Bayern Munich picked up an impressive 2-0 victory in their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal first leg against Juventus on Tuesday, but the win was tempered by the news that key midfielder Toni Kroos picked up an injury in the first half.
Following a consultation with the team doctor, it has emerged that Kroos may miss the rest of this season, suffering a groin injury which will sideline him for six to eight weeks (via Sky Sports).
Having been a mainstay of the Bayern team this season under Jupp Heynckes, his absence will be a major disappointment as the German side seeks to win a treble of the Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League.
As ever, though, an absence of one player is a chance for another.
Kroos' Role for Bayern
By and large, Kroos has been the first-choice central attacking midfielder for Bayern this season, playing in the middle of the line of three attackers behind a central striker.
Franck Ribery and Thomas Muller provide the wide support more often than not, with two of Javi Martinez, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Luiz Gustavo behind them. Kroos is the link man for all of that talent, the one who can provide a killer through ball, switch play quickly and also be a goal threat himself, inside or outside the penalty area.
In the German Bundesliga, only six players have claimed more assists than Kroos this season—and three of them are his teammates. Mario Gotze, Borussia Dortmund's wonderful young attacking midfielder, has claimed six assists and eight goals this season from a similar position—Kroos has eight assists and six goals.
Fair to say that the German national team is fairly well stocked in this position, then.
As well as his on-the-ball duties, Kroos had another important role during the quarterfinal match against Juventus, that of closely marking Juve's main man in the centre, Andrea Pirlo.
He was able to closely stick to the Italian regista, giving him no opportunity to work his magic from deep, preventing Juve from building up attacks, and in the opening 20 minutes until Kroos got injured, he stuck to his task admirably.
Thomas Muller then took over responsibility of the same role in the middle, and had a telling impact for Bayern as he scored the important second goal in the 2-0 win.
But did he do the defensive aspect of his game as well as Kroos?
I believe Kroos will follow Pirlo until the airport— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) April 2, 2013
Kroos out, Robben in. This is massively important. You couldn't see from TV, but I've seen Kroos marking Pirlo everywhere— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) April 2, 2013
Mueller now marking Pirlo, but apparently not with same attitude— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) April 2, 2013
Statistically, Muller did well. He made two tackles and three interceptions, as well as being heavily involved in Bayern's build-up play.
More tellingly, perhaps, Pirlo was restricted to a minimal impact in possession, making just 37 passes all game—he averages almost 60 per game in the Champions League this season—with only a 70 percent success rate.
Keeping Pirlo this quiet had a big effect on Juve's game plan and ability to affect play in the middle and final thirds.
If Heynckes decides that he would like a little more security, or wants to keep Muller in his regular right-sided role, Bayern are not short of options.
Who should take up Kroos' central attacking midfield role in the second leg vs. Juve?
Schweinsteiger can certainly be shifted forward, with Martinez partnering Gustavo in the centre. Similarly Martinez can do the more advanced, creative role and is defensively minded enough to be tasked with closing down Andrea Pirlo.
Anatoliy Tymoshchuk presents another option for the centre of midfield.
It seems likely though, after the second-leg scare against Arsenal in the Round of 16, that Bayern might view a continuation of attack as the best form of defence to keep their aggregate lead intact. Despite a stellar defensive record away from home this season, Bayern's greatest strength is in attack.
Playing Muller in the CAM position, with dual attacking and defensive responsibilities, ensures the closest replication of the skills and mentality that Toni Kroos offers the team, while allowing another capable first-team player—Xherdan Shaqiri or Arjen Robben—the possibility of attacking from the right side.
Match and season stats from WhoScored.com