Bayern Munich face off against Salzburg knowing victory at the Allianz Arena can seal qualification for the Champions League last 16.
Die Roten have gone about their work so far with a minimum of fuss, picking up three wins from three – in stark contrast to the likes of Real Madrid, who picked up just a point from two games against Shakhtar and Borussia Moenchengladbach, and PSG, Bayern’s opponents in last season’s final, who are struggling to make it out of a group containing Istanbul Basaksehir.
They can officially seal qualification with victory over a Salzburg side with some incredible young players, but also some not-so-incredible results in the group stage so far. Just to make it even more difficult for the Austrians, they’re playing against a team who have dropped points just twice in 14 games this season.
Here’s 90min‘s preview of a real David and Goliath story.
When Is Kick Off? Wednesday 25 November
What Time Is Kick Off? 20:00 (GMT)
Where Is it Played? Allianz Arena
TV Channel/Live Stream? BT Sport (Red Button)
Referee? Orel Grinfeld
The season has not been kind to Bayern in terms of injuries, especially in light of the news that Joshua Kimmich will be out until the new year with a torn meniscus. Alphonso Davies, meanwhile, damaged his ankle ligaments against Eintracht Frankfurt last month and will also be out for an extended period of time.
There is slightly better news when it comes to Corentin Tolisso (muscular problems) and Lucas Hernandez (back injury), although it’ll be touch and go as to whether either start or even feature against Salzburg. While Bayern manager Hansi Flick could use Bouna Sarr as an emergency left back, it is not yet clear whether the Frenchman has recovered from his own injury woes.
While missing Kimmich is undoubtedly a pain for Bayern, in relative terms Salzburg will be missing the prolific Patson Daka more, after the Zambian forward picked up a hamstring injury against fellow Group A opponents Atletico Madrid.
Veteran midfielder Zlatko Junozovic and Japanese playmaker Masaya Okugawa will also not be fit enough to play, while Antoine Bernede (shin) faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Bayern Munich: Neuer; Pavard, Boateng, Sule, Alaba; Martinez, Goretzka; Gnabry, Muller, Sane; Lewandowski
RB Salzburg: Stankovic; Kristensen, Ramalho, Wober, Ulmer; Mwepu, Camara, Seiwald; Okafor, Koita, Szoboszlai
Although the injuries continue to stack up for Bayern, it’s largely been business as usual for Germany’s reigning champions, who remain boringly good at football and are a point clear at the top of the Bundesliga (with the obligatory crushing of Borussia Dortmund sprinkled in).
They did have the briefest of wobbles at the weekend, that being said, with Werder Bremen taking the lead against them before a Kingsley Coman equaliser restored parity, but other than those two dropped points they have been imperious, winning every game since an unexpected thrashing at the hands of Hoffenheim in late September.
Salzburg have collected a solitary point in the Champions League against Lokomotiv Moscow, and given that Lokomotiv stole two points courtesy of a 75th-minute equaliser, they won’t be entirely delighted with their returns so far.
Domestically, they’re two points ahead of their closest competition (Spurs’ Europa League opponents LASK), but the road has been bumpy recently, perhaps on account of Daka’s injury, picking up just one point in their last two games.
Here’s how the two sides have got on in their last five.
Bayern Munich 1-1 Werder Bremen (21/11)
Borussia Dortmund 2-3 Bayern Munich (7/11)
Red Bull Salzburg 2-6 Bayern Munich (3/11)
Koln 1-2 Bayern Munich (31/10)
Lokomotiv Moscow 1-2 Bayern Munich (27/10)
Red Bull Salzburg
Red Bull Salzburg 1-3 Sturm Graz (21/11)
Rapid Wien 1-1 Red Bull Salzburg (8/11)
Red Bull Salzburg 2-6 Bayern Munich (3/11)
Red Bull Salzburg 5-0 WSG Swarovski Tirol (31/10)
Atletico Madrid 3-2 Red Bull Salzburg (27/10)
There are enough injuries in this Bayern Munich squad to make this match somewhat spicy… but probably not spicy enough, to be honest.
Ultimately, Bayern have one of the deepest squads in the world – you take away Joshua Kimmich, you can just stick Leon Goretzka in midfield. You take away three different left backs, you can just stick David Alaba there. And when David Alaba’s gone, Niklas Sule will be more than happy to fill in from the bench.
Though Salzburg host some of world football’s most intriguing talents, and, lest we forget, gave Liverpool a game or two last season, they are most likely in for an absolute battering on Wednesday.
Prediction: Bayern Munich 6-1 Salzburg