Verdict: Home goals over 2.5
Best odds: 6/10
Bayern Munich are set to welcome FC Koln to the Allianz Arena on Tuesday evening in what will be a match within round 17 of the 2022/23 season in the Bundesliga. Both teams will seek to conclude the first half of the campaign with a satisfactory result, though the expression itself obviously has a different meaning for each.
You could refer to Bayern as perpetual champions in the Germany and you wouldn’t be far from the truth. Since Borussia Dortmund managed to grab the title twice back in the days of Jurgen Klopp at their helm, in 2011 and 2012, it’s been all about the Bavarians, sometimes easy, sometimes with a bit more grit needed to get across the finish line. But across the finish line they got, each time without fail.
At the moment, it doesn’t look anyone is able to beat Bayern to the throne either. Julian Nagelsmann’s team top the table in the German top fligt with 35 points, five more than second-place Eintracht Frankfurt, third-place Union Berlin and SC Freiburg in fourth. Dortmund, usually Bayern’s closest pursuers, are fifth with 28.
It should be said that the Bundesliga season resumed its course after the World Cup-induced break only a few days ago, with the only competitive match Bayern have played so far being a 1-1 draw away to RB Leipzig. Before the World Cup, they beat Mainz 6-2 at home, Inter Milan 2-0 at home in the Champions League, Hertha 2-3 in Berlin, Werder Bremen 6-1 at home, and Schalke 0-2 in Gelsenkirchen.
In the Champions League, Bayern won all six group-stage matches and finished top of Group C, ahead of Inter, Barcelona and Viktoria Plzen. They’re set for a clash of titans when they face Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16.
The big news at the Allianz Arena right now is that they’ve managed to snatch Yann Sommer from Borussia Monchengladbach to replace the injured Manuel Neuer for the second half of the season, and in all honesty, the excellent Switzerland international has every chance of keeping the spot as his own, even when the German veteran recovers from a fractured leg and returns to contention for 2023/24.
Bayern have also managed to sign defender Daley Blind from Ajax this month.
Apart from Neuer, Nagelsmann cannot call upon former Liverpool forward Sadio Mane, whose inflamed fibula is set to keep him out of action at least for another month. Defender Noussair Mazraoui and Lucas Hernandez are also out, the latter having torn a cruciate ligament while representing France at the World Cup.
On the other hand, Bouna Sarr could be back in contention after a tendon problem, but sitting on the bench is probably the best he can hope for at the moment.
Sommer is set to start of course, having made his debut against Leipzig on Friday. Dayot Upamecano and Matthijs de Ligt should pair up in the heart of defence, flanked by Benjamin Pavard on the right and Alphonso Davies on the left. Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka are the obvious choice in the middle of the park, with the trio of Leroy Sane, Serge Gnabry and Jamal Musiala (ahead of Thomas Muller) supporting Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting upfront.
Currently in their fourth Bundesliga season after their last foray into the second tier, Koln are still probably happy to stay where they are, with no real determination from the board to push on and maybe fight for European places. And if so, they will be satisfied with their current position in the table – 11th with 20 points, five above the relegation zone, but it still warrants caution. It’s not very close to complete safety with half a season left to play.
Like Bayern, Koln have played only one competitive match since the World Cup, a 7-1 thrashing of Werder Bremen at home, and such a result will surely represent a significant morale boost when they set off for Munich. Before that, they drew 1-1 at home against Hoffenheim, drew 2-2 at home against Nice in the Europa Conference League, lost 2-0 away to Freiburg, lost 1-2 at home against Bayer Leverkusen, and lost 2-0 away to Hertha. It seems the World Cup break did them a lot of good to end such an unfavourable streak.
Their European campaign has ended as they finished third in Group D behind Nice and Partizan Belgrade, with only Slovacko left below.
Midfielder Ellyes Skhiri was forced off after just over an hour of Koln’s clash with Werder on Saturday, and for the time being, it’s unclear whether he’ll be ready for the Munich trip.
Strikers Mark Uth (surgery), Maximilian Schmid (ankle), Florian Dietz and Sebastian Andersson (both knee), fullbacks Kristian Pedersen (muscle) and Rijad Smajic (ankle), centre-back Luca Kilian (muscle), wingers Jan Thielmann (muscle) and Dimitrios Limnios (knee) are all out of action at the moment, giving head coach Steffen Baumgart quite a headache. Further more, centre-back Timo Hubers is reportedly ill as well.
Marvin Schwabe should be in goal. If Hubers is indeed absent, Nikola Soldo is expected to take his place alongside Julian Chabot at the heart of defence, with Jonas Hector and Benno Schmitz on the defensive flanks. If Skhiri is ready to play, he will likely start in the middle of the park together with Eric Martel, with Denis Huseinbasic further up as the No. 10. Steffen Tigges is set to lead the attacking line, supported by Florian Kainz and Linton Maina from wide positions.
With all due respect to Koln, there’s only one way this contest is likely to go, and the only question is the number of times Schwabe will be taking the ball out of his net. Having drawn against Leipzig in the previous round, Bayern will not want to allow the pursuit to close in.
Verdict: Home goals over 2.5
Best odds: 6/10
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