Bayern Munich are hoping to maintain their place at the top of the Bundesliga table as they take on VfL Wolfsburg at the Volkswagen Arena on Saturday.
Bayern Munich are going through a mini-crisis at the moment, further fueled by their midweek elimination in the UEFA Champions League at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain. It has led to concerns over the future of coach Hansi Flick while many of the first-team stars have faced fierce criticism after poor performances in the last few matches.
Things could potentially turn from bad to worse for Bayern this week, as they take on VfL Wolfsburg at the Volkswagen Arena on Saturday. It could be a hugely important game for the Bavarians, whose 1-1 draw against Union Berlin last weekend helped RB Leipzig bridge the gap at the top to just five points.
Another mishap against Wolfsburg this time around could see Bayern put under further pressure by their challengers, with five matches still remaining until the end of the season.
Wolfsburg are not a pushover by any means either, as the club is flying high in third place, although they did slump to a narrow defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in their last game.
Oliver Glasner’s men have improved a lot since these two sides last faced each other, and the Austrian will be hoping to further add to Bayern’s misery with a win that can not only open up the title race but also help his own club remain ahead of Frankfurt in the league table.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their very important clash in the Bundesliga this weekend.
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— VfL Wolfsburg (@VfL_Wolfsburg) April 14, 2021
Usually boasting one of the best defences in the league, Wolfsburg were torn apart in their last game by Eintracht Frankfurt. They simply cannot afford to repeat that mistake this time around, with Glasner hoping for a better response from the central defensive duo of Maxence Lacroix and John Anthony Brooks.
Wolfsburg are also likely to avoid a high press that was prevalent against Frankfurt, as it would benefit Bayern’s pacy wingers and full-backs. Speaking of which, the wide defensive duo of Kevin Mbabu and Jerome Roussillon are going to play a key role in preventing the opposition from making too many inroads from wider areas and will also have to aware of the cutbacks from the wingers.
In midfield, Wolves are set to embrace a more conservative approach, with a resolved double-pivot of Xaver Schlager and Yannick Gerhardt operating in a proper shape, denying the opposition any sort of room to work with, in between the lines.
Schlager, however, does have the license to push forward as the Austrian international is blessed with excellent vision and tenacity. In fact, he normally operates as the lone attacking midfielder for Wolfsburg but will have to settle for a more defensive role in light of Maxi Arnold’s suspension as well as the injury of Joshua Guilavogui.
As for the attack, the absence of Renato Steffen due to injury could be a massive blow for the home side, although Glasner does have the option of Maxi Philipp, who is usually very good when it comes to playing behind the main striker.
The former Dortmund man could operate in a similar manner, operating as a secondary striker to Wout Weghorst while Ridle Baku and Josip Brekalo occupy the wide-attacking roles.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Casteels; Mbabu, Lacroix, Brooks, Roussillon; Schlager, Gerhardt; Baku, Philipp, Brekalo; Weghorst
Hansi Flick started a couple of debutants last weekend, in light of the Champions League game against PSG. However, with the focus shifting entirely towards the Bundesliga, the German tactician is likely to revert to a full-strength squad on Saturday.
Unfortunately, however, Bayern Munich are still missing key players like Leon Goretzka, Corentin Tolisso, Serge Gnabry, Niklas Sule and most importantly, Robert Lewandowski, although the Pole has resumed ball training recently.
Robert Lewandowski has taken the next step towards his comeback and resumed training with the ball today [📸 Bild] pic.twitter.com/fgdzFXkM73
— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) April 16, 2021
Nevertheless, the absence of such superstars is going to hurt Bayern, especially in the attacking unit where the onus will once again be on Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to deputise for the injured Lewandowski as he starts alongside Thomas Muller.
There might be a change elsewhere, though, with Jamal Musiala likely to be rewarded for his performance against Union Berlin, with a start ahead of Leroy Sane. The youngster will hope to occupy the wide attacking role alongside Kingsley Coman as they look to terrorise the Wolfsburg defence.
In midfield, the injury to Marc Roca, Corentin Tolisso and Goretzka could see Flick call up Javi Martinez. His experience could be useful alongside another leader in Joshua Kimmich, who is going to play a vital role in Bayern’s creative department.
Meanwhile, in the defensive unit, David Alaba should slot back alongside Jerome Boateng to strengthen the core of the Bayern defence that was taken to the cleaners by the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. The full-backs Alphonso Davies and Benjamin Pavard, too, need to produce an improved display after failing to impress in midweek.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Pavard, Boateng, Alaba, Davies; Martinez, Kimmich; Musiala, Muller, Coman; Choupo-Moting
- Wout Weghorst scored 17 Bundesliga goals in 2018/19, 16 last season and has 18 so far this term. The Dutchman has struck once in five meetings with Bayern.
- Wolfsburg have kept clean sheets in their last five home Bundesliga matches – a club record.
- The Wolves are, like Bayern and Frankfurt, unbeaten at home in this season’s Bundesliga (W9, D4).
- Robert Lewandowski has scored more Bundesliga goals against Wolfsburg than any other club he’s faced: 23 in 20 games.
- Bayern Munich have won 17 of their last 19 Bundesliga meetings with Wolfsburg, including their last six in a row.
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During these tough times, Bayern Munich are going to hugely rely on the services of Joshua Kimmich, especially in this game for multiple reasons.
The German’s combative and robust style of play, coupled with his grace are an ideal combination up against the likes of Schlager and Gerhardt. But most importantly, it is his ability to thread long, diagonal balls forward that could potentially make him the creator-in-chief for the Bavarians this weekend.
Indeed, without Lewandowski, Muller has been forced to operate in a more attacking role, which has come at the expense of a lack of Ramdeuter in the final third. Kimmich, in that regard, could end up filling that role, though perhaps not really, as the German cannot afford to camp himself on the opposition half.
VfL Wolfsburg 1-1 Bayern Munich
This is going to be a tricky game for Bayern Munich – one where they might not prevail as Wolfsburg are a strong side who are more than capable of containing an attack that has been depleted by the absence of key figures like Lewandowski, Goretzka and Gnabry.
Furthermore, the Wolves possess one of the most dangerous strikers in the league in Weghorst, whose physical and aerial prowess could make life difficult for the Bayern defenders. They also have the pace to burn on the counter in Philipp, Brekalo and Baku, so we are expecting a 1-1 stalemate at the Volkswagen Arena this weekend.