Having completed more than two weeks of training, Bayern Munich face their first pre-season friendly matches against Bundesliga opposition this weekend in the Telekom Cup.
The German record champions first meet Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday; depending on results, they will take on either Hamburg or Wolfsburg the following day.
Many Bayern players are still on extended leave following the World Cup, and with two 60-minute games being held in back-to-back days, there should be plenty of opportunities for fringe players to make an impression. Pep Guardiola isn't always the most predictable coach, but here's a good estimation as to the starting line-up he may use against Gladbach.
Goalkeeper: Tom Starke
Manuel Neuer is on extended leave following the World Cup, so Tom Starke will be his stand-in. The ex-Hoffenheim man remains Bayern's only reserve goalkeeper with more than a few games of professional experience.
Rafinha wasn't selected to the Brazilian World Cup squad, but he has long been and still remains a favored player for Guardiola. Per Transfermarkt, the 28-year-old made 46 appearances last season, 40 of which came as a starter.
With the trainer announcing, as per German outlet Spox, in a Thursday press conference that Philipp Lahm will play in midfield to replace the departed Toni Kroos, Rafinha has no real competition for a starting role at right-back. And in any case, Lahm has not yet returned to training, so the Brazilian can expect to start on the right of defense.
Centre-Back: Javi Martinez
Javi Martinez was the first of Bayern's World Cup participants to return to training. The Spain international returned to normal club activities this week and will be keen to put a dismal performance in Brazil behind him. With many of his potential competitors still on vacation, Martinez has a good chance to make an impression of himself in preseason. That will likely begin against Gladbach.
Centre-Back: Holger Badstuber
Guardiola was full of praise for Holger Badstuber this week; per German paper Bild, he said the 25-year-old is the best centre-back he's ever coached. Not bad for a player returning following back-to-back cruciate ligament surgeries. With Jerome Boateng and Dante still on leave, there's no doubt Badstuber will start.
Left-Back: Juan Bernat
New signing Juan Bernat played all 90 minutes in Bayern's most recent match against Duisburg, and he's most likely to start again on the left wing as David Alaba continues to play in midfield. The newcomer and Spain under-21 international appears to have a bright future ahead of him in Munich.
Central Midfielder: Pierre Hojbjerg
With Kroos having left Bayern and Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lahm and Martinez not at full fitness following the World Cup, Pierre Hojbjerg can expect to earn a considerable amount of playing time in the Telekom Cup and perhaps beyond. The 18-year-old is inexperienced but has tremendous potential. The Dane played 90 minutes against Duisburg and can expect to start against Gladbach.
Central Midfielder: David Alaba
Alaba is arguably the world's best left-back, but Guardiola now intends to use him in midfield. At his press conference on Thursday, Guardiola spoke of the 22-year-old's qualities and abilities as a central midfielder (a "six" or "eight"), and the trainer deployed Alaba in such a role in the Duisburg friendly. Thus, it seems clear the Austria international will play in midfield during the Telekom Cup.
Right-Winger: Lucas Scholl
Like his father, Mehmet, Lucas Scholl is an emerging attacking midfield talent to keep an eye on. He only turned 18 earlier this month and has a long way to go, but he has looked bright on occasion during the pre-season. It's tough to say exactly who Guardiola will use on the right wing against Gladbach, but there's a good chance it will be a young talent, and Scholl certainly would fit the bill.
Left-Winger: Franck Ribery
Franck Ribery returned to training following a prolonged injury layoff and completed his first session with the squad on Tuesday. In his press conference, Guardiola said that the French winger can expect some considerable playing time during the Telekom Cup. And with every other established option unavailable following the World Cup, Ribery will probably start.
Supporting Striker: Claudio Pizarro
Like Ribery, Claudio Pizarro returned to training earlier this week and has a good chance of starting. The 35-year-old may be in the twilight of his career but showed last season that he's still capable of more than a few tricks. The Telekom Cup will be a good measure of what he has to offer in his advanced years.
Striker: Robert Lewandowski
Robert Lewandowski scored his first goal for Bayern in the Duisburg friendly, putting Bayern ahead before Fabian Schnellhardt equalized for the 3. Liga side. The Poland international is his club's only centre-forward under the age of 35, and Guardiola heaped praise upon him in Thursday's press conference. Lewandowski can expect to be the go-to man for the striker role during the weekend cup.
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