Bayern Hang On in Berlin
Julian Nagelsmann would start the now usual lineup of Sven Ulreich, Noussair Mazraoui, Benjamin Pavard, Dayot Upamecano, Alphonso Davies, Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, Serge Gnabry, Jamal Musiala, Sadio Mané, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting against Inter in the Champions League.
Bayern would win that match relatively easily after a handball scare early in the first half was not given and Bayern scored a goal in each half through Pavard and Choupo to win 2-0 and finish the group with a perfect 18 points.
For the match against Hertha, Nagelsmann saw a few players return with Lucas Hernández coming off the bench and Manuel Neuer returning to goal.
This match was far more interesting as Bayern jumped out to a 0-3 lead thanks to a 12th minute goal from Musiala and two goals in two minutes from Choupo. However, Hertha would respond quickly as well scoring a blast of a volly from Dodi Lukegbakio a minute after Choupo’s third.
Just five minutes later Berlin would be given a penalty as Pavard inadvertantly stepped on the rear heal of a Hertha player as he moved towards a ball that was cleared just seconds before the halftime whistle. Davie Selke would step up and convert to make the score 2-3.
The second half saw a few chances for both teams but ultimetly neither team would increase the scoring as Bayern hung on to win 2-3. Unfortunately, this win came at the cost of an apparent hamstring injury to Davies who was forced off and now sees his chances of playing at the World Cup in serious jepordy.
After a month of watching every team they played try to go out and boss Bayern around the pitch with physicality, Bayern have flipped the script over the last few weeks.
Instead of looking timid or soft, they are now taking it to their opposition. They have not shied away from hard tackles or bouts for the ball. They have gone in strong and very often won these duals.
There is no question in my mind that the return of Goretzka has played a part in this but it goes well beyond him. Pavard has shown a bit of a mean streak recently. Choupo brings a bit more physicality up top compared to many of the other players we have there.
Perhaps most surprisingly, Musiala has shown himself very willing and capable to try to win a ball off of nearly any player as well.
While there has to be limits in this regard, there is no question that their new found willingness to get stuck in has played a role in the form they have been in over the last month. Lets hope it is here to stay.
Speaking of Musiala, the young attacker has been on a hell of a run this season. In seemingly every match, he has been one of the key players and difference makers for Bayern.
So much so, that it really feels like Thomas Müller might have a hard time finding his way back onto the pitch when he returns from injury, especially given Choupo’s run of form as well.
Saturday however, Musiala was on full display. His movement in and around the box was nothing short of a specticle. He rutinely took on four or five players and somehow came out on top. While it only resulted in one goal, he could easily have had one or two more and/or assists.
I think we’ve all seen this coming for quite some time, but Musiala really has become perhaps the first name that has to go on the team sheet in attack. He has been the most consistently creative and threatening player in Bayerns front four.
Now to the less favorable news. Davies injury comes at the time of year where we often start running into injury issues. However this year is especially odd with the World Cup break.
While this injury is horrible timing for Davies and Canada’s World Cup hopes, it may ultimately prove to not be a massive blow to Bayern if he is able to return in time for the late January return to the Bundesliga which seems likely given that is well over two months out.
Still, the injuries are never far away it seems. Just as we get good news with Neuer and Hernández returning to the team, another player goes off. There were also several other players who appeared to pick up slight knocks in this match, including Kimmich and Goretzka.
While neither of their injuries appeared to be too serious, as both played on, Bayern are starting to get on thin ice with the injury situation once again. With this winter World Cup schedule, Bayern could very well face a crisis when they return if things don’t go their way.
Regardless, it is almost certain to be a stressful and tenuious finish to the season as the players face yet another overloaded season and a dramatically increased likelyhood of some nagging injury.