How Bayern Munich Will Line Up Against Manchester City
Bayern Munich visit Manchester City on Wednesday as the Champions League Group D joint-leaders go head-to-head.
The contestants won their respective opening-day matches by 3-0 margins, with the English side downing Viktoria Plzen in the Czech Republic and the Bavarians overcoming CSKA Moscow at the Allianz Arena. And now Bayern and City are set to meet in a fixture that could decide supremacy in the challenging group.
Bayern will be without the services of Javi Martinez and long-term casualties Thiago Alcantara and Holger Badstuber, but nonetheless will have a strong team available to play. Mario Goetze was back in the squad over the weekend and will be available to selection, although he is unlikely to start. Rather, Pep Guardiola's first XI can be expected to be the following:
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer
Arguably the best goalkeeper in the world, Manuel Neuer is certainly the best No. 1 that Bayern have. He is fit, he is not suspended, and he will definitely start for the Bavarians as they take on City.
Neuer was called into action a few times over the weekend but passed his tests as Bayern kept a clean sheet in their 1-0 win against Wolfsburg.
Only used sparingly during the Jupp Heynckes era, Rafinha has been given considerable playing time at right-back since Guardiola has opted to use Philipp Lahm in midfield. And although he struggled in his early years at Bayern, the Brazilian seems to have turned over a new leaf in 2013-14.
Bayern have conceded just twice with Rafinha on the pitch. And with Lahm set to play in midfield once again, it's unlikely that the 28-year-old will lose his starting role in the City match.
Center-Back: Jerome Boateng
Jerome Boateng has enjoyed an outstanding run of form in 2013 and has been a regular starter under Pep Guardiola since the new trainer's arrival. By now he is as assured of his role in the Bayern first XI, as is his defensive partner, Dante.
Boateng's great athleticism will be critical as he faces off against his former team and the likes of Alvaro Negredo and Sergio Aguero.
After his outstanding first season at Bayern Munich, Dante was one of a select few players in the Bavarians' ranks who were certain to retain a starting role following Pep Guardiola's arrival. Surely enough, the Brazilian has done just that and his performance has more than justified his continued inclusion.
Dante has forged an outstanding partnership alongside Boateng this term. Although they have occasionally looked shaky at the back, Bayern have conceded just three goals in all competitions since their DFB-Superpokal defeat to Dortmund. As long as this record continues, there is no chance of Dante losing his starting role.
Left-Back: David Alaba
The tireless and supremely talented David Alaba has continued to impress for Bayern in 2013-14 and is certainly a cornerstone of his team. The 21-year-old has started all but two matches this season and has played outstandingly well.
Alaba will likely face Jesus Navas on the wing, and Bayern will need the Austrian to be at his best if they are to cancel the Spaniard's threat.
Defensive Midfielder: Philipp Lahm
Although a right-back throughout his career, Philipp Lahm has made a name for himself in defensive midfield in recent weeks. Following injuries to Bastian Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez and Thiago Alcantara, Guardiola opted to use the captain in a holding midfield role despite there being other players (namely Alaba and Rafinha) with more experience in the position.
Guardiola's experiment has worked well thus far, but Wednesday's showdown with City will be a first major test for Lahm in his new role. And it could well decide exactly to what degree he will be trusted in that position in the long term.
Right Winger: Arjen Robben
Arjen Robben may have struggled to make his mark in Bayern's recent win over Wolfsburg, but he was marvelous in their Champions League opener against CSKA Moscow, and his generally strong form this season should see him make the grade to start against City.
The 29-year-old is a changed man under Guardiola. He shoots less often, acts more creatively and has even become an aerial threat in the box. In conclusion, he's less predictable and more of a team player than ever before.
Central Midfielder: Thomas Mueller
Although it's taken him some time to adapt to playing in a somewhat deep, semi-attacking midfield role, Thomas Mueller is now in top form and can expect to start against City.
The 24-year-old scored his first Bundesliga goal of the season on Saturday, the winner against Wolfsburg, and in his previous game found the net twice and gave an assist as Bayern downed Hannover in the DFB-Pokal.
Central Midfielder: Bastian Schweinsteiger
Bastian Schweinsteiger has struggled with ankle problems this season but has started the last four matches and will surely be in the first XI as Bayern look to neutralize Yaya Toure and the rest of the Manchester City midfield.
The 29-year-old Schweinsteiger was critical to Bayern's success against City in the Champions League two seasons ago and will need to be at his best once again if the German giants are to get a positive result in Manchester.
Left Winger: Franck Ribery
Franck Ribery has been the creative mastermind of the Bayern attack since 2007 and is of course an indisputable choice for a starting role on the left wing. He's been in the form of his life throughout 2013 and appears to have gained a boost of confidence from his having been crowned Best Player in Europe by UEFA in August.
The dribbling and playmaking quality Ribery offers down the left flank will be invaluable to Bayern as they look to break down the City defense.
Striker: Mario Mandzukic
Pep Guardiola has used a classic striker in every competitive match this season, and there's not a shadow of a doubt that Mario Mandzukic is his first choice. The Croatia international has started all but two games for Bayern in the 2013-14 campaign and scored in the Bavarians' 3-0 win against CSKA Moscow in their Champions League group-stage opener.
The immense physicality Mandzukic brings to the pitch will be a great asset for Bayern as he goes head-to-head with the likes of Vincent Kompany.
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