Set for the most challenging defence yet of their seven-season grip on the Meisterschale, Bayern Munich could do without the growing injury list that Serge Gnabry’s Achilles issue only adds to.
Gnabry joins a crowded treatment room at the Allianz Arena, where Nicklas Süle (anterior cruciate ligament) is a long-term absentee, while Lucas Hernandez (ankle), Kingsley Coman (knee), Robert Lewandowski (groin) and Javi Martinez (thigh) are also currently sidelined.
Lewandowski and Hernandez are on the mend but Flick has stated the need for fresh faces, especially after losing Gnabry; Bayern’s 2018/19 Player of the Season, who has reaffirmed his importance to the team at the start of 2019/20 with six goals and six assists in the Bundesliga.
Watch: Serge Gnabry in the form of his life
"We definitely need reinforcements,” said Flick from Bayern’s training camp in Qatar, where Gnabry picked up his injury. “I'm thinking of at least two players - definitely one for the defence and maybe also for the wing. Due to Joshua Kimmich's suspension, we currently have only 10 established outfield players available for the start in Berlin."
As Flick rightly points out, there is cause for concern on the wings, where injuries to Gnabry and Coman appear far reaching. With the reigning champions third in the table and four points off league-leaders RB Leipzig, Bayern’s Bundesliga crown is clearly under genuine threat. However, they needn’t rush to open the cheque book just yet.
In Philippe Coutinho, Thomas Müller and Ivan Perisic, the Bayern tactician can call upon a combined 249 international caps to deploy behind league top-scorer Lewandowski - a trio that oozes quality, goals and fluidity, and would be the envy of sides the world over.
Müller has thrived under Flick so far and become a talisman for the 54-year-old, culminating in the 2014 FIFA World Cup winner laying on a Bundesliga-record 11 assists in a single Hinrunde going into the winter break. He has done so predominantly from his preferred central role behind Lewandowski and could remain in support of the Poland captain, or operate from the right. This season, the 30-year-old has already provided assists in both 2-1 defeats to Borussia Mönchengladbach and Hoffenheim, when played out wide.
That would allow Bayern to accommodate Coutinho in the hole, the Brazil international also shining under Flick who, unlike predecessor Niko Kovac, has happily found space to fit both Coutinho and Müller in the same lineup. The returns are obvious, with Bayern winning eight out of 10 matches when they have been on the pitch together at some stage. And while both would prefer to operate in tandem from a central role, they are more than capable of flourishing from the wings.
But Coutinho has also made an art of drifting inside from the left to cause havoc while ambitious full-backs overlap him, the 27-year-old doing so to devastating effect as he bagged a first hat-trick in the red of Bayern from the left in the 6-1 mauling of Werder Bremen on Matchday 15. In that same game, Coutinho laid on two of the other three goals, including the fifth for Müller.
Watch: Philippe Coutinho's stunning lob wins December Goal of the Month
And once you throw Perisic into the mix, their versatility means that each can drift across the forward line. The Croatian international is so two-footed that he can cut inside and shoot or go on the outside and cross from both wings. Thus far, Perisic has done so solely from the left, contributing three league goals and two assists in Coman’s stead. As for Perisic’s ability from the right, he and Eintracht Frankfurt’s Ante Rebic swapped left-for-right and vice versa in the 2018 FIFA World Cup final during which Perisic scored a stunning volley to make the scores 1-1 at the time before Croatia eventually lost to France.
All three can call upon invaluable experience as Bayern go in pursuit of a ninth-successive league title, but there are also younger talents pushing for a place and to unleash their fearlessness on the German top-flight. Alphonso Davies (19) and Joshua Zirkzee (18) are two teenagers who have excelled thanks to the trust and opportunity afforded them by Flick and their progression is already "motivating" other youngsters in the squad that now see a clear pathway to the first team.
With Hernandez back in light training in Doha, Davies himself could be granted his wish of being moved to his preferred place up top if Flick shifts David Alaba from deputising for Süle at centre-back out to left-back. The Canada international's searing pace, quality delivery and composure in front of goal make him a fine option, supported by him looking entirely at home - while out of position - in the Bayern starting XI, and further strengthened by his single Bundesliga strike coming from left wing in the 6-1 win over Mainz earlier this season.
Beyond these two breakout teens, there is even more talent quite literally waiting in the wings. Flick named Sarpreet Singh (20), Leon Dajaku and Oliver Batista Meier (both 18) among the substitutes for the win over Wolfsburg and all three offer exciting depth to the Coutinho-Muller-Perisic trifecta after making the permanent step-up to the first team.
Dajaku has three goals and four assists from the right wing of the Bayern reserves in the third tier this season and was a late substitute for Gnabry in that win over the Wolves. New Zealand international Singh, meanwhile, has grown into a central midfield berth with Bayern's second string this term but, naturally, is an attacking midfielder most similar to Gnabry in terms of how he likes to run out-to-in, off the No.9.
As for Batista Meier - a left-sided player and the only one of the three yet to be handed a Bundesliga debut by Flick - the Germany U19 international has five goals and five assists in just eight appearances for Bayern's U19s in 2019/20 and a further two goals and an assist for the reserves.
They are all loudly knocking on Flick's door for regular first-team football and are becoming harder and harder to ignore by a coach that has already proven more than willing to give youth a chance. Should the established trio turn it on like we know they can, and the youngsters take any chance Flick hands them, Bayern may well reap massive short and long term rewards without a penny being spent.