Bayern Munich are in desperate need of three points as they lock horns with high-flying 1.FC Koln this weekend.
Bayern Munich travel to RheinEnergieStadion on Saturday to face a tricky encounter against 1.FC Koln. The German Rekordmeister endured a difficult start to 2022 last weekend when struggling Borussia Monchengladbach capitalised on their depleted squad to register a 2-1 win at the Allianz Arena.
The defeat allowed Borussia Dortmund to cut down the gap at the top to six points. And with the Black and Yellows facing SC Freiburg on Friday, the difference could potentially be reduced to just three points when Bayern lock horns on Saturday, putting immense pressure on coach Julian Nagelsmann and his troops.
Matters won’t be made any easier by a Koln team enjoying a dream run of form. Galvanised by their eccentric coach Steffen Baumgart, the Billy Goats have won all of their last three Bundesliga matches, a run of results that has helped them climb up to sixth place in the Bundesliga table.
Only three points separate Koln from third-placed TSG Hoffenheim, which is unthinkable given the same side narrowly escaped relegation by winning against Holstein Kiel in the play-off not more than six months ago.
Even in the reverse fixture against Bayern earlier this season, Baumgart’s men had put up a great fight and may have snatched a point had it not been for a late goal from Serge Gnabry. That particular game ended 3-2, but the hosts will prefer a bit more resilience when they lock horns with the defending champions this weekend at RheinEnergieStadion.
Team News & Tactics
Koln will be boosted by the return of Sebastian Andersson and Kingsley Schindler after illness, but Timo Horn should remain on the sidelines. Key holding midfielder Ellyes Skhiri, who has an excellent record against Bayern, misses out as well due to his participation in the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations.
— 1. FC Cologne (@fckoeln_en) January 13, 2022
The onus will be on Salih Ozcan once again to provide that solidity in the number six role, although he might be aided by Dejan Ljubicic this weekend. The former Rapid Vienna midfielder is expected to replace Louis Schaub, a change that could see Koln turn to a 4-4-2 or, more precisely, a 4-2-2-2 formation.
The defence should remain unchanged as captain Jonas Hector looks to marshall the backline consisting of Luca Kilian, Timo Hubers and the in-form right back Benno Schmitz.
Schmitz’s crosses from the right flank could be a source of danger for the Bayern Munich defence, especially with the aerially astute Anthony Modeste spearheading the Koln frontline.
The Frenchman is likely to be aided by Mark Uth, with the creative duo of Ondrej Duda and Florian Kainz offering further support from behind. It will be interesting to see how these four players operate and put pressure on the Bayern backline, especially after an excellent run of form that has catapulted Koln into the Europa League spots.
Probable Lineup (4-2-2-2): Schwabe; Schmitz, Kilian, Hubers, Hector; Ljubicic, Ozcan; Duda, Kainz; Modeste, Uth
After missing a slew of first-team individuals due to either injury or COVID-19, Bayern Munich are set to have more players in contention to feature against Koln this weekend. Manuel Neuer, Dayot Upamecano, Tanguy Nianzou, Omar Richards, and Leroy Sane are all back from quarantine and are gunning for a return on Saturday.
However, apart from Neuer, none of the returning players are in top shape in terms of fitness. It may deny them the opportunity to start against Koln. Moreover, Alphonso Davies and Leon Goretzka are set to be out for a longer period, while Kingsley Coman is likely to be ruled out against Koln after struggling with a thigh problem.
It once again leaves Nagelsmann devoid of options, and he may largely have to stick with the same team that started against Gladbach. Neuer, though, is set to replace Sven Ulreich in goal.
With Marcel Sabitzer struggling at left-back, he is likely to be moved to a familiar role, as Nagelsmann looks to shift to a three-man backline. This little manoeuvre could see Sabitzer operate as a right wing-back, with Jamal Musiala starting on the opposite flank.
In midfield, Corentin Tolisso is back in contention and should replace Malik Tillman. The Frenchman is likely to form the double-pivot alongside Marc Roca, just behind the three attackers in Serge Gnabry, Thomas Muller and the mercurial Robert Lewandowski.
Meanwhile, in the defensive unit, Joshua Kimmich could be asked to form the three-man backline alongside Benjamin Pavard and Niklas Sule. He could later be shifted to a midfield role, with Upamecano likely to come on as a second-half substitute.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Neuer; Pavard, Kimmich, Sule; Sabitzer, Roca, Tolisso, Musiala; Muller, Gnabry; Lewandowski
- Koln’s 30 goals scored is their best return after 18 matches for 21 years. A league-high 14 of those have come as a result of a cross from open play.
- The Billy Goats are hoping to make it four Bundesliga wins in a row for the first time in exactly three years.
- Robert Lewandowski has scored 15 goals in 16 meetings against the Billy Goats.
- Serge Gnabry has scored more goals against Koln than any other team he has faced as a pro (11 in eight appearances).
- Should Bayern Munich score, they will break their own Bundesliga record of 65 consecutive games in which they have registered a goal.
Player to Watch
While the attention will be on several Bayern Munich stars, including Robert Lewandowski, Koln forward Anthony Modeste may have a vital part to play in this fixture. With 12 goals in 18 league matches this term, the veteran striker has been the club’s torchbearer under Steffen Baumgart.
His aerial and physical prowess inside the box, coupled with a seemingly telepathic understanding with the likes of Mark Uth and Florian Kainz, has caused a plethora of problems for the opposition defences this season. Modeste was a handful even in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, making him a real danger man for Nagelsmann’s troops in this contest at RheinEnergieStadion.
1. FC Koln 0-2 Bayern Munich
Several key players are set to return for Bayern ahead of Saturday’s encounter including Neuer, serving as a major boost for the Bavarians, not only in terms of quality but mentality as well.
Although Koln aren’t an opposition to be taken lightly, especially at home, the lack of fans inside the stadium will certainly make things difficult for the Billy Goats to produce their usual performance this weekend. All things considered, Julian Nagelsmann’s side should be able to return with three points this weekend.