for the French national team, I played almost all games last season and had a good year with the Dutch team. There’s a lot of competition and that’s just great,” he said.