Bayern Munich will look to extend their winning run to eight games as they travel to Bay Arena to face Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday.
Following a stuttering start to the campaign, Bayern Munich, it seems, have returned to top form, having won all of their last seven games in the Bundesliga.
The Bavarians have already secured two emphatic victories against Hoffenheim and Stuttgart since the turn of the year, during which they have scored seven goals – making them the most in-form team in the division at the moment.
Although Bayern have failed to roar into the record books this season, they are still the second highest scoring team in the league whilst boasting the third meanest defence in the league.
However, the defending champions will face a daunting task of overcoming Bayer Leverkusen this weekend.
Even though it can be argued that Die Werkself have had a mixed season so far, they still boast a strong squad, who are more than capable of causing an upset.
As a matter of fact, Leverkusen have secured three wins in their last four Bundesliga matches, during which they have conceded only three goals. And considering their fiery display against Wolfsburg last weekend, the factory giants will certainly be confident of their chances against Niko Kovac’s men.
And here at the Hard Tackle, we run the rule over the two sides ahead of their thriller on Saturday.
Team news & Tactics
Joel Pohjanpalo and Panagiotis Retsos have both been ruled out this weekend as they continue their spell on the sidelines, while Lars Bender is also ruled out. Aside from that, new coach Peter Bosz will have the privilege of choosing from a fully fit Leverkusen side.
The former Dortmund coach is not expected to tinker too much with his lineup, however, having had immense success during the early stages of his managerial stint at Leverkusen.
Mitchell Weiser is set to start in the right-back slot in Lars Bender’s absence, while Wendell occupies the opposite flank. Sven Bender and Jonathan Tah, on the other hand, will retain their place at the heart of the Leverkusen defence.
Charles Aranguiz will be deployed at the base of Bosz’s 4-3-3, where his industry and work-rate could be useful in dealing with the technically superior Bayern Munich midfielders.
The Mexican international will be partnered by Kai Havertz and Julian Brandt, both of whom will be burdened with the responsibility of providing the creative spark going forward.
And finally, in attack, the Leverkusen line will be spearheaded by Kevin Volland, who scored in the win over Wolfsburg. The former Hoffenheim star will be partnered by the wide duo of Karim Bellarabi and Leon Bailey.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Hradecky; Weiser, Tah, Bender, Wendell; Havertz, Aranguiz, Brandt; Bailey, Volland, Bellarabi.
The absence of Manuel Neuer will be a huge blow for the Bavarians this weekend. The German international has injured his hand and will be ruled out against Leverkusen, thus joining Arjen Robben and Corentin Tolisso on Bayern’s injury list.
Sven Ulreich will deputize for the injured Neuer in goal but Kovac could stick with the same defensive combination he used in the win over Stuttgart last weekend. Mats Hummels is a guaranteed starter while Niklas Sule will once again start over Jerome Boateng at the centre of the backline.
Elsewhere, Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba will occupy the fullback slots and both will be equally important as they deal with Leverkusen’s threat from wider positions.
Javi Martinez is expected to retain his place at the base of Bayern’s 4-2-3-1. He will be partnered by compatriot Thiago Alcantara, whose technical prowess will be crucial as the visitors look to assert their dominance in midfield.
This will allow Leon Goretzka to operate as the lone attacking midfielder, who will look to support Thomas Muller and Serge Gnabry in wider positions. Kingsley Coman will provide Kovac with an additional option in attack while Franck Ribery is doubtful to feature this weekend.
And finally, the Bayern attack will be led by Robert Lewandowski, who will be keen to overtake Paco Alcacer in the Bundesliga scoring charts.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ulreich; Kimmich, Sule, Hummels, Alaba; Martinez, Thiago; Muller, Goretzka, Gnabry; Lewandowski.
- Bayer Leverkusen have seen over 2.5 goals in their last 4 matches against Bayern in all competitions.
- Bayern Munich are the only side to have won each of their last seven games in the Bundesliga this season.
- Leverkusen have had a league-high 45 shots in 2019. They’ve hit the target 25 times in that period – a joint-league-high.
- Bayern have won their last 4 matches against Leverkusen in all competitions.
- The Bavarians have scored at least 3 goals in their last 4 matches against Leverkusen in all competitions.
Player to Watch
James Rodriguez (Bayern Munich)
It has been a disastrous campaign for James Rodriguez this season, who has struggled to make himself a regular fixture under Niko Kovac. And despite the surge in Bayern’s performance, the Colombian has continued to struggle with lack of game-time.
But, up against a Leverkusen side who have shown tremendous zest under new coach Peter Bosz, the presence of Rodriguez in the Bayern attack could prove to be useful as the Real Madrid star is more than capable of carving out the opposing defence with his clever through balls.
Therefore, Kovac should definitely hand Rodriguez a rare start this weekend by shifting Goretzka in central midfield and sacrificing Martinez. If not, the Colombian is almost guaranteed to make an appearance sometime in the second half.
Bayer Leverkusen 2-4 Bayern Munich
We can expect a goal-fest here as two attack-minded teams lock horns with each other. Leverkusen coach Bosz has already insisted that his team will take the attacking approach against Bayern but if we take into consideration the offensive firepower of the Bavarians, they are definitely the favourites going into this clash.