A shame we won’t get to run the rule over gossip-column regular Kai Havertz, who has been linked with just about every club under the sun. The 20-year-old prodigy limped off towards the end of the game at Freiburg, having scored the match-winning goal. Leverkusen manager Peter Bosz had insisted his leading scorer (11) would be back up and running for this one, but apparently he aggravated a muscle tweak in training, so that’s that. But the hosts will be giving it a good go regardless: they’ve thrown three up front, and it’s worth remembering that Leon Bailey has been Bayern’s chief tormentor of late, with three goals in the last two meetings. Bayern Munich, meanwhile, are Bayern Munich.
Bayer Leverkusen: Hradecky, Tapsoba, S Bender, Dragovic, Amiri, Aranguiz, Baumgartlinger, Bailey, Bellarabi, Alario, Diaby.
Subs: Ozcan, Tah, Paulinho, Demirbay, Wendell, Weiser, Palacios, Wirtz, Volland.
Bayern Munich: Neuer, Pavard, Boateng, Alaba, Davies, Kimmich, Goretzka, Gnabry, Muller, Coman, Lewandowski.
Subs: Ulreich, Odriozola, Thiago, Martinez, Perisic, Hernandez, Singh, Zirkzee.
A big blow for Leverkusen, as Kai Havertz misses out with a muscle injury. He’s one of four changes to the side selected for the 1-0 win at Freiburg. Daley Sinkgraven is also missing, while Jonathan Tah and Florian Wirtz drop to the bench. Stepping up: Edmond Tapsoba, Karim Bellarabi, Lucas Alario and Moussa Diaby.
Bayern make one change to the XI that thrashed Fortuna Dusseldorf 5-0 this time last week. Jerome Boateng replaces Lucas Hernandez at the back.
It’s fourth versus first as Bayern Munich, closing in on their 30th German championship, travel to Bayer Leverkusen. The reigning champions have won all four of their matches since the big restart, to the aggregate tune of 13-3. They’ve won 18 of their last 19. And Robert Lewandowski is bang in form, to the point where everyone’s wondering whether he can find 12 goals in the last five Bundesliga fixtures to top Gerd Muller’s record 40-goal haul of 1971/72. Their hosts, by comparison, lost their last home fixture 4-1 to Wolfsburg. Bayern are favourites today, as they usually are.
That’s one way of painting it. Another would be to point out that Leverkusen are on a two-game winning run against Bayern, and are looking to make it three in a row for the first time in their history. They won this fixture 3-1 last season, and beat Bayern 2-1 on their own turf in November. Leon Bailey, a goalscoring hero in both of those matches, might not even get into the Leverkusen XI today. Leverkusen are pushing for a Champions League spot, level on points with fourth-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach, and with a game in hand. And then there’s Kai Havertz, German football’s newest big hope, who can see Lewandowski’s four goals since the restart, and raise him with five.
In short, this could be fun. It’s also live … and it’s on! Kick off’s at 3.30pm at the BayArena, Leverkusen, North Rhine-Westphalia; 2.30pm in the UK money.