Bayern Munich gear up for their final game of 2021 as they host VfL Wolfsburg at the Allianz Arena on Friday night.
Bayern Munich are looking to end their 2021 on a positive note as they take on VfL Wolfsburg on Friday. It will be their final game before the Bundesliga goes into a mid-season hiatus, giving Julian Nagelsmann and his troops almost three weeks to recoup themselves after a hectic Hinrunde campaign.
Bayern’s season so far has been rather promising, with the club sitting at the top of the Bundesliga table prior to Matchday 17. They have sealed their status as the Wintermeister or the winter champion, thanks to a resounding six-point lead over second-placed Borussia Dortmund.
But that is not an excuse for them to slip up, knowing any failure to secure all three points will allow the Black and Yellows to bridge the gap at the top and, more importantly, help them gain some much-needed momentum heading into the new year.
Fortunately for Bayern, they are up against a Wolfsburg team that was hit hard by Germany’s coaching carousel in the summer. They lost Oliver Glasner to Eintracht Frankfurt, leading to the appointment of Marc van Bommel. The Dutchman, though, was soon replaced after a disappointing start to the season.
Wolfsburg are currently being coached by Florian Kohfeldt. But after a rosy start to life under the former Werder Bremen trainer, the Wolves have now lost all of their last six competitive matches. It has resulted in their direct elimination from the Champions League group stages while the visitors have also slipped to 11th place in the Bundesliga table.
The pressure, therefore, is immense on coach Kohfeldt, and one would imagine another disappointing result could have dire consequences over his future at Wolfsburg. On the flip side, a strong display against Bayern in the last matchday of 2021 could help him gain some valuable time and the ability to strengthen his team in the winter transfer window.
Tactics & Team News
Out of tomorrow's game:
• Joshua Kimmich (post Covid)
• Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (post Covid)
• Leon Goretzka (patellar tendon)
• Corentin Tolisso (muscular problems)
• Kingsley Coman (thigh strain)
• Josip Stanišić (torn muscle)#FCBWOB
— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) December 16, 2021
Bayern Munich are expected to remain without star midfielders Corentin Tolisso, Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka, but new signing Marcel Sabitzer is set to make the bench. Nevertheless, Julian Nagelsmann is likely to stick with the double-pivot involving Jamal Musiala and Marc Roca.
Defensively, though, Bayern are likely to miss out on the services of Niklas Sule. The German international is not fully fit, which is disappointing given how the defender performed in midweek. But with Sule ruled out, Dayot Upamecano should return to the side, renewing his partnership with Lucas Hernandez at the heart of the backline.
In recent matches, though, Nagelsmann has preferred a three-man approach, with the right-back Benjamin Pavard operating as the right-sided centre-back. It allows the left-back Alphonso Davies to have more freedom going forward, as the Bavarians look to utilise his pace and creativity in the final third.
The same can be said for Serge Gnabry, who remains a guaranteed starter after being involved in all five of Bayern’s goals in the win over VfB Stuttgart.
While Gnabry would ideally start on the right flank, it could be in the form of a more wing-back role. It means his fellow attackers in Leroy Sane and Thomas Muller should operate more centrally, just in behind the main striker Robert Lewandowski.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Neuer; Pavard, Upamecano, Hernandez; Gnabry, Musiala, Roca, Davies; Muller, Sane; Lewandowski
Wolfsburg have a few absentees of their own, including goalscorer Lukas Nmecha and the two key full-backs in Paulo Otavio and Kevin Mbabu. Another full-back in the form of Jerome Roussillon has been suspended after accumulating too many bookings.
🗣 #Kohfeldt: Luca #Waldschmidt will train again today, #Mbabu is out with muscular problems on Friday. Likewise, #Roussillon, who is unfortunately suspended. Otherwise, except for Lukas #Nmecha and Paulo #Otavio, all players from the squad against Cologne are available.#FCBWOB pic.twitter.com/nEaWD54RQh
— VfL Wolfsburg EN/US 🇬🇧 🇺🇸 (@VfLWolfsburg_EN) December 16, 2021
It means Florian Kohfeldt has very few options, especially in the wide defensive roles. As such, he is expected to revert to a 3-4-2-1, with Ridle Baku and Yannick Gerhardt serving as wing-backs. The two players should play a vital role in offering creativity in the final third, but they must also remain alert defensively.
Speaking of which, the onus will be on the back three of Maxence Lacroix, Joshua Guilavogui and Sebastian Bornauw to offer the defensive solidity up against the mighty Bayern Munich attack on Friday.
They are set to be assisted by the midfield figures of Aster Vranckx and Maximilian Arnold, although they are certainly more influential in the offensive side of things. Arnold, in particular, is a direct threat from set-pieces and will be looking to feed balls into the box for the likes of Lacroix and Bornauw to attack.
Meanwhile, in the offensive unit, the absence of Lukas Nmecha means Wout Weghorst should once again spearhead the Wolfsburg frontline. The Dutchman is set to be assisted by Felix Nmecha and Dodi Lukebakio, who has a stellar record against big teams like Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Casteels; Lacroix, Guilavogui, Bornauw; Baku, Vranckx, Arnold, Gerhardt; Lukebakio, Nmecha; Weghorst
- Wolfsburg are Robert Lewandowski’s favourite opponents. The 33-year-old has scored 23 goals in 20 Bundesliga games against them, including his unforgettable five-goal haul in nine minutes in September 2015.
- Robert Lewandowski’s brace during the week saw him equal Gerd Müller’s Bundesliga record of goals in a calendar year (42). The Poland international has done so in 33 games so far, compared to Der Bomber’s 34.
- Bayern have won 38 of their 48 Bundesliga meetings with Wolfsburg, including 11 of the last 12 (plus one draw). They have never lost at home to the Wolves (W22, D2).
- Wout Weghorst has scored twice in six meetings with Bayern but has been on the losing side each time.
- New Wolfsburg coach Florian Kohfeldt was unbeaten in his first three games against Julian Nagelsmann while in charge of Werder Bremen (W1, D2) but has lost each of the last five.
Player to Watch
Jamal Musiala for Bayern this season:
📊 directly involved in a goal every 80 minutes
⚡️2nd most successful dribbles per 90 in the Bundesliga (400+ minutes)
🔥most successful dribbles per 90 in the UCL (200+ minutes)
18 years of age. 🎩 pic.twitter.com/vDqt9ZhraN
— Football Talent Scout – Jacek Kulig (@FTalentScout) December 10, 2021
Jamal Musiala is currently the man of the moment for Bayern Munich. In the absence of Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka, the youngster has stepped up to the plate impressively, producing excellent performances in central midfield.
While there was never any doubt regarding Musiala’s offensive qualities, the German has showcased an impressive maturity and work ethic to do his defensive tasks in midfield. It was evident in his sublime display against Stuttgart in midweek, and he will be hoping for a similar performance on Friday as he continues to gain more value in Julian Nagelsmann’s first-team plans.
Musiala’s midfield partnership with Marc Roca could be particularly interesting given their contrasting style of play. With Tolisso being linked with a January exit from Bavaria, this could also be an important game for Roca, as he looks to become a prominent figure in the Bayern midfield.
Bayern Munich 3-1 VfL Wolfsburg
Bayern Munich’s defence has looked extremely shaky in recent months. It was evident even against a struggling Stuttgart side that managed to craft a lot of goalscoring opportunities. While the Swabians were unable to make use of their chances, experienced players like Wout Weghorst and Dodi Lukebakio could certainly do more damage on Friday.
Hence, it won’t be surprising to see Neuer failing to keep a clean sheet. But the overall quality of Bayern’s attacking unit, especially with Serge Gnabry returning to form, makes the hosts the undisputed favourites to seal all three points in this crucial Bundesliga encounter.