Bayern Munich interim coach Hansi Flick is confident that Canadian teenager Alphonso Davies is up to the challenge of facing Borussia Dortmund in the hotly anticipated Klassiker meeting this weekend.
Flick, who replaced Niko Kovac in the Bayern hotseat this past week, fielded Davies at left-back in a four-man defence in his first game at the helm on Wednesday, a 2-0 UEFA Champions League win at home to Olympiacos.
And with regular centre-backs Niklas Süle and Lucas Hernandez both out injured and Jerome Boateng suspended following his sending off against Eintracht Frankfurt last weekend, Bayern go into the crunch meeting with Dortmund with a new-look defence.
And at his pre-match press conference on Friday, Flick hinted that he is likely to stick with the same backline, especially as the team kept their first clean sheet in nine games – since a 4-0 thrashing of Cologne on 21 September.
“On Tuesday I said that I want to play the back four so that they can get into the groove,” he said. “Against Olympiacos it was good that we focused on defence and the team did it well […] when you have a good defence, it’s better for the attack. We’re still concentrating on defence as we’ve conceded too many goals recently.”
As such, that could mean a second successive start at left-back for Davies, with David Alaba playing alongside Javi Martinez in the centre, and Benjamin Pavard at right-back. “We’ve done a lot of analysis recently and I’m very confident that Davies can fulfill the role,” Flick said when asked about the 19-year-old. “He’s got enough speed to nullify Hakimi.”
In-form Hakimi, after all, is expected to begin on the right for Dortmund, having scored a brace in their 3-2 comeback win over Inter Milan during the week, and with both Marco Reus and Jadon Sancho doubts with injury.
Bayern have plenty of attacking firepower of their own, though, including Thomas Müller, who has started the team’s last two games following a number of weeks with a bit-part role as a substitute. And the 30-year-old has already made quite an impression on Flick, who praised the 7.83 miles he covered against Olympiacos as “a massive number”.
“I’ve known Thomas a long time,” Flick said last week. “He’s important for the club and has won everything you can win as a footballer. He’s an important figure off the pitch, and on it he’s someone who can get everyone going.”