Bayern Munich return to action on Saturday afternoon, as they travel to Freiburg in the Bundesliga.
The international break provided a halt to a tricky period for Julian Nagelsmann’s men, who sandwiched a thumping 7-1 Champions League win over Salzburg with disappointing 1-1 Bundesliga draws that allowed Borussia Dortmund to close their lead at the summit to four points.
Just before breaking up for international duty, however, Die Roten looked to have turned a corner by regaining a six-point advantage at the top of the league courtesy of a typical 4-0 thrashing of Union Berlin.
Looking to make it two wins on the trot, Bayern head to high-flying Freiburg, who sit fifth in the table having avoided defeat in their last six league outings.
Freiburg team news
The trio of Nicolas Hofler, Philipp Lienhart and Jeong Woo-Yeong are all doubtful to feature the hosts, having all tested positive for Covid-19 last week.
Elsewhere, Yannik Keitel will certainly miss out with a broken toe, while Kevin Schade and Lukas Kubler are also likely to remain sidelined through injury.
Bayern Munich team news
Long-term absentee Alphonso Davies has returned to light training for Bayern, although this weekend’s clash should come too early for a much-anticipated return for the Canadian and Niklas Sule, who is recovering from a hamstring problem.
Meanwhile, Leon Goretzka and Benjamin Pavard have returned from their respective issues, although will have to be assessed prior to kick off.
Bayern Munich predicted lineup vs Freiburg
Freiburg vs Bayern Munich prediction
Following their 4-0 victory last time out to put an end to an unusually rocky patch, the Bayern squad was broken up at quite an inopportune time a couple of weeks ago.
But don’t expect a swift international break to scupper their chances of finally rebuilding some momentum. A trip to Freiburg is far from an easy task but, despite the hosts’ impressive campaign thus far, the visiting side will expect nothing but a key victory.
A win would really leave Borussia Dortmund with it all to do – as if that wasn’t the case already – and, being Bayern Munich, a win is the only logical prediction.
Prediction: Freiburg 1-3 Bayern Munich
Champions League-chasing Freiburg will welcome league leaders Bayern Munich to the SC-Stadion for their eagerly-anticipated Bundesliga clash on Saturday afternoon.
The two teams with the best defensive records in this season’s German top flight will lock horns; the visitors have conceded only 28 goals so far, one fewer than Freiburg’s 29, and both sides have also kept a league-high nine clean sheets.
Freiburg’s hopes of making their first-ever Champions League appearance next season remain in sight, despite playing out a goalless draw with basement club Greuther Furth in their most recent game on March 19.
The Breisgau-Brasilianer have already matched last season’s points tally of 45 with seven Bundesliga games remaining and they are currently sitting fifth in the table, level on points with fourth-placed RB Leipzig and three points behind Bayer Leverkusen in third.
Christian Streich has witnessed the ups and downs during his 11-year tenure at Freiburg, including a fleeting experience in the 2013-14 Europa League, before relegation from the Bundesliga a year later was followed up with promotion back to the top-flight at the first attempt. In front of their fans in a newly-built SC-Stadion, his side are enjoying a purple patch this campaign and are on course to create history.
While a top-four place in the Bundesliga is high on the agenda, the Black Forest side will also have one eye on their DFB-Pokol semi-final against second-tier side Hamburger SV on April 19, as they bid to reach the final for the very first time.
Streich’s men, however, will be focused on Saturday’s game against German giants Bayern Munich, a side they have beaten only once in their last 37 meetings against them – a 2-1 home victory in May 2015.
Freiburg are unbeaten in their last six league games, the longest current run in the German top flight, and they will be confident of causing an upset this weekend, having played out a 2-2 draw against the Bavarian outfit on home soil last season. Victory for Streich would see him break Volker Finke’s record of 104 victories as the club’s head coach.
While Freiburg are in the hunt for a top-four finish, Bayern Munich are on course to claim their 10th successive Bundesliga title as they currently sit six points clear of Borussia Dortmund in second with seven games remaining.
A comfortable 4-0 success last time out against Union Berlin was their 20th league victory of the campaign, with star striker Robert Lewandowski netting a brace in that game to take his Bundesliga tally to 31 goals from just 27 matches, 11 strikes more than his nearest challenger Patrik Schick.
While Bayern will have one eye on next week’s Champions League quarter-final first-leg clash in Spain against Villarreal, they now turn their attention to Saturday’s contest with Freiburg, a side against whom they have an impressive goalscoring record, having found the net in each of their previous 17 meetings, scoring at least twice on 12 of these occasions.
The Bavarian outfit have only lost two of their last 19 games across all competitions; however, they have looked vulnerable defensively in recent weeks, keeping only three clean sheets in their last 12 matches across all competitions.
Bayern have also failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last seven league meetings with Freiburg, and head into this weekend’s game having won only one of their last four away fixtures, so Julian Nagelsmann’s men will need to be on top of their game if they wish to claim maximum points in the Black Forest.
Freiburg trio Nicolas Hofler, Philipp Lienhart and Jeong Woo-yeong are all doubtful after testing positive for COVID-19 last week.
Should Hofler be fit to return, then he would be available to start after serving a one-match suspension last time out, and he could play in centre-midfield alongside Maximilian Eggestein, with Janik Haberer set to drop to the substitutes’ bench.
Yannik Keitel is set to remain sidelined with a broken toe, while Kevin Schade (stomach) and Lukas Kubler (muscle) are injury doubts and will be assessed ahead of kickoff.
A back four of Jonathan Schmid, Manuel Gulde, Nico Schlotterbeck and Christian Gunter is likely to remain intact, while Roland Sallai, Lucas Holer and Vincenzo Grifo are set to provide support in attack for central striker Ermedin Demirovic.
As for Bayern Munich, Niklas Sule (hamstring) and Alphonso Davies (heart condition) have both returned to light training but Saturday’s game will come too soon for the pair.
Leon Goretzka (knee) and Benjamin Pavard (COVID-19) have both recovered from their respective issues and will be assessed ahead of kickoff to see if they are fit to feature.
Pavard will likely replace Josip Stanisic at right-back, if fit, while Tanguy Nianzou could continue at centre-back alongside Dayot Upamecano.
Serge Gnabry will be hoping to force his way back into the first XI ahead of either Leroy Sane, Jamal Musiala or Kingsley Coman, while Lewandowski will continue to lead the line.
Freiburg possible starting lineup:
Flekken; Schmid, Gulde, N. Schlotterbeck, Gunter; Hofler, Eggerstein; Sallai, Holer, Grifo; Demirovic
Bayern Munich possible starting lineup:
Neuer; Pavard, Nianzou, Upamecano, Hernandez; Kimmich; Gnabry, Musiala, Muller, Sane; Lewandowski
Although Freiburg and Bayern currently boast the best two defensive records this season, they have both looked vulnerable at the back in recent weeks, which will give their respective attacks confidence of finding the net on Saturday.
The visitors are understandably the favourites for this fixture, but we feel that a closely-fought contest is set to be played out, and Streich’s men may do enough to claim a hard-fought point in front of their home supporters.
Barcelona’s bid to strengthen their reserve ranks continues as they are now closing in on another youth signing.
Indeed, according to Florian Plettenburg of Sky Germany, the Blaugrana are close to completing the capture of Bayern Munich midfield prodigy Kenan Yildiz with negotiations over a deal in advanced stages.
The 16-year-old attacking midfielder has been on the books of Bayern Munich since 2012 and has progressed rapidly through the youth ranks at the Bavarian outfit. While he is yet to make his senior bow, the teenager has been a regular fixture for the club’s U-17 as well as the U-19 outfits.
Yildiz has racked up 19 appearances across all competitions and age-group levels in the ongoing campaign, producing an impressive tally of six goals and eight assists. The prodigious starlet also has ten appearances for the Turkish U-17 national team, for whom he has three goals.
Yildiz’s current contract with Bayern Munich stands to expire at the end of the season and the midfielder is set to call it time in Bavaria and move to Catalonia, by signing for Barcelona.
The 16-year-old shares the same agent as Barça’s first-team members Ferran Torres and Pedri, which certainly will have helped in negotiations. Talks are believed to be in the final stages and an announcement could be made once the agreement is finalised.
Yildiz is expected to join up with Barcelona’s B team, much like another prodigy that the Catalans have recently signed in the form of Pablo Torre, who will join the club from Racing Santander at the end of the season.
Arsenal’s hopes of keeping William Saliba put into perspective by Didier Deschamps call-up plus PSG and Bayern Munich context.
It would be a struggle to find a player having never made their senior competitive debut for Arsenal talked about as much as William Saliba. The expectation and attention on the 21-year-old are at a generational level.
Never have Arsenal had a player in this age bracket, with such little experience and assurances that has captured the focus of so much of the supporter base. Players like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez have been obsessed over for different reasons of course but both earned plenty of appearances for the club.
The idea that Saliba might never make that fabled debut for the Gunners appears a thought too painful or ridiculous to consider for some. In fairness, from what has been seen of the player, there are plenty of arguments to support, rightly, that he is good enough to be an Arsenal player.
READ MORE: William Saliba told to seek Arsenal ‘answers and guarantee’ from Mikel Arteta by Emmanuel Petit
Yet Saliba himself appears now at peace with what has occurred and is very open to what the future holds. Didier Deschamps has now given him an even greater assurance of his quality and it is this which has turned the tables on his Arsenal future.
A 21-year-old centre-half starting for France but not able to be guaranteed regular starts in the Arsenal first-team opens a door for a potential move. There will be no club unaware of who and how good William Saliba is and can become.
Saliba himself will want guarantees. football.london spoke exclusively to Emmanuel Petit who backed this and said if he were the defender, he too would have expectations that he feels Arsenal cannot provide.
“He is in the first eleven with Marseille, he is playing every single game. He is probably the [most used]. As I said, if you ask him to come back to Arsenal then he will need guarantees,” said Petit.
“If you tell him I want you to come back because of what you’ve done for Marseille, this is not enough for me. If I am Saliba, this is not enough. Because this is my career as well. I am very happy to be an Arsenal player, but I want you to show me confidence and on top of it more importantly I want you to play me. I don’t want to be on the bench because when I look at White and Gabriel , they are very good together so it would be difficult to be in the middle of them.
“Even knowing that Marseille is playing with different systems tactically, he can play with three in defence. Or four, or five in defence. He adapts himself so much. But now, Arsenal with Arteta their system is the same game after game. So, there are so many questions, if I am Saliba I am asking so many questions. Maybe I would love to come back to England and play for Arsenal but there is no guarantee of that.”
Some argue that the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool are able to keep a collection of centre-halves happy without giving guarantees over playing time. However, this, at present, is simply not comparable to Arsenal who are in a completely separate bracket and cannot provide the incentive of annual title challenges and Champions League-winning targets.
Players are more willing to have their time rotating if the end result is the chance to win the biggest trophies. Saliba could one day be at an Arsenal that are fighting for that, but right now Arsenal cannot give that assurance. The hope will be in the near future they can elevate themselves to a place where that is their reality, but it is not right now.
Therefore, when another major club, be it Juventus, PSG or Bayern Munich for example, can offer Saliba not only title challenges and Champions League ambitions year-on-year, it makes a switch very attractive. Plus, these clubs have the luxury of being able to offer Saliba more minutes than Arsenal.
That might seem mad but considering PSG and Bayern in particular have been able to field young stars, who at a Premier League side the opportunities would be far less frequent. This is because the level of these hyper clubs is so much higher than that of their domestic competitors.
Ben White and Gabriel Magalhaes would not be displaced by Saliba at present based on this season’s performances and the consistent level that they have all shown. One day certainly there is scope for Saliba to be a better player than both. But is he going to get the time at Arsenal with White and Gabriel there to achieve that? Not likely.
Whereas at Bayern, Julian Nagelsmann could happily invest regular starts in Saliba over Dayot Upamecano, Lucas Hernandez or Tanguy Nianzou with little worry of the level of opposition giving them too many troubles. The Premier League level demands that clubs like Arsenal put out their best available side every single week or face being punished.
PSG too could swap out Marquinhos, Sergio Ramos or Presnel Kimpembe to invest time in Saliba with very few Ligue 1 sides able to take advantage of the risk taken by the Parisians to throw him in. This is the reality.
For Arsenal’s benefit, I hope that Saliba stays and flourishes. I hope he is willing to fight with White and Gabriel for a spot and there will still be opportunities, plenty of them, with European competition back on the agenda. But, if Saliba wants guarantees of starting regularly from next season then Arsenal would be fair to shake their heads and not make false promises.
Serge Gnabry should reject a potential return to Arsenal and sign a new contract with Bayern Munich instead.
That’s according to Bayern legend Markus Babbel, who has urged the German winger to forget about moving back to the Premier League.
Gnabry, 26, faces an uncertain future with just one year left on his current contract at the Allianz Arena.
Previous reports have claimed former Bayern defender David Alaba has urged the Germany international to quit the Bundesliga champions and join him at Real Madrid.
Other news outlets say Arsenal are running the rule over the former West Brom loanee, who left the Emirates six years ago.
A product of the Arsenal academy, Gnabry won the FA Cup with the Gunners in 2014, but decided against staying in north London.
He eventually headed back to his homeland in search of regular first-team football, signing a surprise deal with Bayern where he has since won three German top flight titles.
Now, according to Football.London, former Gunner could leave Munich and seal a return to the Premier League.
His compatriot Babbel, however, insists the star should stay put at Bayern and forget about re-joining Arsenal.
Asked whether Gnabry could sign for the London club, given his contract situation, Babbel told The Sun: “I hope not.
“I hope he stays with Bayern Munich because at the minute all the German media are talking about [Robert] Lewandowski, [Thomas] Muller and [Manuel] Neuer.
“But they never say Gnabry is also at risk with his contract running out in 2023.
“If you have to sign four players like this, that’s massive baggage for Bayern.