Tomorrow night, Bayern Munich will conclude another successful Champions League Group Stage campaign with a final match at home to former English champions Manchester City.
Although Pep Guardiola's side proved themselves as the formidably more imposing side in the first leg, if you will, with an outstanding 3-1 victory in Manchester, Sergio Aguero and company have improved their form significantly since such a bumpy start to the season and should pose a tricky customer for the Bavarian champions.
Furthermore, Guardiola is without key players in his squad. The German vice-captain, Bastian Schweinsteiger, is out injured for the European tie, alongside Arjen Robben, and possibly Claudio Pizarro and Xherdan Shaqiri, too.
Yet Pep's side are packed to the brim with quality in all aspects of this squad, and as they showed against Werder Bremen on Saturday evening with an outstanding 7-0 win, the B team are more than capable of cracking skulls and demolishing all before them.
As such, we're likely to see a relatively similar back-line to what we saw on Saturday, with Manuel Neuer in goal with David Alaba and Rafinha on either flank of the defence. I think we can also expect to see Daniel Van Buyten keep his spot in the centre of defence due to his excellent return to form on Saturday, where he will likely partner Dante, who was given a minor rest to first-team duties at the weekend.
In most scenarios, we would expect to see Jerome Boateng slot in beside Dante for such a game against a stronger opponent, yet he did go off injured in Saturday's Bundesliga clash, and as of yet we don't know whether Pep will chose to rest him. But aside from the Van Buyten/Boateng question, the other three defenders are a shoo-in for a start.
The midfielders should pose a similar range of outcomes, as Thiago Alcantara did a remarkable job filling in for Schweinsteiger in that pivotal role at the base of the midfield five. One would expect the Spanish prodigy to start based on his performance on Saturday, but we did see Guardiola rest Martinez for a reason at the weekend, and that reason may well be for such a clash against the English opponents.
Similarly, captain Philipp Lahm was today confirmed to be fit for Tuesday's game, which could reshuffle the entire midfield.
This indeed seems likely considering Thiago's experience at continental level, yet the four players in front of him should come as no surprise as Franck Ribery returns to European duty following a brief injury.
The Frenchman was in outstanding form at the weekend, scoring two, setting up an assist for Mario Mandzukic and forcing an own goal, and the Bayern management will be hopeful that he can wreak such havoc on Manuel Pellegrini's side.
Alongside Ribery, it's probably fair to expect Kroos and Gotze return to their central roles in front of either Lahm or Martinez in the central trio of midfield, while Thomas Muller keeps his spot on the right in Arjen Robben's absence.
As such, all else suggests a front line consisting of Mario Mandzukic as the lone striker considering few other options seem available to the coach at this moment in time. Pep doesn't strike many as the Croatian's biggest fan, but unless we see Lahm come back into the side or Martinez play a further role up the midfield and his Spanish colleague slot in at centre midfield, a starting role for Gotze up front seems unlikely.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!