After a midweek Pokal thrashing of SC Paderborn, Bayern host Schalke as Bundesliga action returns. The champions can potentially rely on a near full-strength lineup to snag all three points. What will it look like?
Jupp Heynckes has been doing a laudable job over the past few weeks vis-à-vis squad rotation. He has somehow managed to keep everyone happy, distributing game-time and allotting no fixed guarantees for any player.
With the “business end” of the season fast approaching, the boss would like to keep everyone refreshed but also as active as much as possible. As such, I expect a near-full-strength squad against the Royal Blues, with players rested in the next game away to Wolfsburg.
In the reverse fixture on Matchday 5, Bayern cruised to a well-worked 3:0 victory at the Veltins Arena with a similarly strong lineup.
In spite of the Bavarians sitting pretty at the summit in the league, the hunger in the team doesn’t seem like waning anytime soon. Schalke, on the other hand, can barely afford a loss, as the race for European slots has become ludicrously tight in the table. Hence Bayern will need to be at their best to tame Domenico Tedesco’s enthusiastic side.
One of the most beautiful features of watching Heynckes’ Bayern these days is tactical flexibility. The football sage has regularly switched mid-game tactics to adapt and win. After the 4-1-4-1 deployed in the Pokal against a defensive Paderborn, I expect a return to the 4-2-3-1 for a solid midfield.
In defense, it would be great to see the usual suspects partnering again, as Jérôme Boateng is now fully recovered from his mid-week stomach infection and Mats Hummels is back in full swing. I would want to see the two prime centre-backs of the team back rehearsing their cohesion after a significant time out, especially with the Champions’ League resuming.
Niklas Süle has enjoyed plenty game-time of late. With Hummels’ impressive display in the Pokal, it would be encouraging to see him build on that in the league against better-than-average competition. Sven Ulreich should be in goal, and overall I expect the first-choice back four to concede very little to the opposition.
With that said, I also back Joshua Kimmich to improve defensively, since Tedesco’s attackers should be an apt test for the now 23-year old.
Another partnership I hope to see in such a game would be the Arturo Vidal and Javi Martínez combo. The Spaniard is back in the squad to solidify the defensive midfield position and give Vidal less responsibility in tackling. Again, this should be a dress rehearsal for potential Champions’ League match-ups, seeing as they are both first-choice midfield options.
Continued rhythm in attack
Bayern’s tactical flexibility has managed to break down most opponents in the past few months, with more clinical plays from the front-four recently. As such, I am betting on another start for Kingsley Coman, as he is developing a quite productive relationship with David Alaba on the left flank.
James Rodríguez just won the Bayern Player of the month vote for January, and in that richness of form I doubt he will miss out, with Thomas Müller just returning from a slight knock picked up in midweek.
Robert Lewandowski will be looking to set the Bundesliga record for most consecutive goals scored at home, and I’m expecting him to hit that target as well. I also would like to see Arjen Robben start, as he has racked up a bunch of goals and assists in his past few games.
This lineup should be a good rehearsal for the upcoming fixture-packed weeks.