Reigning Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich play host to Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga on Sunday afternoon.
The visitors will likely be on a damage limitation exercise after Bayern hit five past RB Leipzig and six past Eintracht Frankfurt in their first two games of the competitive season.
Indeed, Bayern have begun the season in scintillating fashion, with Sadio Mane taking no time at all to settle in following his £35m move from Liverpool.
There was always a nagging feeling that, despite being a brilliant individual goalscorer, Robert Lewandowski was a little too static for Julian Nagelsmann‘s preferred playing style. With Mane leading the line, Bayern already look a more fluid attacking unit.
This was on full display for Bayern’s fourth goal of their 6-1 rout away to Frankfurt last Friday, with Mane dropping deep before bullying the attentions of an opposing defender. The Senegal forward expertly waited for the precise moment to slip in Thomas Muller, who squared the ball for Jamal Musiala to tap home from close range.
The unselfishness of world-class players was something to behold in Bayern’s opening league victory. Sure, it became easier to play with freedom after Joshua Kimmich and Benjamin Pavard had given the visitors a two-goal cushion with two brilliant strikes in the early exchanges, but Serge Gnabry elected to square the ball on several occasions rather than shoot himself, most notably when Muller missed an open goal and Mane scored a trademark diving header on his Bundesliga debut.
After Gnabry made it five before half-time, the only blemish from the trip to Frankfurt was Manuel Neuer – who was undoubtedly bored by the lack of action he faced before the interval – dallying on the ball and scuppering his chances of a clean sheet in the process by allowing Randal Kolo to rob him and tap into an empty net from the edge of the area.
It remains to be seen how long Bayern can continue to play this well for, but the early signs are already ominous for the rest of the Bundesliga.
One man who knows all about Bayern’s quality is Niko Kovac, who led the Bavarians to a domestic double in 2019 before departing the club later that year after a disappointing start to the following season.
Now in charge of Wolfsburg, the former Croatia defender’s first league game in charge did not exactly go to plan against Werder Bremen at home last week, with his side drawing 2-2 against the newly-promoted outfit.
Former Manchester City striker Lukas Nmecha gave the hosts an early lead by chipping the ball over the onrushing Jiri Pavlenka, but Bremen fired back through Niclas Fullkrug‘s strike from distance and Leonardo Bittencourt‘s superb header before the break.
Substitute Joshua Guilavogui spared his side’s blushes late on, at least, as the midfielder rescued a point by finishing nicely from the second ball of a corner. However, the Wolves will require a much stronger showing if they are to avoid a heavy defeat in Munich on Sunday.
Nagelsmann is extremely unlikely to change the starting XI which has thumped Leipzig 5-3 and Frankfurt 6-1 in the opening weeks of the campaign.
That means new signings Matthijs de Ligt, Ryan Gravenberch and Noussair Mazraoui are all likely to be on the bench once again, although Nagelsmann did reward the trio with their Bundesliga debuts during the second half in Frankfurt last Friday.
Marcel Sabitzer will continue alongside Kimmich in midfield in the absence of Leon Goretzka, who remains unavailable due to a knee injury, while Kingsley Coman is still suspended.
Leroy Sane will feature from the bench again at some stage, with the in-form Musiala preferred as part of a flourishing attacking unit.
Wolfsburg, meanwhile, will travel without the injured pair of Yannick Gerhardt and Jonas Wind, who scored in the 2-2 draw away to Bayern in May.
Guilavogui may have earned himself a starting spot in midfield after scoring from the bench to rescue a point against Bremen in Kovac’s first league game in charge, with Josip Brekalo potentially making way as the 50-year-old looks to beef up his side’s engine room.
The passing ability of Patrick Wimmer will be crucial in order to find the runs of Nmecha and Omar Marmoush, who should both receive the nod ahead of the ageing Max Kruse in attack.
Bayern Munich possible starting lineup:
Neuer; Pavard, Upamecano, Hernandez, Davies; Kimmich, Sabitzer; Musiala, Muller, Gnabry; Mane
Wolfsburg possible starting lineup:
Casteels; Baku, Bornauw, Lacroix, Van de Ven; Arnold, Guilavogui, Svanberg; Wimmer, Nmecha, Marmoush