Bright Arrey-Mbi, Chris Richards and Malik Tillman have been included in Bayern Munich's UEFA Champions League squad for their last-16 clash with Chelsea, with a view to featuring in the final eight in Lisbon.
Due to the Coronavirus and the consequent pause in European football, this season's Champions League has been transformed, with the eight quarter-finalists descending on Portugal for single-leg ties all the way through to the 23 August final.
Should Bayern successfully see off their English Premier League opponents, either Napoli or Barcelona would lie in wait on 14 August. Real Madrid, Manchester City, Lyon or Juventus are potential semi-final opponents on 19 August, and for an extraordinary period of fixtures, Hansi Flick has called upon a trio of emerging stars to boost the ranks of his Bundesliga winners.
Watch: Bayern's title journey
"In addition to those who were already [in the Champions League squad], Malik Tillman and Bright Arrey-Mbi will be included," Flick said. "If we reach the final tournament in Lisbon, then they will be coming with us too.
"You've also got to add Chris Richards to that. It was important that he spent a bit of time with his family, but when he comes back in the next few days, he will have to undergo a few tests and then he'll join the team."
With the addition of USA U23 international Richards, US-eligible Tillman and 17-year-old German-English defender Arrey-Mbi, Flick is satisfied he has a "big squad with huge quality, and that gives me a great choice of players."
Who are the three young stars who have been added to Bayern's squad?
Country: USA (U23)
To be the best, you must beat the best and that is a mantra which has helped Richards develop into a serious prospect for Flick since becoming a regular member of the first team's training sessions last season. What better a way for a defender to sharpen his senses than by trying to stop five-time Bundesliga top-scorer Robert Lewandowski every day of the week? Since former Bayern coach Niko Kovac first gave him that honour during pre-season two years ago, Richards – who joined Bayern in 2018 after a successful trial from FC Dallas – has been honing his skills to the point of making his Bundesliga debut in the penultimate fixture of last season. "Since they’ve been training with us, their quality has continually increased,” Flick said after Richards' top-tier debut against Freiburg. That was reward for his consistent performances in Bayern's third division-winning reserves, for whom he made 30 appearances last season and scored four goals. While most of those came at centre-back, his first seven starts were at right full-back, which is where he could figure against Chelsea, given the injury-enforced absence of Benjamin Pavard.
Position: Striker/attacking midfielder
Country: Germany (U18)
As Richards shored things up at the back for Bayern's reserves, Tillman arrived late in the season, after scoring 14 for Bayern's U19s, to get the Bavarians over the line as champions of Germany's third division. His five goals in eight outings will come as no surprise to those who have tracked his progress since he joined the Bayern academy as a 13-year-old, however. Fifteen goals in 37 appearances as captain of Bayern's U17s helped them win the U17-Bundesliga Süd/Südwest two years running, before his promotion to the U19s – also as captain – saw similar returns, in terms both of goals and, in the season just ended, the title. It only stands to reason, therefore, that he would add another title to his collection with Bayern's reserves, and that he could complete a personal 2019/20 treble by becoming a Champions League winner in August, having just turned 18 in May. Germany and the USA, both of whom he has represented at youth level due to his parentage, will be keeping an avid eye on his progress in Portugal, should he help Bayern get there.
Country: Germany (5 caps for U17s), England (8 caps U15s)
Another country-level fight is bound to rage for Arrey-Mbi, who earned eligibility for England during six years in the UK while on the books of Bayern's next opponents Chelsea. The 17-year-old will be keen to show The Blues what they let get away, and vindicate Bayern's inspired move for him a year ago, when they meet at the Allianz Arena. A left-footed centre-back with assured distribution, Arrey-Mbi's solid performances for Bayern's U19s last season – playing two categories above his actual age – have forced him into Flick's thoughts. "Bright's already a beast," said teammate Joshua Kimmich, who has welcomed him into first-team training. "You can tell that he uses every muscle on his body. It surprised me in training that he's not shy at all. He really goes into challenges and has a certain calmness on the ball." Coming from Kimmich, those words certainly carry considerable weight for the youngster.