The Champions League quarter finals are finally upon us. Bayern Munich are set to travel to the east of Spain to take on Villarreal CF – a club who are not traditional UCL heavyweights, but deserve our respect for beating Juventus and making it this far into the competition.
Unai Emery is a canny manager with plenty of experience at the top level. His team plays a stout 4-4-2 with the excellent Gerard Moreno up top. They may be flying under the radar, but Julian Nagelsmann and his men di lui cannot afford to let their guard down. The Yellow Submarine are formidable opponents.
For once, we have actual GOOD news. Alphonso Davies is BACK, and not only that, Nagelsmann reveals that his tests of him were so good that he can even start from the beginning tomorrow. That is amazing news, and it changes the entire complexion of the tie for Bayern Munich. Phonzie is a cheat code and the coach may be tempted to start him immediately, even if he’s lacking recent game time.
In terms of absentees, Corentin Tolisso (muscle injury), Bouna Sarr (patellar tendon issues), and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (COVID-19) are unavailable. Leon Goretzka and Niklas Sule should both be fit and available for selection. This is the most complete squad Nagelsmann has had available in months.
So, what will the starting XI look like? It’s actually hard to predict, because the number of options means that the coach could practically select anyone! We know that Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, and Kingsley Coman are practically guaranteed names on the team sheet, but who will be the second winger? Leroy Sane is having the better season but Serge Gnabry seems to be in form (and was also praised by the coach in his press conference).
Today, I’m gonna go with Serge Gnabry. We all know he’s $$ in the big games, and he seems to be on a roll. Leroy Sane seems to be in a temporary funk, and he could be invaluable as an impact sub. So assume it’ll be a front-four of Kingsley Coman, Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, and Serge Gnabry.
The midfield is another mystery, as Nagelsmann has the option of starting either Jamal Musiala or Leon Goretzka next to Joshua Kimmich. Goretzka had an excellent comeback game against Freiburg so his form di lui isn’t a concern, but can he really start again so soon after coming back from a long injury?
The coach didn’t indicate his preference in either direction, so here’s what we’ll assume – Goretzka plays the first 55-60 minutes, with Musiala playing the rest. The hulking German will be needed to counter the physicality of Villarreal in midfield, while Musiala can come on later and wreak havoc with his dribbling once they’re softened up a bit.
What about the defense? Will Alphonso Davies start? Well, before his injury than him, the Canadian was the absolute lynchpin of the system, crucial at both ends of the pitch. Nagelsmann will be keenly aware that a good Davies performance could be the difference between a win or a loss. So, today, we’re gonna go out on a limb and say Davies will start. He probably won’t play the full 90, but the kid is too good to leave on the bench when he’s fit.
The rest of the backline has to shift to accommodate this change. Lucas Hernandez likely moves to center-back while Niklas Sule returns to the lineup, pushing both Tanguy Nianzou and Dayot Upamecano to the bench. Benjamin Pavard will likely start at right-back, with the lineup being rounded out by Manuel Neuer between the sticks. Here’s what that should look like:
- Tanguy Nianzou in for Alphonso Davies, with Lucas Hernandez at LB. Nagelsmann explicitly mentioned Nianzou as an option for the XI vs Villarreal, so he could make it if Davies can’t.
- Dayot Upamecano in for Alphonso Davies, with Lucas moving to left-back.
- Jamal Musiala in for Leon Goretzka in midfield.
- Leroy Sane in for Serge Gnabry on the wing.
- A back three. (Please coach, don’t do it!)
Interested in a more in-depth preview of the game? Why not check out our preview podcast? We discuss a lot of topics including Villarreal’s potential setup, how Nagelsmann should choose the XI, the potential availability of certain players, and more besides! Listen to it below or at this link.
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