Bayern Munich return to the Allianz Arena after two away trips to face an in-form Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga on Saturday.

After a difficult start to the new year, Bayern Munich seem to be back to their very best and have attained a massive seven-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga. Recent losses for RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen have seen the gap widen between the Bavarians and the challengers.

Bayern attained a shock defeat at the hands of Borussia Monchengladbach and second division club, Holstein Kiel, in the DFB Pokal second round. Their defence has copped a lot of criticism of late as teams have been able to exploit their high-line with ease. However, Bayern have now earned two clean sheets in a row in their last two games and will look to build on that.

Hoffenheim, on the other hand, find themselves on a good run of results as they are unbeaten in three games, keeping clean sheets in each of those outings. Sebastian Hoeness’s men would be hoping to build on a strong run, as they enter a difficult period of fixtures for them.

Hoffenheim face Bayern Munich, Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Dortmund in their next three games and would hope to gain confidence from the first test of many. Andrej Kramaric has been key to Hoffeheim’s recent joy and could be one to hurt Bayern on the break yet again.

The reverse fixture ended 4-1 in the visitors’ favour which was also Bayern Munich’s only loss of the entire 2020 calendar year – a remarkable record and result. It will be a real test for Hoffenheim if they are to repeat that impressive feat away from home as well. The Hard Tackle now takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Bayern Munich

With the UEFA Champions League yet to resume and Bayern Munich out of the DFB Pokal, Hansi Flick finds himself with ample choice to choose from a well-rested set of players.

Captain Manuel Neuer is expected to continue to start between the sticks and also sport the captain’s armband for the game. Alphonso Davies should retain his starting berth ahead of Lucas Hernandez as the left-back while David Alaba and Jerome Boateng will remain the unchanged at the heart of the Bayern defence. Tanguy Nianzou remains sidelined with an injury.

Niklas Sule has impressed while playing out of position on the right flank. However, Benjamin Pavard is likely to get the nod ahead of the big centre-back and start as the right-back after being rested versus Schalke.

In midfield, Bayern have dealt huge blows as Leon Goretzka and Javi Martinez have tested positive for the coronavirus and will join the already injured Corentin Tolisso on the sidelines. Bayern will have to rely on Joshua Kimmich, who bagged three assists versus Schalke, to take charge of things and marshall the midfield. Kimmich may be partnered by Marc Roca in the double pivot.

Joshua Zirkzee, who started the reverse fixture, is reportedly on his way out, making a start for Robert Lewandowski even more obvious than it already was. The Pole set a remarkable record for being the first Bundesliga player to score in eight consecutive away league fixtures. He should be accompanied by Serge Gnabry, Thomas Muller and Kingsley Coman, who have all played key roles in Bayern’s impressive results.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Pavard, Boateng, Alaba, Davies; Kimmich, Roca; Gnabry, Muller, Coman; Lewandowski

Hoffenheim

Things will be a lot different for Hoffenheim this time around as they face the mighty Bayern Munich with a host of players absent. Moreover, Robert Lewandowski has returned for the hosts and is expected to play the full 90. Several starting players are missing for Sebastian Hoeness, as he confirmed so in the pre-match press conference.

Kevin Akpoguma, Ermin Bicakcic, Benjamin Hubner and Ryan Sessegnon are completely out of contention for the game. Meanwhile, Dennis Geiger and Konstantinos Stafylidis have returned to training but will not be ready in time to feature. Florian Grillitsch, Robert Skov and Kevin Vogt, too, remain doubts.

Hoffenheim are expected to line up in a 3-5-2 formation, with Oliver Baumann in goal accompanied by a back three of Stefan Posch, Havard Nordtveit, and Kasim Adams. Wing-backs Marco John and Mijat Gacinovic are expected to play on the left and right side respectively.

The midfield trio of Diadie Samassekou, Sebastian Rudy and Christoph Baumgartner, who has been linked recently with Manchester United, should continue to operate from the middle. Hoeness would be hoping that his three-man midfield will be able to cause Bayern’s two-man midfield trouble. The absence of Goretzka will help that cause as well.

Lastly, Ihlas Bebou is expected to lead the line alongside Andrej Kramaric, who has now scored four goals in his last two appearances. Kramaric also scored twice in the reverse fixture and is on fire currently. Hoffenheim have shown how devastatingly fast they can be in transitions. There is no doubt that Bayern will give them opportunities. However, it is down to Hoffenheim and mainly Kramaric to take those chances and seal the deal.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Baumann; Adams, Nordtveit, Posch; Gacinovic, Baumgartner, Samassekou, Rudy, John; Kramaric, Bebou

Key Stats

  • Hoffenheim beat Bayern Munich 4-1 in the second matchday and ended their 32-game unbeaten run in all competitions. The last clubs to do the double over the Bavarians were Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach in the 2010/11 season.
  • Bayern have scored 53 goals after 18 Bundesliga games, which is their best ever tally at this stage in the competition. This tally is also tied with Dortmund’s record set in 1963/64
  • Andrej Kramaric and Robert Lewandowski have both scored a combined 91% of penalties that they have taken in the Bundesliga. No other player with 22 or more attempts from the penalty spot have as good a conversion rate.
  • Bayern currently have a massive seven-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga and have never thrown away such a comprehensive lead halfway into the season.
  • Hoffenheim failed to keep a clean sheet in their first 15 league games only to keep three consecutive clean sheets in their last three games. Surprisingly, they managed to equal a club record from 2009/10 with this disappointing defensive record.

Player to Watch

Andrej Kramaric

Bayern Munich have a star-studded squad at their disposal which means that the damage done to Hoffenheim could come from a variety of sources, as the Bavarians boast a versatile and potent front four.

However, if there is one standout player on the pitch, it is the in-form Andrej Kramaric, who has been extremely impressive in the past two games. Kramaric has the pace to cause Bayern all sorts of problem. The Croat scored a brace in the reverse fixture and would be hoping to make a similar impact on the game despite being more carefully marked this time out.

Kramaric is without a doubt, one to keep your eyes out for.

Prediction

Bayern Munich 3-1 Hoffenheim

Bayern Munich have kept clean sheets in their last two games, while Hoffenheim have scored six. Hoffenheim are without a doubt a dangerous team with immense talent. However, they do not seem to have it in them to outperform the Bundesliga leaders once again.

A victory for Bayern Munich is on the cards, but the game could end up being interestingly close, with The Hard Tackle predicting that Hoffenheim will manage to get one goal on the score sheet. To that end, we are going with a 3-1 win for Hansi Flick & co.

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