Carlo Ancelotti prepares thin Bayern squad to meet Guardiola's new charges
"Meet the new boss, same as the old boss," crooned rock legends The Who in their worldwide hit "Won't Get Fooled Again". These lyrics may ring true for Bayern Munich fans as new supremo Carlo Ancelotti faces former coach Pep Guardiola and Manchester City on his home debut in Munich on Wednesday.
When a high-profile coach of the calibre of Guardiola departs your club, you might expect a downgrade. But this is far from the case at Bayern as the affable Italian assumes control from the tetchier Catalan. Proven trophy winners throughout their careers, both these statesmen of the game bask in the same glowing reputation. As a player and coach, Guardiola has amassed 38 titles while the more understated Ancelotti can point to a mere 32.
Quite rightly, though, they sit proudly in the same top-level coaching bracket, among the self-appointed "Special Ones" and "Normal Ones". Their elevated status means they have to cope with the same lofty expectations. Guardiola departed Bavaria a few weeks ago following two domestic doubles in three seasons. Yet three successive Champions League semifinal exits have vaguely tarnished his legacy.
Bundesliga success is a given at Bayern, even more so now following four titles in a row. After leading Real Madrid to La Decima in 2014, the 57-year-old Ancelotti arrives rested in Munich after enjoying a sabbatical comparable to Guardiola's after his trophy-collecting frenzy at Barcelona. Realistically, the only question for Ancelotti to answer during his tenure is whether he can outdo Guardiola and deliver Bayern the Champions League.
But plans for European domination will have to wait, as Ancelotti's reign begins despite 12 absentees from the squad, who are recharging their batteries after Euro 2016 and the Copa America. The Bavarians boasted the most players in the semifinals (8) at the Euros, all of whom are entitled to three weeks' rest and relaxation. Rather disappointingly perhaps for Bayern's American fans, the likes of Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng, Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller, Joshua Kimmich and Mario Gotze will all miss Bayern's tour to the U.S.
However, shorn of the Copa and Euro stars, it's far from a skeleton squad at Ancelotti's disposal against Guardiola's City. World Cup winners Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso will be there to shore things up, while Franck Ribery will provide the creative spark. Bayern's record signing Javi Martinez and twice-capped Brazilian Rafinha will add further solidity. Julian Green, banished to the reserves under Guardiola, will also get a chance to impress his new boss.
But Bayern will once again have to make do without the brittle Arjen Robben, who'll miss the start of the season. On his first outing in more than four months on Saturday, the Dutchman aggravated a groin injury at chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge's home club Lippstadt. The 32-year-old had battled to overcome the niggling injury during the summer months, while a majority of the squad were away on international duty. The portents are not good for the injury-prone winger, who's expected to be out for six weeks.
Meanwhile, Gotze still remains a Bayern player. But, after three largely disappointing seasons, the much-maligned 24-year-old is expected to return to former club Borussia Dortmund. The two clubs are haggling over a fee for the want-away World Cup final-winning goal scorer, who still has a year remaining on his contract. But there might be a minor consolation for fans with the name "Gotze" emblazoned on their Bayern shirts; don't ditch them just yet.
Ancelotti can still call on the services of a Gotze against Man City. Mario's brother Felix, six years his junior and a promising central defender, is held in high regard at the club. A former BVB player like brother Mario, Felix starred in Bayern's 4-3 win in Lippstadt and will likely line up in central defence with the task of arresting City's progress.
Interestingly, if Mario does make the move back to BVB, he will be the second player to swap Bavaria for Westphalia this summer following Sebastian Rode's €15.5 million move last month. Careful now, Bayern, you'll develop a reputation for selling assets to Dortmund.
Mark Lovell covers Bayern Munich for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @LovellLowdown.