Bayern Munich will look to redeem themselves following a draw with Fortuna Dusseldorf as they host SL Benfica in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Bayern Munich will lock horns with Benfica this week, in what may turn out to be the last game for head coach Niko Kovac. The Croatian mastermind is currently on thin ice having failed to win against Borussia Dortmund and Fortuna Dusseldorf in the last two matches.
But more importantly, he led Bayern to an awful start to the season as they are already trailing league leaders Dortmund by nine points and will have a lot of grounds to cover if they are to secure their seventh successive league title this season.
It is believed that former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is being discussed as a potential successor for Kovac, should he fail to spark a comeback in the coming matches, meaning a win against Benfica could be imperative not just for Bayern but for Kovac as well.
Speaking of Benfica, they have had a mixed season so far, having won six of their ten matches in Liga NOS. The Portuguese giants are trailing league leaders and arch-rivals FC Porto by four at the moment.
As for the Champions League, they have only collected four points so far, meaning they must win against Bayern and also hope Ajax loses against AEK in order to retain any hope of qualifying to the knockout rounds.
And here at the Hard Tackle, we take a brief look at both the sides ahead of their exciting match-up on Tuesday.
Team news & tactics
Niko Kovac needs to make some necessary changes to the side that drew against Dusseldorf, one of which will be to include Mats Hummels in defence. The German international was rested on Saturday and will, therefore, return to central defence alongside Jerome Boateng while Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba occupy the fullback slots.
Javi Martinez might be relegated to the bench in this one given Benfica’s dynamic midfield duo of Pizzi and Gedson Fernandes, both of whom could exploit the Spaniard’s lack of mobility. As a result, Leon Goretzka will be deployed as the lone defensive midfielder while Thomas Muller and Renato Sanches start further upfront.
Muller, in particular, will be tasked providing an attacking spark in the absence of Thiago Alcantara. The German international performed brilliantly against Dusseldorf, notably scoring a brace before coming off late in the game.
Arjen Robben will return to the starting lineup after facing a brief spell on the sidelines. His return will be a boost, especially with Kingsley Coman out injured. Robben will be deployed on the right flank with Franck Ribery starting on the opposite flank.
And finally, the Bayern attack will be led by Robert Lewandowski, who was completely isolated against Die Flingeranger. Therefore, the Polish superstar will be eager to return to his goalscoring form but he definitely needs to improve his accuracy in front of goal, especially after being terribly wasteful against Dusseldorf on the weekend.
Probable lineup(4-1-4-1): Neuer; Kimmich, Boateng, Hummels, Alaba; Goretzka; Robben, Muller, Sanches, Ribery; Lewandowski.
Benfica have a series of players doubtful to start against Bayern this week including Alejandro Grimaldo, Ljubomir Fejsa, Yuri Ribeiro and Eduardo Salvio.
However, we can expect Fejsa to return to full fitness on Tuesday. The Serbian will start alongside Pizzi and Fernandes at the base of Benfica’s 4-1-2-3. His ability to screen the back-four will be crucial against the mighty Bavarians while Pizzi will be tasked with the responsibility to create chances for his team in the final third.
In defence, Andre Almeida will be deployed as the right-back while Alejandro Grimaldo is also expected to return to full fitness before Tuesday night’s encounter. The central defensive pairing will comprise of Ruben Dias and Jardel, whose experience could be key as Benfica look to contain the mighty Bayern attack this midweek.
The Benfica attack will be led by none other than Haris Seferovic, who has been in red-hot form, of late, notably scoring a hat-trick for Switzerland during the international break. He also has Bundesliga experience and will play a key role in Benfica’s attempts to breach the susceptible Bayern defence.
Seferovic will be supported by the wide-duo of Rafa Silva and Franco Cervi. Rafa, in particular, is an inverted winger, meaning he can cut in and take shots on Manuel Neuer while he will remain a crucial part of the Benfica counter-attack.
Probable lineup(4-1-2-3): Vlachodimos; Almeida, Dias, Jardel, Grimaldo; Fejsa; Pizzi, Fernandes; Silva, Seferovic, Cervi.
- Javi Martínez: Has made more tackles and interceptions combined (26) than any other player in the Champions League this season.
- FC Bayern have failed to win their last four Bundesliga home matches, equalling their longest home winless run in the history of the BL (also April-September 1966 and September-October 1994)
- There have been under 2.5 goals scored in 10 of Benfica‘s last 12 games.
- Bayern have an unbeaten record in 13 of their 14 previous Champions League matches.
- On Saturday, Thomas Muller scored his first goal from outside of the box since March 2015.
Player to watch
Kovac will certainly be tempted to start Renato Sanches against his old club this week, especially with Corentin Tolisso and Thiago Alcantara out injured. The Portuguese sensation has shown glimpses of promise under the Croatian this season and has often impressed in the Champions League, making him a crucial figure in week’s encounter.
His inclusion in attacking midfield will provide Bayern with the much-needed flair in the final third while he will also play a key role in rotating possession in midfield.
Sanches already boasts a good record against Portuguese clubs and very few would bet against him producing yet another solid performance this week.
Bayern Munich 2-1 Benfica
Benfica have an uphill task of overcoming the mighty Bavarians this week, who will certainly provide strong competition despite their awful form going into this game. The Portuguese giants are likely to face defeat in this one, if they fail to make full use of Bayern’s defensive vulnerability.