Bundesliga MD 17 Preview: Gladbach vs Bayern
The flood of bad news didn’t seem to let up until the time of publication of this article. Every day there were new SARS-CoV-2 cases at FC Bayern. Add to that injuries and two national players from African countries taking part in the Africa Cup. The list of unavailable players has grown so long in the meantime that listing them consecutively in a sentence would be borderline unreadable.
Bayern’s list of absentees (as of 06.01.2022, midnight):
Tolisso (all tested positive for the coronavirus at different times)
Sarr (Africa Cup)
Choupo-Moting (Africa Cup)
In the case of Kingsley Coman, Omar Richards and Corentin Tolisso, it is still unclear whether they will be available. They are all expected to be able to play in theory but according to Nagelsmann, it is unlikely that they will actually do so because they have not been able to train recently and Coman in particular is just coming back from an injury. The use of Leon Goretzka, who did not take part in Thursday’s training session and is still suffering from an injury, is also questionable. So at the moment, from Bayern’s first Team regulars the only players available are the following:
Süle (was still injured midweek)
(Tolisso, Coman, Richards)
In light of their personnel predicament, Bayern applied to the DFL for a postponement of the match. However, the rules guiding these circumstances are clearly stated: “The request is not to be granted if more than 13 [if the number of substitutions per team is changed from three to five (…) the number increases to 15] licensed players eligible to play and/or amateurs/contract players eligible to play in the licensed team are available. Among these, there must be at least seven [see above, the number then increases to nine] licensed players, including one goalkeeper.”
Injuries are excluded here, which in turn means that the absences of Stanišić and Goretzka do not count and they are therefore considered available in terms of the rules. This is probably the DFL’s way of preventing manipulation. For FC Bayern, this means at the moment (as of 06.01.2022, midnight) that they have enough players at their disposal that a cancellation should not be permissible in terms of the rules. This is because, in addition to the players mentioned, Christian Früchtl and Malik Tillman are also part of the licensed player squad, which is why it is unlikely for them to fall short of the number of nine available licensed players.
Accordingly, efforts are currently being made to put together a squad that is capable of being competitive in a Bundesliga match. On Thursday, the following youth and second team players took part in training:
The latter two were even flown in at short notice from Spain, where they had been training with the German U17 national team until recently. Even with the rule of having to have 15 eligible players available, FC Bayern should therefore no longer have a problem – or rather a bigger problem because a match cancellation becomes less likely.
Presumably, Bayern were hoping for a generous decision by the DFL because almost the entire Bayern Campus is on holiday. The Regionalliga Bayern, where the second team competes, will not be back in action before mid February. Theoretical availability therefore stands in the way of practical availability here. The players mentioned above – with the exception of Wanner and Ibrahimović – have not trained recently. And contractually they are all still amateur players, which clashes with the DFL rule stipulating that only three of those are allowed in the first team matchday squad. Nagelsmann, however, clarified that they had made a special request.
The fact that the DFL is aiming for the match to go ahead is also understandable. If they make a legal grey-area decision accommodating Bayern, it could be held against them in future instances of similar problems. If however they adhere strictly to the rules, they can continue to invoke them in the future without being asked painful questions.
In all likelihood, Bayern will now have to operate with the makeshift squad they have. Which raises the question: What can Julian Nagelsmann do with it?
Presumably, he will rely on an experienced as possible core team and complement it with youth and second team players where needed. At the pre-match press conference, Nagelsmann even hinted that the challenge of building a competitive team from the material he has at his disposal was an appealing one because he would have to deploy players in new positions and have to think even more about how to adjust the game plan.
There is definitely a shortage of personnel, especially in defence. A three-man back line consisting of Pavard, Süle and Kimmich would be possible if Süle is ready for action. A back four is also conceivable, for example if Kimmich and Sabitzer take up the wide positions. Especially on the left defensive side, Nagelsmann no longer has a skilled full-back at his disposal should Richards not be fit enough as is expected. Besides Sabitzer, who is very versatile, Arrey-Mbi is also an option.
Arrey-Mbi has already been able to collect a few minutes with the first team and also has some experience as a left-back. In midfield and attack, the record champions are still well equipped. It will be interesting to see which youth players will get some time and how the Bayern coach will manage the game. According to Nagelsmann, he wants revenge for the comprehensive 0-5 drubbing in the DFB-Pokal and the 1-1 draw in the opening game of the Hinrunde. And he says it “doesn’t matter” to him whether he only has amateur players on the bench.