Flick's mission to Christmas – and beyond?

From Moscow to Munich: City hopping is currently on the agenda for Bayer 04 – plus one of the highlights of every Bundesliga season. The Werkself visit the Allianz Arena on Saturday night (18.30 CET) – possibly at an unfavourable juncture from a Leverkusen perspective. FC Bayern have returned to their usual impressive form after a dip in terms of results and a change of coaches. What's that down to? The lowdown on our next opponents.
Foto: Imago/Sven Simon


Even after decades of the top of the Bundesliga and their history full of records, there is something new at the record champions: FC Bayern have never been the first club in a Bundesliga season to change coaches – up till now. After losing 5-1 at his former club, Eintracht Frankfurt, it was the end of his time at FCB for Niko Kovac at the start of the month. He has been followed by Hansi Flick – who has restored the feeling of euphoria at the Allianz Arena: Four games, four wins, 16 goals scored without reply including a 4-0 gala performance in the top game against Borussia Dortmund followed by a 6-0 victory away to Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League. It's worth mentioning that FC Bayern have yet to concede a goal under Flick with the defence as solid as a rock up to now. That was not always the case under Kovac. Nevertheless, the position of the men from Munich is no cause for concern: They are just one point behind league leaders Borussia Mönchengladbach, winners of their group in the Champions League ahead of the last matchday and, at the start of February, there is the DFB Cup Round of 16 tie against TSG Hoffenheim.


The most discussed member of the FC Bayern first team is undoubtedly the man on the touchline: Caretaker manager Flick has, in his own calm manner, restored the dominant approach of FC Bayern that was rarely seen in the latter days under Kovac. And the defence is incredibly strong. David Alaba has impressed in his unusual role of central defender with his position at left-back being taken by the 19-year-old Alphonso Davies and the youngster has certainly shone. Flick does not have to worry about his attack – as FC Bayern currently have possibly the best central striker in the world: Robert Lewandowski has scored an incredible 16 goals from 12 games. The 4-0 victory at Düsseldorf last Saturday was the first Bundesliga match of the season where the Poland international failed to find the back of the net. A couple of days later, he clocked up another record: Lewandowski scored four goals in 15 minutes against Red Star Belgrade – the quickest four-goal haul in the history of the Champions League. But FCB under Flick are no longer as dependent on Lewandowski's goals as at the start of the season: Germany international Serge Gnabry is in top form and star signing Philippe Coutinho is constantly improving in showing his outstanding ability. And stalwart Thomas Müller, often left out under Kovac, is gradually getting back up to speed to give Flick another option in attack.


Bayern have managed well up to now to conceal their dilemma but cover in central defence is very thin after the two first choices Niklas Süle (cruciate) and Lucas Hernández (ankle ligaments) picked up long-term injuries. Neither will probably play again this year with Süle likely to be out of action longer. As Benjamin Pavard is frequently needed at right-back, David Alaba and Javi Martinez have slotted in to the two positions in the centre of the back four. That has worked incredibly well up to now but FCB can certainly do without losing any other players in central defence. On the plus side: Established central defender Jerome Boateng returns after suspension and could be used against Bayer 04.


How the future looks at Säbener Straße depends to a great extent on the coming weeks. Uli Hoeneß has retired, sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic is looking for a new coach for Bayern – or perhaps not? Flick will remain head coach up to the winter break. "Then we'll see what happens," said Salihamidzic recently. "We won't be put under pressure." So an extension for Flick is not ruled out – above all if the team carries on playing so impressively up to the winter break as it has in the first games under the former assistant to Joachim Löw. The Advent season promises to be exciting at FC Bayern.


However the search for a coach ends – FC Bayern will definitely remain favourites to be champions of Germany again. If the team can be consistent in terms of their immense quality then it will be very difficult for the competition to prevent the men from Munich winning their eighth league title in succession. The success of a Bayern coach also depends on success in the Champions League. Here too, FCB are in a position to beat any opponent. Whether or not that is enough to knock out the top clubs from Spain and England will depend on form on the day – and on the decision that Salihamidzic and Co. will make in the next few weeks.


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