Bayern München will be without Jérôme Boateng for up to three months due to an adductor injury; Philip Röber assesses Josep Guardiola's defensive options in his absence.
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As the initial shock of Jérôme Boateng's injury is absorbed, the Bayern München camp are quickly assessing their options for the next two to three months, which the German international will miss because of an adductor problem picked up in the weekend win at Hamburg.
Boateng's absence is a major blow and sugarcoating the issue by looking at a rather large group of versatile defenders who could act as replacements only works to a certain degree. Boateng's significance to Bayern was summed up by Matthias Sammer last year. "There's no question he's the best defender in the world," said the club's sporting director. "His whole development has been amazing. He has stabilised his play and now he is a complete player."
Medhi Benatia and Holger Badstuber, both reliable and up to the task of helping Bayern in key ties such as the upcoming UEFA Champions League round of 16 encounter with Juventus, should be able to get the job done if they remain free of injury. However, Badstuber has only started three Bundesliga games this season, and Benatia's fifth and last start came in early December.
Without their defensive kingpin, Bayern will have to make adjustments. Boateng's pace, dangerous long balls into space for Robert Lewandowski and towering presence cannot be replaced by one player alone.
But when improvising, David Alaba, Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso make for decent centre-backs who are all capable of launching attacks. Javi Martínez, meanwhile, established himself as Boateng's first-choice partner before Christmas, so there is no need to panic buy in the last few days of the transfer window.
Change of team approach?
Boateng would have played the majority of matches given his status as the most valuable defender, not only for Bayern but arguably in German football. His injury is unlikely to change Josep Guardiola's tendency to make constant tactical changes to his back line, either during the game or as a pre-match strategy to counter the opponents' system.
Expect there to be a fair number of matches in which Bayern will set up with a back three, although Boateng's injury could also have an impact on Bayern's attackers. So often the team's insurance policy, his absence might also encourage the team's more attack-minded players to be more efficient chasing the ball high up after being dispossessed.