Bayern Munich must host Schalke behind closed doors in Friday’s opening game of the new Bundesliga season as the defending champions begin their hunt for a ninth straight league title minus playmaker Thiago Alcantara and with Kingsley Coman in quarantine.
On Thursday, it was confirmed that Spain midfielder Alcantara is joining Liverpool, meaning Bayern have lost four of the squad which won last month’s Champions League final.
Ivan Perisic, Philippe Coutinho and Alvaro Odriozola have returned to Inter, Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively after their loan deals expired.
After seven league titles in as many years with Bayern, Alcantara’s farewell was “very emotional”, said coach Hansi Flick. “Everyone was sad when he said goodbye.”
The European champions, who won the treble last season, still hope to make fresh signings before the transfer window closes on October 5.
“Things are currently very tight, but we don’t want to complain,” Flick said referring to squad numbers.
There was more bad news as plans to welcome a limited crowd of 7,500 to the Allianz Arena were blocked by the mayor of Munich, because of a rising rate of coronavirus infections.
However, set numbers of fans are expected for the first time since March at other Bundesliga matches over the weekend.
The individual crowd numbers will depend on permission from each club’s local health authority.
Bayern are also without Coman who scored the winner in the Champions League final but is now self-isolating after coming into contact with someone infected with Covid-19.
“He won’t play,” confirmed Flick, who said Coman has already returned “three or four” negative tests for the virus.
Flick hopes to have the France international back for Bayern’s UEFA Super Cup showdown against Europa League holders Sevilla next Thursday in Budapest.
That match is due to go ahead even with the Hungarian capital on the German government’s risk list.
Despite the off-field distractions, Bayern are focused on picking up where they left off last season.
They ended the campaign on an all-conquering 21-match winning run, which they aim to extend against cash-strapped Schalke, whose mounting debts were exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re on the right track and I expect the team to keep it up. We face opponents who are looking for their chances,” said Flick.
Germany winger Leroy Sane is set to make his Bayern debut after signing from Manchester City while Schalke will be without injured defenders Matija Nastasic and Salif Sane.
Bayern’s rivals Borussia Dortmund are set to welcome back skipper Marco Reus after a lengthy injury break.
Last season’s runners-up hope to host 10,000 supporters, a fraction of Signal Iduna Park’s 81,000-capacity, against fellow Champions League side Borussia Moenchengladbach on Saturday night.
After 222 days sidelined by a leg injury, Reus needed just three seconds to score the fastest goal by a replacement in the German Cup on Monday.
England Under-21 midfielder Jude Bellingham is set to make his Bundesliga debut after signing from Birmingham City.
Gladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria, who has been linked to Liverpool, is injured but forwards Alassane Plea and Marcus Thuram could be options off the bench after shaking off knocks.
One to watch: Erling Braut Haaland
The 20-year-old has scored 16 goals in 19 games since January and is convinced Dortmund can end Bayern’s domination of the league.
“We have the quality to become champions, but talking about it is not enough,” Haaland told magazine Sport Bild.
For Dortmund to seriously threaten Bayern, Haaland needs to rekindle his partnership with England winger Jadon Sancho, who bagged 17 goals with 16 assists last season.
9 — months since Bayern Munich’s 2-1 away defeat to Borussia Moenchengladbach in December 2019, their last loss in any competition.
16 — matches without a league win for Schalke, an unwanted club record.