Bayern Munich’s midfield buildup will keep paying off in Schweinsteiger’s absence

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Amid all of the analysis on Wednesday of Uruguay and Mexico’s romps, we missed this nugget from Bayern Munich’s Annual General Meeting: midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, so crucial for both club and country, will be out until January. Club president Uli Hoeneß confirmed the news, saying the Wednesday’s surgery “went well,” and the injury is “looking better than [they] thought.”

The 29-year-old  underwent the operation to address issues persisting from an procedure on the same ankle in June. Though the surgery means Schweinsteiger’s out of Saturday’s highly anticipated match at Borussia Dortmund, the German international will be back come early January, when Bayern’s players return after winter break.

The choice to go under the knife appears to be an elective, albeit inevitable one. Schweinsteiger’s said to have played through the pain since throughout the summer, working through Germany’s World Cup qualifying campaign while getting used to club life under new head coach Pep Guardiola. But with the Nationalmannschaft’s World Cup ticket punched and Bayern four points clear atop the Bundesliga, now was the best time until after the World Cup to take clean things up. With the Bundesliga’s winter break leaving Bayern without league games between Dec. 14 and Jan. 24, Schweinsteiger only major miss will be against rival BVB.

All told, Schweinsteiger will be sidelined for matches against Einracht Frankfurt, Werder Bremen, and Hamburg, in addition to Dortmund. He’ll also miss Champions League games against CSKA Moscow and Manchester City and a German Cup match at Augsburg.

With players like Philipp Lahm and Javi Martínez in Guardiola’s squad, Bayern won’t be short of talents to play in front of the defense in their 4-1-4-1. Toni Kroos, who typically starts in central midfield, can also drop into a holding role, while summer signing Thiago Alcantara is due back this week. Whereas earlier this season Bayern’s injury situation had forced Lahm’s improvised deployment in the middle, now the European champions have plenty of cover in Schweinsteiger’s absence.

Of course, Schweinsteiger’s only played four games in that defensive midfield role. Nine other times, he’s started higher, in central midfield, a place where Guardiola’s also no longer short of options. Kroos, Thomas Müller, and Mario Götze can play those roles, and when Alcantara returned, the Spanish international will also provide cover as a more attacking option.

And to think, this summer people wondered what Bayern would do with all their midfielders. With all these injuries, the answer’s been unexpected simple: Play them. As Lahm’s  move from fullback shows, Bayern’s perceived glut proved insufficient, with only their captain’s superior play in his new position preventing their injury crisis from having any real effect on the field.

We’re only now starting to see Bayern’s depth paying off. With Schweinsteiger out, Guardiola can still choose from Lahm and Martínez in defensive midfield, eventually working Alcantara in toward the end of the month. When Schweinsteiger returns in January, Guardiola will be able to fully rotate his midfielders as FCB pursues another three-trophy season. He’ll have four players capable of starting in front of the defense and at least five who can occupy one of the two spots behind the striker.

Three months ago, we were scoffing at Bayern’s midfield gluttony, but having navigated their early-season crisis, their midfield buildup now looks more prescient than preposterous.

Top Premier League storylines — Week 17

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The title is looking more and more like it’s heading to Manchester, so will Tottenham be able to slow the Premier League leaders on Saturday?

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

 

Here are the four biggest storylines ahead of this weekend’s action.

Can anyone stop the Cityzens?

Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

Nobody has found a way to halt Pep Guardiola‘s side yet this season in PL play, so why would that change this weekend? City remain unbeaten through 17 matches, and while Spurs enter the weekend unbeaten in its last four, Mauricio Pochettino and Co. have their work cut out. The City attack, which has scored 52 goals this season, has shown no signs slowing down during the first four-and-a-half months of play, giving Tottenham a big test defensively. Harry Kane and his 12 goals will surely have a say in the get together, but Spurs has been lacking thus far in another go-to finisher.

Will the Toffees keep rolling under Big Sam?

Everton vs. Swansea City — 3 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

It’s been quite the turnaround recently at Goodison Park, and Everton has the chance to extend its unbeaten streak to six games on Monday. Sam Allardyce has brought life to the Toffees as of late, with Everton scoring 11 goals over the last five matches.

Foxes aim to climb higher, while Palace shoots for safety

Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Foxes have found their footing this season, and dare I say there are some glimpses of the team that won the title two years ago? Since Leicester’s 2-0 defeat to Man City, the Foxes have looked the part of a top-tier PL side, winning four of five matches, including victories over Tottenham and Burnley. Meanwhile, Palace has made the relegation battle a very intriguing one, as Roy Hodgson and Co. sit just a point inside the bottom three. Amazingly, Palace is unbeaten in seven of its last eight matches, but the club remains in 18th place.

Clarets aim for third consecutive victory

Brighton vs. Burnley — 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBC Sports Gold (Watch online at NBCSports.com)

The Clarets don’t boast a bonafide goalscorer, but Burnley looks like a well-oiled machine as Sean Dyche‘s side sits on the edge of the top four. Although the side likely won’t be pulling off a Leicester-sided feat in 2017/18, what the Clarets are accomplishing is quite amazing given the squad currently in place. Brighton has gone through its share of struggles recently, going winless in its last six matches, and scoring just three goals in that span. They’ll likely have a hard time breaking past Burnley’s tough backline.

NYCFC busy on Thursday with Abdul-Salaam, Stuver additions

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New York City FC is moving on from the club’s first-ever MLS SuperDraft selection, but they’ll be acquiring a solid defensive piece as the team continues to rebuild at the back.

[ SOURCE: LAFC finalizing deal to make Sporting CP’s Geraldes third DP ]

On Thursday, NYCFC announced a trade sending former 2015 first-round pick Khiry Shelton to Sporting KC in exchange for defender Saad Abdul-Salaam.

Shelton, who spent three seasons with NYCFC, struggled to find playing time under manager Patrick Vieira, particularly once the organization drafted England youth international Jack Harrison in 2016.

Vieira and Co. will be getting back a player also selected in the 2015 SuperDraft in Abdul-Salaam.

With the departures of Ethan White, RJ Allen and Andraz Struna this offseason, the move certainly makes sense for NYCFC, who were severely lacking at the right back position heading into this week.

NYCFC signed Malmo defender Anton Tinnerholm on Wednesday to help improve the backline.

The Eastern Conference side also added goalkeeper Brad Stuver from the Columbus Crew on Thursday, with the 26-year-old presumably serving as the backup to Sean Johnson in 2018.

LAFC confirms second DP signing with Uruguayan Diego Rossi

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It’s been a fast and furious few days for Los Angeles FC, and that continued on Thursday with the signing of the organization’s second Designated Player.

LAFC announced the addition of Penarol forward Diego Rossi, joining manager Bob Bradley and the club’s first DP — Carlos Vela.

[ MORE: Christian Pulisic named USMNT Player of the Year ]

Rossi, 19, became the second-youngest DP signing in Major League Soccer history upon completing his move from Uruguay’s first division, with only former FC Dallas attacker Fabian Castillo younger (18).

“Diego is a young and exciting attacking player,” LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said. “His experiences at Peñarol and his ability fit perfectly with our vision of the team we are building at LAFC. We believe Diego will mature into a top-class player.”

The expansion side’s current roster is now up to eight players, following a busy few days of MLS’ offseason. Rossi will join Vela, Egyptian international Omar Gaber, as well as Walker Zimmerman, Laurent Ciman, Tyler Miller, Latif Blessing, and Marco Ureña.

Source: LAFC finalizing deal to make Sporting CP’s Geraldes third DP

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Los Angeles FC has been wheeling and dealing over the last several days, and Bob Bradley‘s side looks to be close to making another significant splash.

[ MORE: Christian Pulisic named USMNT Player of the Year ]

An MLS league source has confirmed to Pro Soccer Talk that Sporting CP’s Francisco Geraldes is close to becoming LAFC’s third and final Designated Player signing ahead of the club’s inaugural 2018 season.

[ MORE: LAFC confirms signing of young DP Diego Rossi ]

PST has learned that LAFC is in the final stages of acquiring Geraldes, who is currently on loan from Sporting with fellow Portuguese side Rio Ave.

LAFC announced the signing of Diego Rossi on Thursday, with the 19-year-old Uruguayan becoming the second-youngest DP in league history. Meanwhile, Carlos Vela occupies the club’s other DP slot, after an agreement was struck back in August to be the team’s first signing.

Geraldes has started 11 matches this season for Rio, and scored one goal in league play.

The 22-year-old came up through Sporting’s academy system, and made his professional debut with Sporting B in 2013, before signing a contract with senior side Sporting CP two years later.

The young Portuguese midfielder has worked his way up the international ladder over recent years, making appearances with the Under-18, U-20 and U-21 national teams.