How Bayern Munich Will Line Up Against Bayer Leverkusen
It was Bayern Munich that stole the spotlight once again in the Champions League this week, as Pep Guardiola's squad duly conquered former Premier League champions Manchester City with relative ease in a 3-1 win.
Yet the European and German champions won't be able to bask in their brilliance for too long. Bayer Leverkusen are waiting in just a few days and Bayern Munich are determined to be ready for them.
Here's how we expect Guardiola to approach this match.
As is always the case, a Pep Guardiola squad has its surprises. In the case of Bayern's defence, it seems as though this is no different. Despite the return of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Pep is likely to keep Philipp Lahm in midfield and stick with Brazilian defender Rafinha at right-back.
Similarly, Jerome Boateng is also likely to remain in the side despite his red card in the mid-week clash with Manchester City.
That's because Guardiola simply has no other real options aside from Jan Kirchhoff, who seems likelier to feature at defensive midfield before being allowed to sit in as a central defender.
In midfield, we should see a continuation of the trio that caused so many problems in Manchester, with Lahm keeping his new role as defensive midfielder while Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos sit in front and duly rotate as the game goes on.
One of Leverkusen's strongest attributes is of course their own compact and physical midfield trio, and Pep will be fully intent on silencing them if he hopes to control the tempo of the game and cut off any supply to striker Stefan Kiessling.
As such, it makes sense for the Catalonian coach to play his strongest combination in the middle of the park and avoid any unnecessary risks in terms of bringing in returning players.
Where the real mystery remains is how Guardiola then lines up his attack.
Against Manchester City, the keen tactician opted for Thomas Mueller as the lone striker instead of Mario Mandzukic, as the German forward was perhaps likelier to drop deep and offer more stability in midfield.
This ploy worked like a charm, with the ever-eager Bavarian involved in all of Bayern's goals and even getting on the scoreboard with an outstanding timed run and finish to make it 3-0.
However, we might see Guardiola return to his tried and tested methods in the Bundesliga by opting to bring Mandzukic back in to the starting lineup at Mueller's expense.
Against a side like Leverkusen, Bayern need a striker who can poach the goalmouth and Mandzukic can do that better than anyone on the club.
We'll also probably see Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery keep their distinguished spots on either side of the forward after impressive displays in England. Don't be surprised, though, if Xherdan Shaqiri and Mario Gotze are thrown on as soon as the three points look certain.
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