Bayern will enter the final straight of the season when they face Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the DFB-Pokal semi-final. The game will serve as a dress rehearsal for the Champions League semi-final. Die Roten need a strong cast for the occasion.
No BS in defence
The guiding principle here is “no bollocks”. This is the business end of the season, and the time for experimenting or trying new stuff out is gone.
Manuel Neuer is still sidelined despite the encouraging progress. Thus, Sven Ulreich will be a sureshot in goal. You could even argue that he should see out the season.
In the back line, we have the usual suspects. Joshua Kimmich continues to improve in his right-back role. Mats Hummels and Jérôme Boateng remain an insuperable central defence tandem. David Alaba’s performance against Gladbach earned him some credit towards regaining our collective confidence. All four should start.
The midfield presents an interesting challenge. We have seen the implications of choosing between James Rodríguez and Thiago Alcântara as creative midfielders. Their interactions with Thomas Müller are a crucial factor in how Bayern builds attacks and creates spaces, depending on the opposition’s tactical scheme. Indeed, both are suitable and dependable options. I will give the nod to James, who will be raring to go in the prelude to his return to Madrid.
Javi Martínez, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry all rested against Gladbach and will most certainly feature. Barring a miracle return by Kingsley Coman, this is how I expect things to be until the season ends.
The 4-1-4-1 / 4-2-3-1 hybrid that Jupp Heynckes has devised for Bayern should work with these choices, and the game should throw information that will inspire some fine tuning for Real Madrid.
Up front, naturally, Robert Lewandowski will look to have a greater impact than he did against Sevilla. Bayern needs that.
A crucial game
Not only is this game determinant of Bayern’s hopes to attain a second treble because it is a semi-final. It will also be a dress rehearsal for the Real Madrid showdown. Yes, Madrid were shamelessly helped by referees last year. However, if Bayern were in tiptop shape for those games, the referees’ grace would have been less effective, if effective at all. This is where Heynckes must make his team stick together.