DFB-Pokal first round preview: Düren vs. Bayern
International breaks are usually rather relaxed times for FC Bayern. The majority of the squad is away on international duty and the resulting vacancies are filled in training with youth players. This week has been no exception: Leon Dajaku, Angelo Stiller, Johannes Schenk, Maximilian Zaiser, Josip Stanisic, Alexander Lungwitz, Kilian Senkbeil, Armindo Sieb and Fiete Arp were all called up to join the first team training on Tuesday.
Of all the people involved at Bayern, the game on Thursday arguably presents the greatest disruption to the usual process to Hansi Flick. Instead of being able to prepare for the game on Saturday evening in Bielefeld in the usual manner, he has to come up with a starting eleven that gets by without any of the national team players if possible – at least without those who were actually called up for duty.
In goal, Alexander Nübel could make his debut. Even though Manuel Neuer is known for wanting to play every game, the time for him to recover after the game against Switzerland on Tuesday might not have been long enough. More importantly, however, it would not be a good sign for the young newcomer if Nübel would not even get this game.
In defense, Flick benefits from Löw’s decision to retire Jérôme Boateng from the national team despite the defensive problems in the DFB team. Hence, Boateng is going to be a certain starter. The only question is who will start next to him. Niklas Süle did not play a minute on Tuesday evening, so theoretically he would be available. The Kicker, on the other hand, speculated that Chris Richards might get a start, but he might not become fit in time. Javi Martínez is also available. The experienced player will probably be given preference, especially since he has not had any game time recently and cannot be exhausted.
Because Alphonso Davies did not have to travel with his national team, he will probably start on Thursday and will be replaced on Saturday by Hernández, who still was away with the French national team on Wednesday. At right-back, the situation is also very clear: Newcomer Bouna Sarr will most likely get his first appearance in a Bayern shirt.
The personell selection in central defense might have knock-on effects on the setup in midfield. If Flick thinks Süle is fit enough, Martínez will move into holding midfield next to newcomer Marc Roca. Although the very ambitious Angelo Stiller of Bayern’s reserve squad has been training with the first team during the week, Flick has not really put much trust in him so far. After all, it was the first time ever that he had been allowed to take part in first team training.
Nevertheless, Sky reporter Torben Hoffmann recently reported that Stiller could make his debut against Düren. For the talented and strong midfielder, it would be a great chance to persuade the coaching team of his talent – unless they choose Süle and Martínez after all.
In offense, Thomas Müller will be set. Here, too, Flick profits from the fact that Löw has removed him from the national team for good. The remaining three positions will probably be filled by two newcomers and a youth player: Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Douglas Costa and Jamal Musiala have the best chances of getting a start.
It will also be interesting to see who Flick will pick as the options from the bench. Besides many players from the reserves, Flick will probably want to have a few of his established players available as well to have all bases covered. In the end, his selection will probably depend on who he considers fit and rested enough.
For the newcomers the game will be an important practice session to find the rhythm and get to know the system. Even if a lot of things are probably not going to succeed yet, with Müller and Boateng there are a few reliable hands that will help structure the game. Boateng has a leading role in providing structure at the back, while further forward it is upon Müller to organize and provide on-field coaching to his teammates.
The team’s reshuffle might become most visible during pressing, since Müller ist almost exclusively surrounded with new faces. It is this that might actually give Düren a very small chance tonight. Maybe a less than usual coordinated Bayern press will offer them a few opportunities to push through and suddenly appear in front of goal.
The aim for Düren to do better than Barcelona and Schalke does not seem too far fetched. If there is ever a Bayern team that allows only the slightest chance to a lower-class opponent, it could very well be this one.
Düren comes with bags full of confidence. They have won 12 of their last 13 games. Especially defensively, they have in the main presented themselves very stable. Against Bayern, they will probably set up in a compact shape and sit deep, as is customary for much inferior teams. But because there is still a lot up in the air at Bayern, this could be a good way to succeed.
Thursday will be one of those typical cup evenings where everyone knows the outcome before the show begins. However, especially in the last few years, Bayern have experienced more than once how close it can get against lower class teams. Just consider for instance the narrow 2-1 victory over fourth-division team Rödinghausen in 2018 or the late 1-0 victory over Drochtersen-Asseln (also a fourth-division team) in the same year.
If everything goes as expected, FC Bayern’s quality should prevail, but circumstances should let fans who do not hold with the club from Munich allow to dream a little. For Düren, this contest might come at the right time – although a real home game in front of a euphoric home crowd would of course have been even better. Bayern, on the other hand, will have the opportunity to learn of how far their newcomers have come. The DFB-Pokal match could be a door opener for them.