When Bayern Munich face FC Barcelona in the Champions League, the footballing world stops to take notice. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are. It doesn’t matter if Bayern are already qualified, or of Barca are basically out already. It doesn’t matter that Inter Milan could make this game irrelevant before kickoff. This is a clash between the two biggest teams in the world, and that makes it important.
Xavi will want a win to galvanize his squad for the rest of the season, after deflating losses to both Inter and Real Madrid in previous weeks. Bayern, meanwhile, still have top spot in the group to secure, and Julian Nagelsmann will doubtless want to come away from the Camp Nou with a win. Pride is at stake here. When you play against a big team in Europe, you give it your all. That’s just how it is.
Unfortunately, Bayern have some major absentees heading into the game. Three key players from the first leg — Manuel Neuer, Lucas Hernandez, and Leroy Sane — have not traveled with the team to Spain, so you can be sure that they won’t play. That means both of the goalscorers from the Allianz Arena leg of the stadium will be missing at the Camp Nou. On the other hand, it could’ve been worse. At least Thomas Muller and Kingsley Coman are reportedly fit and back in training.
So who will make the starting XI vs Barcelona? Well, it’ll be interesting. Julian Nagelsmann has been coy about the notion of starting Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting in big games this season, but his recent form clearly warrants a spot in the lineup. He’ll likely be supported by Thomas Muller, Jamal Musiala, and a well-rested Sadio Mane to make up a four-man offense in the shape of a 4-2-3-1. Musiala will likely be moved to the wing, with Thomas Muller slotting into the attacking midfield spot for this game.
In midfield, Leon Goretzka is the favorite to start alongside Joshua Kimmich given his recent performances. There have been reports out of Spain that Xavi might try a midfield four to try and wrestle control of the game away from Bayern — if so, then this duo would have to deal with the likes of Pedri, Gavi, Frenkie de Jong, and Sergio Busquets all at once. That’s … not going to be easy. If the rest of the team doesn’t pull together for support, then Bayern could find its midfield comprehensively overwhelmed.
In defense, the absence of Lucas Hernandez and Manuel Neuer are huge blows. Alphonso Davies will reprise his usual role at left-back, while Noussair Mazraoui might get the nod on the right. Matthijs de Ligt and Dayot Upamecano are locked in at center-back, while Sven Ulreich would be the man between the sticks.
Here’s how the starting XI could look like:
According to Julian Nagelsmann in his press conference, Choupo-Moting is set to play against Barca.
Interested in a more in-depth preview of the game? Then why not check out the latest episode of our podcast? We talk about the emergence of Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting as a legitimate striker option, as well as what Barcelona have in store for us. Listen to it below or on Spotify.
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