3 Things Bayern Munich Should Test in Friendly vs. Karlsruher
Bayern Munich have completed their midseason training camp in Qatar and are in their final preparations for the second half of the 2015-16 season.
The Bundesliga leaders face their first and only warm-up friendly against Karlsruher on Saturday, which comes less than a week ahead of their league restart against Hamburg on January 22.
The Karlsruher match gives Bayern a chance not only to gather some match practice but to experiment with some new options. In this article, B/R points out three ideas Pep Guardiola may want to try in the friendly. Click "Begin Slideshow" for our picks.
Play Juan Bernat at Left-Back
David Alaba may be Bayern's best choice on the left side of defense, but at the moment, he's their only option with any match practice. Every club needs backups, and to this end, Guardiola would be wise to give Juan Bernat a chance to prove himself.
The Spaniard was injured for almost the entire first round of the season, playing in just nine games. His last game was in October, so he'll need some time to work his way back into form.
A friendly presents a good opportunity to help Bernat take steps toward recovery at no risk. And at the same time, the supremely versatile Alaba could be used elsewhere
A Variety of 'Runners' in Midfield
If there is one foreseeable weakness in Bayern's midfield, it's that it isn't clear whether Guardiola would play against an elite opponent with a hard-working, defense-minded midfielder. And then there's the question of which player would play if he indeed decided to use such a player.
In the Champions League, Bayern will face strong counterattacking sides with forwards and playmakers who will try to find space between the Bayern midfield and defense. Xabi Alonso isn't the man to snuff out their chances. Nor is Thiago Alcantara, who plays more in attack. Arturo Vidal used to be the type for the job, but he doesn't look to be the player he once was.
Guardiola should therefore try a few different options. If Bernat plays in defense, Alaba would be a good option to test in midfield. Joshua Kimmich is a player of great defensive instincts and tackling skill. And then there's the slow but physical and well-tested option of Javi Martinez, as well as the underused Sebastian Rode. Guardiola can't try all possible options, but testing two for 45 minutes each would at least give him a decent understanding of what works.
Find a Role for Sebastian Rode
Sebastian Rode is neither the most skilled nor the most glamorous player at Bayern, but he more than any other player is deserving of more playing time for the Bundesliga leaders.
For two-and-a-half years, Rode has been a benchwarmer who's come on occasionally and in each instance given his all regardless of the position in which he was deployed. The former Eintracht Frankfurt man has rarely underperformed and often played above his perceived level. In fact, he was man of the match in his only Bundesliga start of the season, against Darmstadt on Matchday 5.
Rode is a versatile player who can feature as a box-to-box midfielder, in defensive midfield, at right-back and in central defense. He's more than capable of putting in a good shift for Bayern, and Guardiola owes it to the player to give him 90 minutes to show himself in a couple of different positions just to see what kind of role he could play in the months to come.