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19.04.2021Bundesliga

Our next opponents: Title won – coach lost?

The Werkself face one of the traditionally biggest challenges of the calendar year – the away game at Bayern Munich. Ahead of the match at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday, 20 April (kick-off: 20.30 CEST) there was a bombshell announcement at the serial champions.
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Position

Victory in the top match: suddenly a minor point. And also the impending ninth league title. After the 3-2 win at Wolfsburg, FC Bayern coach Hansi Flick announced he wanted to leave the club in the summer – and that became the number one subject in the sports media in Germany. Despite Flick's clear statement ("I'd like to get out of my contract at the end of the season.") it remains uncertain that it will happen in the end. "I've only expressed my wishes," said the winning coach. "I know I have a contract." And that runs to 2023.

If the departure becomes reality then a success story lasting a good one and a half years will come to the end in the summer. Flick initially took over as interim coach at Bayern in November 2019 and then went on to win everything there was to win. Champions of Germany, DFB Cup winners, Champions League winners, DFL and UEFA Super Cup winners and finally FIFA Club World Cup winners. In this season they can only win one title – and that is very likely since Saturday. After the early exit in the DFB Cup against Holstein Kiel and the narrow defeat against Paris St Germain in the Champions League quarter-finals, FC Bayern are fully on course to win their 31st league title. The Munich side made the most of RB Leipzig's draw on Friday night by winning away to the so impressive Wolfsburg team and they are now seven points ahead of second place. FCB could take a big step towards lifting the Bundesliga trophy against the Werkself. It could be a sort of farewell gift for Flick.

Personnel

With all the discussions of recent days about FC Bayern the name of Robert Lewandowski almost appears to have been forgotten. The current World Player of the Year can still break the 40 goal record set by Gerd Müller in the 1971/72 season. That would very probably already have happened if the Pole had not suffered a ligament injury playing for Poland. It probably means he will also miss the game against the Werkself. Lewandowski is now back in training but it is thought he may well return to the squad at the weekend for the game against Mainz 05.

In addition to Lewandowski, a number of other regular starters are sidelined. It is unlikely that Niklas Süle (muscle problem) and Serge Gnabry (coronavirus) will play. It remains to be seen whether midfielder Leon Goretzka will have a role against the Werkself. The Germany international was an option for a place in the squad at Wolfsburg but a problem with his thigh ruled him out. The options in the centre of the FCB midfield are thereby strongly reduced as Corentin Tolisso is also sidelined after tearing a ligament in February, and Marc Roca recently missed out due to a knee injury. Flick will also probably have to manage without forward Douglas Costa against the Werkself as the match comes too soon after his foot injury.

Performers

The fact that Bayern almost went through against PSG and were able to win the away game at Wolfsburg without World Player of the Year Lewandowski and Co. says a lot about the quality of the team. The incredible penetration of the attack was primarily evident in the first half against the Wolves. Without Lewandowski, without Gnabry and also the recently rested Kingsley Coman, Bayern scored three goals against the second best defence in the league. Thomas Müller provided his seventeenth assist of the season and is chasing his own Bundesliga record set last year (21) while the 18-year-old Jamal Musiala netted his first Bundesliga brace and is now the youngest player in the history of the Bundesliga to score six goals in the top-flight. However: If Werkself gem Florian Wirtz scores another goal by the end of the season then Musiala would lose that record.

Problems

Bayern's very attractive style of play under Flick has often been at the expense the defence this term. In spite of having a goalkeeper called Manuel Neuer, who is still absolutely world-class, the league leaders have already conceded 38 goals putting them fifth in a league wide comparison – including behind the Werkself. Neuer has kept a clean sheet in just seven of 29 games – too few for the aspirations of the record champions. By comparison: Lukas Hradecky has one more clean sheet – although he has missed five games through injury.

Prediction

After the fixtures at the weekend, everything points to FC Bayern lifting the Bundesliga title again. The unparalleled injury list, the Champions League exit and various distractions have not stopped the team in their tracks – and the Werkself are Bayern's last opponents from the top third of the table. Much more exciting than the question of "champions or not?" is what happens at FC Bayern Munich in the summer. Bayern fans will not run out of things to talk about in the next few weeks.

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