Bayern Munich will be looking to reclaim their place at the top when they lock horns with league leaders Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga this weekend.
The Bundesliga will brace itself for the final matchday of 2020 with Bayer Leverkusen’s clash against Bayern Munich at the Bay Arena on Saturday emerging as the Topspiel. The hosts are surprisingly leading the table ahead of their Bavarian rivals heading into this fixture, though just by a solitary point.
Bayern Munich, therefore, will have the opportunity to reclaim their number one spot should they seal a victory against Leverkusen, though Die Werkself are the only Bundesliga team yet to suffer a single defeat in the new season after VfL Wolfsburg lost to Bayern in midweek.
Nevertheless, a win again for FC Bayern could make them the Herbstmeister or the winter champion for only the first time in two years, with RB Leipzig attaining the position last season and Borussia Dortmund the season before. Incidentally, both the teams fared inconsistently during the second half of the corresponding campaign or Die Ruckrunde.
Peter Bosz, however, certainly has something going on in the Rhineland district this season, with Leverkusen notably scoring at least scoring three goals in each of their last five matches in all competitions. They also secured a convincing 4-0 win over arch-rivals 1.FC Koln in the Rhine derby.
Bayern, in contrast, secured their first Bundesliga win in two matches when they edged Wolfsburg 2-1 at the Allianz Arena, with Manuel Neuer’s majestic second-half saves somehow getting them over the line. Although Bosz’s men will be well aware of FCB’s defensive woes this campaign, their mighty attack simply cannot be overlooked.
And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two giants of German football in this top of the table clash in the Bundesliga this weekend.
Tactics & Team News
Everything is working out just fine for Peter Bosz and his men this season. It was widely evident in their game against Koln when key right-back Lars Bender picked up a niggle in training, but his replacement Mitchell Weiser ended up starring in the derby, notably scoring the second goal in that 4-0 triumph.
Unfortunately for Weiser, it remains unlikely that he will get to start against his former club this weekend as Bender was merely rested as a precaution in midweek. He should, therefore, return to the starting eleven, featuring in the four-man Leverkusen backline alongside Jonathan Tah, Edmond Tapsoba and the left-back Daley Sinkgraven.
Bosz is unlikely to make any changes to his midfield unit as the Dutchman continues to deal with the absence of Charles Aranguiz and Exequiel Palacios. It could thus guarantee a spot for Julian Baumgartlinger in the number six role, with Nadiem Amiri and Florian Wirtz operating just ahead, in the number eight positions.
In-form Aleksandar Dragovic could also be an option for Leverkusen in midfield, but only if Bosz opts for an all-out defensive approach – something that could come into the fray later in the second half.
Attack has been by far the biggest for Die Werkself this season. They have netted as many as 27 league goals, with Lucas Alario emerging as the club’s top scorer with eight goals.
Yet, the Argentine may have to settle for a place on the bench, in favour of the in-form Patrik Schick, who will be accompanied by the wide attacking duo of Moussa Diaby and Leon Bailey.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Hradecky; Bender, Tah, Tapsoba, Sinkgraven; Wirtz, Baumgartlinger, Amiri; Bailey, Schick, Diaby.
Hansi Flick is yet to offer a definitive update on the availability of Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka, but both of them are nearing full fitness even though we do not expect them to start against Leverkusen.
Corentin Tolisso looked rather weak in the holding midfield role, so it might be time for Flick to start with Marc Roca providing the likes of Javi Martinez, Kimmich and Goretzka remain unavailable. The German could also recall Jamal Musiala into the starting eleven, with the youngster expected to alongside Roca in central midfield.
Moving forward, Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski are guaranteed starters. However, Flick may have to choose between three options in Serge Gnabry, Kingsley Coman and Leroy Sane.
Coman has been in exceptional form this season, so the Frenchman is likely to continue on the left flank while Gnabry could start ahead of Sane on the opposite flank, even though the latter has shown a lot of promise this past week.
And finally, in the defensive department, Flick could revert a couple of changes he made against Wolfsburg. Niklas Sule should make way for Benjamin Pavard at right-back while Alphonso Davies is likely to replace Lucas Hernandez on the opposite flank. David Alaba and Jerome Boateng should oversee the central defensive unit for FC Bayern this weekend, with Manuel Neuer starting in goal.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Pavard, Boateng, Alaba, Davies; Roca, Musiala; Gnabry, Muller, Coman; Lewandowski.
- Bayer Leverkusen have won two of their three most recent Bundesliga meetings with Bayern Munich, and have lost just three of their last 11 home league assignments against them (three wins, five draws).
- Lucas Alario is Leverkusen’s most potent attacking threat this term with eight league goals in just eight games at a rate of one every 70 minutes. Only Robert Lewandowski (one every 63) and Erling Haaland (65) have a better minutes-per-goal ratio in the Bundesliga this season.
- Robert Lewandowski has only scored four times in 17 Bundesliga games against Leverkusen, and just twice in nine for Bayern.
- Manuel Neuer has kept 197 clean sheets in his 416 Bundesliga appearances to date, but only two this season.
- Bayern Munich have conceded first in their last six Bundesliga matches, albeit fighting back to get a result in all of them (W3, D3).
Player to Watch
Leon Bailey is one of the most in-form players in the Bundesliga right now, having been involved in a total of five goals in the last three matches. Overall this season, he has been involved in a whopping 16 goals in 17 matches in all competitions, which is quite an astonishing figure even for any FC Bayern player.
Operating on the right flank in Peter Bosz’s classic 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 hybrid, the Jamaican international has looked like a completely different player this season. His tenacity, pace and aggression has already made life difficult for Bundesliga this campaign, though it will be interesting to see how he deals with fellow North American superstar in Alphonso Davies.
Both have an insane amount pace but Bailey does have the advantage due to the backing of a more defensive-minded right-back in Lars Bender. So it won’t be unreasonable to bet on the Leverkusen star as the potential game-changer this weekend.
Bayer Leverkusen 1-1 Bayern Munich
Bayer Leverkusen have an excellent record against Bayern Munich, so this could turn into an evenly matched affair especially considering their contrasting form heading into this game. We expect the hosts to take advantage of FCB’s sloppy defence, but they too could find it difficult to contain the mighty attacking combination of Lewandowski, Muller and company.