Joshua Kimmich’s red card early on in the 8-0 victory over Darmstadt during Matchday 9 means the Bayern Munich ace will miss the next two Bundesliga matches, including the highly anticipated Klassiker against Borussia Dortmund. bundesliga.com looks at Thomas Tuchel’s options to replace him.
Less than four minutes were on the clock when Kimmich hauled down Marvin Mehlem as the midfielder bore down on goal and, while Bayern went on to win by eight goals – in part thanks to two Darmstadt dismissals – the Germany international will be a spectator as his side travel to the Signal Iduna Park.
The 28-year-old has missed 15 games since the start of the 2019/20 campaign, when he fully transitioned into a defensive midfielder. Bayern have a solid record across those encounters, winning 11 and losing just once, but the loss of one of his leaders leaves Tuchel with a headache.
As such, we take a look at the solutions at his disposal.
1) The obvious
Having started each of the last two matches, Konrad Laimer is almost guaranteed to begin the contest, especially with Bayern short of natural midfielders. Leon Goretzka, meanwhile, missed the Darmstadt encounter with a broken hand, but, remarkably, is already back in training and is therefore in contention to line up alongside the Austrian on Saturday evening.
Kimmich and Goretzka form a well-oiled machine which has been a key element of Bayern’s last four Bundesliga titles. Goretzka and Laimer's partnership, however, is thus far an unknown phenomenon. While the two played together from the start during the 7-0 win over Bochum, Kimmich was also present.
Should the duo both be selected, Goretzka could well slot into Kimmich’s role. The former Schalke man is at his best when providing an extra option in the final third, but with a 90.08 percent pass completion rate this term, a number only slightly behind Kimmich’s 90.69 percent, he is comfortable in possession and can dictate the play. Laimer, meanwhile, possesses incredible work rate and stamina, and is a valid box-to-box option.
2) The compromise
If Goretzka, for whatever reason, still hasn’t fully recovered by the time Tuchel names his side, Jamal Musiala may be asked to drop back and partner Laimer instead. This would require a lot of discipline considering the 20-year-old’s offensive-minded nature, but Die Roten could use it to their advantage and he has shown previously that he can play deeper.
Watch: Musiala discusses 2022/23 title-clincher
With 12 goals and 10 assists last term in the top flight, Musiala was the only Bundesliga player alongside Eintracht Frankfurt’s Randal Kolo Muani to rack up at least 10 goals and as many assists. At his best taking on opponents from a number 10 position, asking the youngster to create from deep would somewhat restrict him.
Having sad that, central midfield, or even defensive midfield, is not a foreign concept to the 25-time Germany international. When Kimmich missed six weeks of the 2020/21 term, Musiala effectively replaced him, with then head coach Julian Nagelsmann saying, “I'm annoyed that I didn’t test him at six. I should have done that earlier.”
3) The wildcard
Tuchel may ultimately decide he cannot afford to do without Musiala’s attacking instinct, which would still leave him with a dilemma lower down the pitch. Step forward Matthijs de Ligt, who could be asked to move up from his favoured centre-back role.
Earlier this campaign, Tuchel introduced the Netherlands international as Kimmich’s replacement when the latter was brought off late on in the 2-2 draw with Bayer Leverkusen. Admittedly, De Ligt has rarely played beyond the backline at the highest level, but he did so on occasion in youth football for both club and country.
As an outstanding defender with an imposing 6’2” frame, the Dutchman would certainly not be bullied. His current boss explained his decision versus Die Werkself, saying: “We were looking for stability and strength in duels that Matthijs de Ligt brings onto the pitch.”
The Klassiker, especially in front of Dortmund’s raucous home crowd, has the potential to be an incredibly tense affair, and having a strong presence, whose composure in possession must not be underrated, could help neutralise a side that are unbeaten in their last 17 Bundesliga outings.
Poll: Who will win Der Klassiker?
How will Germany line up at Euro 2024?
Germany have been drawn together with Scotland, Hungary and Switzerland in Group A for next summer's UEFA Euro 2024. How will Julian Nagelsmann's side line up?
Jamal Musiala purring as Bayern attack hits its stride
The Germany international is relishing taking on more responsibility and developing a relationship with Harry Kane.
Which star duels will decide Der Klassiker?
bundesliga.com outlines the key battles of fine footballing might that look set the sway the outcome of the first Klassiker of 2023/24.