The soon-to-be-crowned German champions will face an optimistic Sevilla side in Munich on Wednesday for a Champions’ League semi-final berth. Bayern could field a revved-up XI to make a strong statement to the remaining teams in the competition despite injuries.
After wrapping up the Bundesliga against Augsburg last weekend, Bayern are in a great mood. The team’s form has catapulted it to the top of Europe’s albeit informal power rankings.
Bayern are undefeated at home in all competitions this season, regardless of how averagely some might think the team has been for half of the games played. They have scored 14 goals in four European home games, placing their attack in red-hot category. It should be an imposing win for the Bavarians, at a ground where even the much-feared Paris Saint-Germain have been put to the sword.
Sevilla, however, are in a slight fix. Their season has been a topsy-turvy one, to say the least. The Andalusian side suffered a 4:0 defeat at Celta Vigo on Saturday. They would probably argue that their prime focus was on Tuesday’s game in Munich.
Regardless, that was hardly the preparation they would have desired. Bayern would do well to be wary of Wissam Ben Yedder once more, as he only trails Cristiano Ronaldo on the goal-scoring charts. Ever Banega also makes his return after having been suspended for the first leg.
- The usual suspects Manuel Neuer and Kingsley Coman are out for the tie. Even though progress has been made by Neuer for a comeback in a few weeks, Coman was spotted on crutches as of last weekend;
- Arturo Vidal and David Alaba also join the injured list, with short-term knee and back injuries respectively.
Coach’s pre-match comments
- Jupp Heynckes pointed out in his pre-match address that he expects Sevilla not to sit back but to attack. He said, “When you lose the first leg at home 2:1 then you have to take risks, look to attack and take the initiative. Sevilla will do that.” He also stressed on how eager the team are to reach the semi-finals, and about their preparedness to “react accordingly” to Sevilla’s game plan;
- He also said the game on Tuesday has come too early for David Alaba, whom he expects to make a “more likely” return to action on Saturday.
Inasmuch as Sevilla are seeking to come to Munich to play their game and not sit back, I would recommend that they actually do. For their own sakes, seeking to dominate a team that imposes itself on 99% of matches is tantamount to derision.
Playing on the counter-attack, as RB Leipzig did to defeat the Bavarians recently, is Sevilla’s best bet. Especially when Bayern boasts a much stronger side, it is a quite ominous situation for Sevilla. Because Bayern can also use the same strategy they used to defeat Paris Saint-Germain to hurt any team that tries to take control: sit back, be alert and clinical.
Here is a lineup to adapt to any game plan Sevilla might conjure up.
Rafinha In, Bernat Out
In Sevilla, Juan Bernat was the weak link in Bayern’s game. The Spaniard was subbed off and replaced by Rafinha who did an excellent job of helping stabilize affairs at the back. Sevilla were as such, restricted for much of the second half.
I, therefore, do not see why he should sit out this game, as his experience also is a boost. Joshua Kimmich also stars on the right, after a stellar display against Augsburg that was truly fitting for a German champion.
I almost put Niklas Süle in the back four to be paired with Mats Hummels, until I seconded that thought. Even though I would personally play him ahead of Jérôme Boateng in terms of current quality, I still fancy Boateng to get the nod. Mats Hummels makes a comeback in defense, a return I hope comes along with a tasty clean sheet. Speaking of hopeful clean sheets, Sven Ulreich stays in goal.
Geniuses in midfield
The first genius I would place in the midfield category has to be Javi Martínez, Bayern’s unsung hero. He is the best bet for this 4-1-4-1 love affair Jupp Heynckes has made us so accustomed to, especially in Arturo Vidal’s absence. He also was one of the standout performers in Sevilla, and his familiarity with the visitors’ style of play should be an invaluable asset.
Super-signing James Rodríguez should continue his absolutely hot streak of form, which has seen him return a goal and an assist in his last game at the weekend. He contributes to a goal every 83 minutes for the Reds, and his stats are just too good to be overlooked for this game.
Thiago also scored the all-important clincher back in the first-leg, and I am optimistic he was rested at the weekend with eyes on this match. He should offer a creative ingenuity in midfield and attack, as I expect to see his box-to-box skill-set on display on the day.
Goals, Goals, Goals
Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Müller and Franck Ribéry have been on fire lately. The trio has been involved in goals in almost every match in the past few weeks, and this game should continue that delightful trend.
Ribéry especially has really risen to the occasion ever since Kingsley Coman ominously went out with a long-term injury. He played the most crucial role in giving Bayern the equaliser in the previous fixture in Spain, and has been well-managed fitness-wise of late.
Thomas Müller should enjoy a fluid partnership with James Rodríguez on the right. As was against Besiktas, his deft positioning should also create chances for him to score or assist the attack. All in all, Lewandowski is in top shape at the moment, and his name on the score sheet on Wednesday is almost a given.
Return to semi-finals
Bayern should make light work of Sevilla and snuff out the Andalusians’ challenge, provided the Reds mean business in their performance. To cap off fine work in the league with a well-deserved return to the Champions’ League semi-final stage would be the perfect boost to Bayern’s treble ambitions.