Bayern Munich only just survived a roller coaster of a Champions League tie with Juventus on Wednesday night, but three days later, they are set to resume their Bundesliga campaign.
The German giants rallied from 2-0 behind to beat the Serie A leaders 4-2 in extra time, with a 6-4 aggregate win seeing them through to the quarter-finals. It was a huge victory for Pep Guardiola and his team, but now they will have to quickly regain focus as their domestic season continues.
Just five points separate Bayern from second-placed Borussia Dortmund, and the league leaders will be keen to enter the international break without losing any ground.
After the Juve match, captain Philipp Lahm took the opportunity to posit that despite the struggle, his team may have come out even better off than they might have in an ordinary victory: "Maybe this binds us together even more," he told reporters, per ESPN.
When Saturday's contestants last met, in October, Bayern were 4-0 winners over a Cologne side that defended deep with five men but nonetheless could do little to stem the tide of attacking red shirts.
With the home crowd behind them and the Bavarians perhaps a little weary after the Juve match, though, Cologne will look to make the upcoming fixture more of a contest. But they'll have it all to do if they are to overcome a Bayern side that have lost just twice all season.
Date: Saturday, March 19
Time: 2:30 p.m. GMT/10:30 a.m. ET/3:30 p.m. local time
Venue: RheinEnergieStadion, Cologne
TV Info: Fox Soccer Plus (U.S. only), Not available (UK only)
Live Stream: Fox Soccer 2Go (U.S. only), BT Sport (UK only)
|Hannover: Win||Juventus: Win|
|Schalke: Loss||Werder Bremen: Win|
|Ingolstadt: Draw||Dortmund: Draw|
|Hertha: Loss||Mainz: Loss|
|Monchengladbach: Loss||Wolfsburg: Win|
A full Cologne team is expected to be available for Saturday, with neither injuries nor suspensions diminishing their ranks. A five-man defense with wing-backs pushing into the midfield is the most likely tactical lineup for the hosts.
Possible Cologne starting XI: Horn; Risse, Sorensen, Mavraj, Heintz, Hector; Vogt, Lehmann; Bittencourt, Modeste, Gerhardt.
After 120 grueling minutes on Wednesday, Guardiola is almost sure to make some lineup changes to spare those with weary legs.
Kingsley Coman and Thiago Alcantara are probable starters after doing well in substitute appearances, but Holger Badstuber, Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez are all out of contention due to injuries, while Arjen Robben will miss the game with a cold and abductor problems.
Possible Bayern starting XI: Neuer; Lahm, Kimmich, Alaba, Bernat; Alonso, Thiago; Coman, Muller, Ribery; Lewandowski.
Players to Watch
Germany senior international Jonas Hector and under-21 starlet Timo Horn are probably the most important figures to Cologne's success on Saturday, as defense will be the first priority.
If the hosts are to score, though, Leonardo Bittencourt or Yannick Gerhardt are likely to play a hand in it, with striker Anthony Modeste on the receiving end.
Bayern have so much firepower in attack that even a few minutes off the bench might be enough for any of them to change the game.
But if Mario Gotze and Franck Ribery start, which is entirely possible, look for them to make an appeal for more playing time. Saturday also could be a big game for fringe players like Sebastian Rode.
Timo Horn vs. Kingsley Coman
Cologne have produced some quality defenders in recent years, including Hector and Kevin Wimmer. But perhaps their best defensive player has been goalkeeper Horn. The shot-stopper has been excellent for his side between the posts and could be the key to his side securing a positive result.
Coman has had an outstanding week: The Frenchman assisted three goals in his last outing in the Bundesliga, and he proved to be a game-changer as he assisted Thomas Muller's equalizer against Juventus before scoring the goal that put the result to rest. He has a good chance of starting on Saturday, having played only for the final hour of the 120 minutes.
Leonardo Bittencourt vs. Medhi Benatia
Bittencourt exploded into form last week with two goals to lift his team to victory over Hannover. The 22-year-old is probably the most technically gifted player in the Cologne team, and with three goals in his last two matches, he is in fine form.
It's unclear who will start in the Bayern defense after 120 tough minutes on Wednesday, but Benatia will be relatively fresh after his early substitution. If he starts, he'll play an important role in locking up shop at the back.
The Moroccan has had a difficult season due to repeated injuries and will want to gather form as the most important matches of the campaign approach.
Odds (courtesy of Odds Shark)