With the Bundesliga title already wrapped up in record time last month, Bayern Munich are aiming for glory in the DFB-Pokal and the Champions League. The Bavarians are on course, having reached the semifinals in both tournaments. And now their next task will be the Pokal semifinal against Kaiserslautern on Wednesday.
Bayern have had to endure some difficult trips to the Betzenberg in the past, particularly in the late-1990s, but will be relieved to have drawn the weakest of the semifinalists at home. 1.FCK are only a 2. Bundesliga side now, and they face an increasingly steep hill in the race for promotion.
The Bavarians nonetheless will have to be careful to avoid complacency. Since winning the Bundesliga on March 25, they have won just one and lost two of five games in all competitions, their most recent result being a 3-0 Bundesliga loss to rivals Borussia Dortmund over the weekend.
Pep Guardiola will therefore need to think carefully to select his most motivated and best-prepared team to face Kaiserslautern. Here's a possible starting XI:
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer
Although Manuel Neuer was withdrawn at halftime of the BVB game due to a calf injury, his substitution was merely precautionary. The Germany No. 1 is expected to make a full recovery before the Kaiserslautern match, meaning that Lukas Raeder will have to accept his role on the bench once more.
Right-Back: Philipp Lahm
Rafinha has started almost the entire season at right-back, but his poor performance and subsequent sending off against Dortmund may see him replaced by Philipp Lahm. The captain's best position is on the right of defense, and him replacing Rafinha would be a message to the Brazilian to regain the focus that won Guardiola's confidence in previous months.
Center-Back: Jerome Boateng
Jerome Boateng was given a rest during Bayern's loss to Dortmund and, following such a heavy loss, he will be welcomed back into the first team on Wednesday. The 25-year-old is one of Germany's best defenders and Bayern have in the past two seasons consistently looked much stronger with him at the back.
Dante and Boateng have been Guardiola's preferred center-back pairing for most of the season; with Javi Martinez having struggled in a defensive role as of late, the Brazilian and German center-backs are more likely to occupy the two spots in front of Neuer.
Left-Back: David Alaba
David Alaba has in recent games played more in central midfield than in defense, but his formal deployment has remained the same: Left-back. The Austria international is Bayern's only real option on the left in a high-stakes game, he is resoundingly favored to start.
Defensive Midfielder: Bastian Schweinsteiger
In games Wednesday's semifinal, a coach will always want his leaders to be on the pitch. Bastian Schweinsteiger is Bayern's vice-captain, a veteran with experience. The onus will be on him and Lahm to lead Bayern back to the form that saw them take Europe by storm not long ago.
Central Midfielder: Toni Kroos
Toni Kroos is not the veteran and leader that Schweinsteiger is, at least not yet, but he provides a calm and assured style of play that will be useful in keeping tempo in Bayern's favor and out of the hands of Kaiserslautern. Kroos' passing technique is rivaled by few in world football; he more likely than not will start ahead of Javi Martinez in midfield.
Central Midfielder: Mario Gotze
Mario Gotze was one of the few Bayern players to impress during the recent loss to Dortmund; it seemed that the 21-year-old was determined to break out of a slump and score against his former club. He didn't in that match, but his slick playmaking and clever dribbling were signs that he is ready to show his best form once again. If Guardiola noticed, he'll start the Germany international in attacking midfield.
Right Winger: Thomas Muller
In games like the upcoming Kaiserslautern match, Thomas Muller is the type of player a coach will want on the pitch. The 24-year-old is not the flashiest player but has a winner's mentality and scores goals when they matter.
Left Winger: Franck Ribery
Franck Ribery has this season done very well to fend off competition from many of his younger colleagues. Even at 31, the French winger remains a lock on the left wing. Having directly contributed to 35 goals in all competitions for club and country, he's proven he still has plenty left in the tank.
Center Forward: Mario Mandzukic
Although Guardiola has often used Thomas Muller or Mario Gotze as his center-forward, Mario Mandzukic has proven himself again and again on the big stage. The Croatia international was heroic in both legs of the recent Champions League tie with Manchester United, and therefore he has earned his place in the lineup.
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