Bayern Munich will be aiming to retain their healthy six-point lead at the top when they take on VfB Stuttgart on Tuesday.
With less than two weeks remaining until Christmas and a week until the Bundesliga goes into a mid-season hiatus, German football will head into the Englische Woche, as teams look to play out Matchday 16 in midweek, a rare theme in Germany.
Bayern Munich will kick things off on Tuesday when they lock horns with VfB Stuttgart at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. It will be the final away game for the Bavarians in this calendar year – a must-win one as well if they are to retain their healthy six-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga table.
The German Rekordmeister are coming into this game on the back of an excellent weekend that saw him make a comeback against Mainz to win 2-1. To top it off, their friends from North-Rhine Westphalen in VfL Bochum managed to hold Borussia Dortmund to a 1-1 draw, allowing Bayern to extend their lead at the top to six points.
But with Dortmund facing a much easier task against Greuther Furth this midweek, the onus will be on Bayern Munich to maintain their winning momentum, failing which could allow Die Schwarzgelben to bridge the gap at the top.
Meanwhile, Bayern’s midweek opponent in VfB Stuttgart are having a disappointing season so far. With 17 points in 15 matches, the hosts are dawdling around the bottom end of the table, just one point ahead of the potential drop zones.
That said, Stuttgart are enjoying a promising arc recently, having beaten Mainz and Wolfsburg while remaining unbeaten in their last three Bundesliga matches. Pellegrino Matarazzo’s men must maintain a similar level of solidity if they are to salvage a point against the league leaders this midweek.
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Roberto #Massimo hat sich beim 2:0-Auswärtssieg des #VfB in Wolfsburg eine Kapselverletzung im Sprunggelenk zugezogen und wird Cheftrainer Pellegrino Matarazzo damit in diesem Jahr aller Voraussicht nach nicht mehr zur Verfügung stehen. Gute Besserung!
— VfB Stuttgart (@VfB) December 12, 2021
VfB Stuttgart have been plagued with injuries this season, with Sasa Kalajdzic, Enzo Millot, Philipp Klement and Erik Thommy all ruled out. Roberto Massimo became the latest player to join the club’s list of absentees after picking up an ankle injury against Wolfsburg on the weekend.
On the bright side, though, Borna Sosa is expected to make his return after missing the last game. The Croat is a cross-machine whose service from the flanks could be useful in Stuttgart’s attacking game, even though the hosts are missing the tall frame of Kalajdzic inside the box.
Instead, the VfB attack will likely be led by the young Omar Marmoush, with additional support from Philipp Forster. We can expect Silas Katompa Mvumpa to make a second-half appearance, as coach Pellegrini Matarazzo looks to avoid taking any risks with the star forward, who has recently returned from a long injury absence.
In midfield, the trifecta of Atakan Karazor, Wataru Endo and Orel Mangala will look to neutralise the Bayern Munich ball-carriers and deny them the opportunity to make passes in between the lines. They are set to be aided by Sosa and Tanguy Coulibaly in the second line of press, although the latter is expected to be given the freedom to operate as an out and out forward.
Defensively, Stuttgart usually operate with a three-man backline. Arsenal loanee Konstantinos Mavropanos remains a guaranteed starter due to his strength and aerial prowess. He is also a threat from set-pieces, which could be a useful avenue for Stuttgart, especially if Sosa manages to return to full fitness and whip in his trademark crosses into the box.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Muller; Mavropanos, Anton, Ito; Sosa, Endo, Mangala, Karazor, Coulibaly; Forster, Marmoush
Bayern Munich were dealt with another injury blow this week as Jamal Musiala has broken his metacarpal bone. He has been ruled out for the remaining two matches of 2021, joining Joshua Kimmich on the sidelines. The visitors are also likely to lose out on Leon Goretzka, but Marcel Sabitzer is better positioned to make his comeback.
Nagelsmann: "Jamal Musiala broke his metacarpal bone. It is splinted. It depends on the pain. We have to wait and then decide how it will be treated. He could theoretically play but we'll have to wait and see" pic.twitter.com/p5jh5aDVt2
— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) December 13, 2021
Musiala’s absence means Julian Nagelsmann may have no option but to deploy Marc Roca in midfield, alongside Corentin Tolisso. Michael Cuisance is another option, should the Bayern coach try to get creative.
In the attack, Nagelsmann has hinted at one or two alterations. As such, we are expecting a change, with the Frenchman making way for Serge Gnabry. The German international should form Bayern’s creative trifecta alongside Thomas Muller and Leroy Sane, with he trio operating just in behind star striker Robert Lewandowski.
There might be changes in order in the defensive unit as well. Benjamin Pavard has had two good games at right-back, but the same cannot be said for Dayot Upamecano. It won’t be surprising to see the Frenchman making way for Niklas Sule, who is set to form the central defensive partnership with Lucas Hernandez, with Alphonso Davies completing the back-four.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Pavard, Sule, Hernandez, Davies; Roca, Tolisso; Gnabry, Muller, Sane; Lewandowski
- Stuttgart have scored 22 goals after 15 matches. Arsenal loanee defender Konstantinos Mavropanos is the top scorer with four.
- Pellegrino Matarazzo was Julian Nagelsmann’s assistant at Hoffenheim between January 2018 and December 2019.
- Stuttgart have not won at home to Bayern since 10 November 2007 (D2 L9).
- Robert Lewandowski has scored in all but one of Bayern’s seven away games in this season’s Bundesliga and in each of his last four meetings with Stuttgart. He’s the current campaign’s 16-goal leading marksman.
- Thomas Müller has produced ten goals and 14 assists across 23 career appearances against VfB.
Player to Watch
Marc Roca has been largely an outcast at Bayern Munich since joining the club from Espanyol last year. He featured in only six Bundesliga matches in his debut season, and his importance in the senior side has only dissipated under new coach Julian Nagelsmann.
However, with Joshua Kimmich and Jamal Musiala injured, and Marcel Sabitzer and Leon Goretzka lacking match fitness, the onus will be on the Spaniard to fill the void in the middle of the park. Indeed, he is expected to start alongside Corentin Tolisso in the double-pivot, where his composure and passing could be useful in helping Bayern to control the game.
Bayern Munich 3-1 VfB Stuttgart
After a hard-fought win over Mainz, Bayern Munich are expected to react strongly and go all out against a Stuttgart side that has already conceded 25 goals so far this season. With Kingsley Coman returning to form, it won’t be surprising to see the Bavarians dominate this affair.
However, Bayern have looked sloppy defensively and might struggle to deal with Stuttgart’s explosive frontline, especially if the opposition starts with Silas in the final third. Nonetheless, The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-1 win for Julian Nagelsmann & co.