On match-day four of the Champions League Bayern Munich secured qualification for the round of 16 stage of the competition with a hard-fought 2-1 win against Galatasaray at Allianz Arena. Die Roten also managed to win the group by winning this game.
The Turkish side has proven to be Bayern’s most difficult opposition in the group. On match-day three, Die Roten had to work hard for a 3-1 win away in Turkey against Galatasaray. The full-time score flattered Bayern as the home team dominated proceedings for most of the encounter.
Normally, winning the group with two matches to spare would be reason enough for a small celebration. However, with a relatively thin squad compounded by injuries and suspension this season, larger celebrations are fully warranted.
Wrapping up the group early allows Bayern to navigate games between now and the winter break more efficiently while dealing with a smaller squad.
At the start of the season, injuries were already a major concern. Manuel Neuer was still recovering from knee surgery following a skiing accident last December. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting was injured during pre-season and missed the DFL Supercup. After arriving from Borussia Dortmund on a free transfer in the summer, Raphael Guerreiro had an injury-ridden start to life in Munich. The Portuguese full-back missed the initial part of the season due to a calf injury.
Neuer didn’t reclaim his rightful spot in goal until near the end of October. Fortunately, Choupo-Moting was not out for too long and is currently match-fit. Guerreiro recovered from the calf strain only to subsequently suffer a thigh injury that kept him out for close to five weeks. The Portuguese defender has made only two appearances as a substitute for Bayern all season, with the latest coming against Heidenheim on Saturday.
Matthijs de Light is likely to be out for the rest of the year with a serious knee injury. In the absence of the Dutch defender, Dayot Upamecano, while not fully match-fit, has had to hold the fort alongside Kim Min-jae at the heart of the defense. The defense has been so depleted at times this season that both Noussair Mazraoui and Leon Goretzka have had to put in shifts as center-backs.
Along with injuries in defense, the midfield has also been depleted for Bayern on a few occasions. Goretzka was out for two weeks due to a hand injury. The German midfielder played the last two games with a protective cast on his hand. He was omitted from the match-day squad against Heidenheim due to a minor muscular injury. Jamal Musiala suffered another hamstring injury when Bayern hosted Galatasaray and is reportedly not expected back until after the current international break.
Die Roten are well short of options in midfield and defense since they failed to replace Benjamin Pavard and Ryan Gravenberch. The absence of one additional midfielder and defender has hampered Die Roten in the Hinrunde. Thomas Tuchel is hopeful about getting a few deals over the line in January.
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Quite often the past is a good indicator of the future. With that in mind, and Bayer Leverkusen showing no signs of slippage, Tuchel would have to be clever in managing personnel for the rest of the Hinrunde. One way of doing so would be to prioritize Bundesliga matches over the final two group games of the Champions League. The early qualification for the next round is a blessing that Tuchel and Bayern needed this season. The German coach should look to use academy and fringe players in the final two group games, which will allow key players to be fresh for Bundesliga games.