How Bayern Munich Will Line Up Against Bayer Leverkusen

Stefan BienkowskiFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2014

Bayern's Arjen Robben gestures during the Champions League round of 16 second leg soccer match between FC Bayern Munich and FC Arsenal in Munich, Germany, Wednesday, March 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

“They're one of the teams we haven't beaten this season.” Such was the claim from Bayern Munich's Toni Kroos following his side's triumphant week in the Champions League. 

Yet despite a somewhat pompous statement, the young German was absolutely right—of all the teams that have tried their best to stop this Bavarian dominance in the Bundesliga and afar in Europe, Sami Hyypia's Bayer Leverkusen side are one of the few to have actually accomplished it. 

Yes, back in early October it was Pep Guardiola's side who rocked up to the BayArena in high hopes but were ultimately forced to accept a share of the points. Despite overloading the Factory Squad with shots on target that went into the double figures, Hyypia's side lived to fight another day with Bayern's pride in the bag. 

However, a lot has changed since then and as Leverkusen travel to Munich to face a Bayern side that has since taken the title race by 20 clear points, they'll be well aware of the damage this in-form team can inflict on clubs that don't take them seriously. 


The Line-Up

Guardiola opted for a rather peculiar defence on Tuesday evening against Arsenal, with club captain Philipp Lahm back to his usual role as right-back while Jerome Boateng took a spot on the bench for Javi Martinez and Dante to sit as the centre-back pairing.

This was unexpected because Lahm was actually forced to move back into midfield in the first leg when Arsenal overloaded the Bayern midfield, while Dante's presence was always going to risk the inclusion of another yellow card, which will now rule him out of the first game of the next round. 

Yet as the Bavarian side return to domestic duties we should see the more attack-minded Rafinha come back in at right-back, with the possibility of Boateng also coming back into the fold. As such we've gone for a back line of Rafinha on the right, Boateng and Dante in the middle, with the ever-reliable David Alaba on the left. 

In midfield we should also see a slight change from the team we saw in Europe this week, as the midfield trio of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thiago Alcantara and Mario Goetze is undoubtedly rotated to keep things fresh.

This would of course mean dropping Thiago, who has been outstanding in recent weeks to the point of almost dislodging Kroos from his regular spot, but it seems as though Guardiola is determined to continue rotating the two young stars. 

Kroos, who eventually came on for Goetze late on against Arsenal, should make the starting line-up, with the possible chance of playing alongside Lahm and Schweinsteiger. An all German midfield for this tricky Bundesliga tie. 

Once we get to the Bayern front line things become a little trickier to comprehend and even possibly predict.

It would seem as though Guardiola is content with keeping Mario Mandzukic as his star goalscorer at the top of the attacking three for the time being, but has on occasion drafted in Thomas Muller to play as the lone striker in his stead. Yet in such a big match, in which the new coach will be desperate to exact revenge for the minor blip in his side's form book earlier in the season, we should see Mandzukic start up front. 

This then leaves the two wide players, which, fortunately, don't appear to be changing anytime soon. Arjen Robben may not have covered himself in glory against Arsenal but his form, aside from such tricks, has been outstanding. Expect the Dutchman to start alongside Franck Ribery as the two direct routes to goal.