Bayer Leverkusen vs Bayern Munich: Bundesliga Matchday 21 Preview

Bayern Munich look to get the advantage in the title race when they travel to league leaders Bayer Leverkusen on matchday 21 of the Bundesliga.
Bayern Munich face Bayer Leverkusen at Bay Arena on matchday 21 of the Bundesliga.
Bayern Munich face Bayer Leverkusen at Bay Arena on matchday 21 of the Bundesliga. / Marcel Engelbrecht - firo sportphoto/GettyImages
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Bayern Munich got past their bogey team in Borussia Monchengladbach on Matchday 20 in Munich after falling behind in the first half. Bayern started on a positive note, but they couldn't get the breakthrough early in the game. The visitors would strike first, capitalizing on a mistake from Neuer. Aleksandar Pavlovic would grab his second goal in consecutive matchdays to equalize just before the break. Harry Kane would continue his goal-scoring form in the 70th minute and Matthijs de Ligt scored third late in the game to seal all three points.

Bayern and Bayer Leverkusen claiming all three points on Matchday 20 set up a fascinating match at the BayArena in Leverkusen on Matchday 21. Thomas Tuchel will know that a victory in Leverkusen would see his side go top of the table in their quest for yet another Bundesliga title. Meanwhile, Xabi Alonso knows that simply a point will keep his side top, while a victory over the men from Bavaria will deal the reigning Bundesliga champions a devastating blow in the title race.

With the Bayern's injury list piling up, Tuchel will have to be creative in his lineup to face Alonso. The squad will know that while there is no such thing as a "must win" this early in the Bundesliga, this is a win Bayern Munich needs to pile the pressure on Leverkusen.

Bayern Munich

While Manuel Neuer has been good in goal since his return from injury, his last two matches have not come without struggles. In Matchday 19, he conceded a penalty after making contact with an Augsburg player. Granted he did save the ensuing penalty, but it was a very uncharacteristic error from the German international. Then last weekend, he again was at fault for a mistake in the build-up that led to Monchengladbach's only goal. Having missed the first training sessions of the week with a knee injury, Neuer is a doubt for Saturday's match. Personally, I do not see a scenario where Neuer doesn't play, but if he misses the game, Sven Ulreich will get the start in goal.

Noussair Mazraoui returned from the African Cup of Nations just in time to take part in Bayern's 3-1 victory over Borussia Monchengladbach. Sacha Boey looked solid in the last 30 minutes last weekend. The French defender may get the nod in the right-back role.

Dayot Upamecano and Joshua Kimmich have been taking part in first-team training this week. With Upamecano fit, he is a starter centrally with Matthijs de Ligt. Kim Min-jae has returned from the Asian Cup, but Tuchel may look to stick with De Ligt due to his good form. On the left, Tuchel may use Noussair Mazraoui since Alphonso Davies is ruled out due to a knee injury.

As I mentioned earlier, Joshua Kimmich looks fit and ready for the start on Saturday. Who he starts with centrally is debatable. Tuchel has not been too keen on the double pivot of Kimmich and Goretzka and seems more prone to play Raphael Guerreiro centrally. Pavlovic has also made a strong case for a start on Saturday after delivering good performances in the last two games. While I continue to push for the pairing of Kimmich and Goretzka, I'm going to say that Pavlovic gets rewarded for his fine form with a start in Leverkusen. Thomas Muller got the start centrally last match and acted as a withdrawn striker, allowing Jamal Musiala to play on the left. I think Tuchel is going to need Musiala centrally for creativity on Saturday.

Leroy Sane played his more traditional role on the right side against Monchengladbach and I expect to see him there again on Saturday. With Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman out for the match, I'm going to say we finally see Mathys Tel get the start on the left. Harry Kane will lead the line and continue to chase down Robert Lewandowski's goal-scoring mark.

Bayern Munich Predicted Starting XI

Boey-Upamecano-de Ligt-Mazraoui