Will already through Bayern do Man City a Champions League favour?
With rather routine Bundesliga battles that includes Augsburg, Freiburg and Mainz to come before their winter break, Bayern Munich’s Champions League clash with CSKA Moscow is the last major outing of the calendar year for Pep Guardiola.
The Allianz Arena outfit are already through as winners of their group, so there is no incentive, other than being fair to fellow pool members Roma and Manchester City (11/10 with Coral to advance to the knockout phase), to field a strong team against CSKA Moscow.
How many of his first-string, from what admittedly is a squad with real strength in depth, will Bayern boss Guardiola send out against CSKA? Munich remain decimated in defensive areas, with David Alaba, Holger Badstuber, club captain Philipp Lahm and Javi Martinez all on the long-term injury list.
At the back, then, unless he bloods youth, Guardiola only has Juan Bernat, Jerome Boateng, Dante and Rafinha fit, while Mehdi Benatia is banned. The midfield situation is eased slightly by vice-captain Bastian Schweinsteiger’s return from injury, though Thiago Alcantara remains sidelined.
Engine room berths may thus go to talented teenagers Gianluca Gaudino and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, with the latter a 7/4 anytime scorer chance here. On forward fronts, Claudio Pizarro apart, everyone is available. So, will Guardiola go with all guns blazing up front, even though his XI will be down to bare bones in defence?
This looks to be the perfect opportunity to give Switzerland star Xherdan Shaqiri a start, and he is 2/1 to score anytime against Moscow. On the flanks, meanwhile, former Cologne player Mitchell Weiser could play a part, and is a 15/2 chance in the same market.
Guardiola has been advising the Japanese rugby union team ahead of that sport’s World Cup, but to suggest this means his gaze is on things other than Bayern does the man a great disservice. Much has been written about permutations and doing City a favour in this group, but Munich remain strong odds-on 2/7 favourites to win this match, and 3/1 to lift the Champions League.