All aboard! El Tren has arrived at Augsburg, and with the Bundesliga back in action this weekend, there are a number of things to keep an eye on, though with a fair level of uncertainty:
- Will Ricardo Pepi see minutes right away?
- Will Taylor Booth have an unexpected opportunity for Bayern Munich?
- Will Zach Steffen see more minutes for Manchester City in FA Cup action?
- Will Christian Pulisic get a rest during that same Cup action?
These are just some of the unknowns this weekend as we walk you through what to keep an eye on in this weekend’s USMNT viewing guide.
Bayern Munich v Borussia Mönchengladbach - 2:30p on ESPN+
With COVID-19 sweeping through the Bayern Munich locker room, it may provide an opportunity for Taylor Booth to see the field for the senior team more quickly than had been expected. Booth was one of seven youth players called up to senior training with the club facing massive numbers out due to positive test results, but Bayern apparently is still planning to go ahead with their match on Friday against Borussia Mönchengladbach. Bayern already hold a healthy 9 point lead in the standings, so they won’t get too concerned with a negative result on the field today, and it could be an opportunity for Booth and other youngsters, including dual national Malik Tillman, to see the field.
The flip side of the opportunity presented to Tillman and Booth is Joe Scally, who has started every match for Borussia Mönchengladbach this season and leads their field players in minutes. Unfortunately, Scally has also returned a positive result and will be unavailable for ‘Gladbach this weekend. The club currently sits in 14th place, though just 2 points out of the relegation playoff position. Unexpected points against Bayern could be a boon to their hopes of remaining up at the end of the season.
- Zach Steffen has consistently seen starts for Manchester City in their Cup matches over the past year and a half. Expect that to continue Friday afternoon when City face League Two side Swindon Town in FA Cup action. The match will take place at 3p on ESPN+.
- Konrad de la Fuente is also out with COVID as his Olympique de Marseille side face Bordeaux at 3p on beIN Sports.
Hoffenheim v Augsburg - 9:30a on ESPN+
The Pepi train has just arrived in Augsburg, though it seems unlikely he will jump right into the action, much less the starting lineup. His manager is preaching patience while mentioning that he has looked sharp in training.
(On Pepi)— FC Augsburg (@FCA_World) January 7, 2022
"He is still very young. We have a long-term plan for him here, but he's made a strong impression."
"He is younger than my son, so we need to be realistic. We must give him time to develop." pic.twitter.com/qUbR36GN5x
Pepi may not see many minutes, but we’re keeping an eye on this one just in case. While we wait, we’ll be looking out for Chris Richards, who had started 3 straight matches for Hoffenheim before being held out of their last match before the winter break, a 1-1 draw with ‘Gladbach. It’s been an interesting year for Richards, who came in and immediately started his first 6 matches with the club before coming off the bench in 4 straight. Certainly, it’s not a bad thing for a 21-year-old centerback to be fighting for a spot in the Bundesliga, but his status is something to continue to keep an eye on.
- Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig are still looking for that new manager bounce and currently sit in 10th place after just 4 points from their last 6 matches. The club will look to right the ship when they face Mainz at 9:30a on ESPN+.
- Julian Green and Greuther Fürth face Pellegrino Matarazzo and Stuttgart at 9:30a on ESPN+. Stuttgart have struggled a bit more this year and currently sit in 16th place, while Fürth should probably be working on a plan to avoid a drop to 2. Bundesliga next season.
- Daryl Dike has also just made the transition overseas with his move to West Bromwich Albion. Given that Dike is reuniting with his old manager Valérien Ismaël, it seems a bit more likely that he could quickly see playing time. West Brom face Brighton & Hove Albion in FA Cup action at 10a on ESPN+.
- Christian Pulisic saw 10 minutes off the bench in Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Tottenham in EPL Cup action Wednesday. This means he is already relatively rested, but it still seems unlikely Thomas Tuchel would elect to give key players significant minutes against fifth tier side Chester when they face off at 12:30p on ESPN+. Chelsea’s upcoming schedule have them completing the Carabao Cup 2-leg matchup with Tottenham next Wednesday before a crucial matchup with Manchester City when they resume EPL action next weekend.
- Gio Reyna has returned to training but remains out for Borussia Dortmund, who face Eintracht Frankfurt and Timothy Chandler at 12:30p on ESPN+.
- Sergiño Dest has return to training after a negative COVID test, while rumors continue to swirl about his status with the club as they need to make some sales in order to pretend to be fiscally responsible. FC Barcelona face Granada at 12:30p on ESPN+.
- Yunus Musah saw another Cup start and performed admirably as Valencia moved on in the Copa del Rey without much trouble on Wednesday. The test for the club will be a bit larger on Saturday as they face Real Madrid at 3p on ESPN+.
Weston McKennie started and went the full 90 for Juventus in a 1-1 draw with Napoli to remain in 5th place, 2 points back of Atalanta and 5 back of Napoli for 3rd. It was a disappointing result for Juve, as they would have liked to be able to take advantage of a side missing a number of key figures to both COVID and Africa Cup of Nations. Their opponent this weekend is Jose Mourinho’s Roma side, who currently sit in 7th place. Speaking of Roma, there might not be any USMNT player who could use a move more than Bryan Reynolds this January. Reynolds has seen the field just three times across all competitions this season, including two 1 minute “appearances” and a start in which Roma’s heavily rotated side got thumped 6-1 at the hands of Bodø/Glimt. There’s no shame in not starting for Roma as a 20-year-old, but the player could use minutes and all indications, including comments from Mourinho, are that it’s unlikely to happen at his current club.
- Venezia should be well rested, as their midweek game was not played due to Salernitana being unable to take the field. Now, they will face Milan at 6:30a on Paramount+ if you’re finding it hard to sleep.
- Josh Sargent and Norwich City will face Charlton Athletic at 9a on ESPN+. Perhaps a match against the League One side will help Josh find his misplaced scoring boots.
- Nicholas Gioacchini and Montpellier face Troyes at 9a on beIN Sports. Gioacchini has not seen a ton of minutes this season, but continues to regularly appear off the bench for Montpellier.
- John Brooks and Wolfsburg will face Bochum at 11:30a on ESPN+. Wolfsburg have suddenly lost 5 straight matches and currently sit just 3 points out of the relegation zone. Brooks was also briefly dropped from the starting lineup for 2 straight matches, but returned for the club’s final match prior to the winter break.
- Two of Ethan Horvath’s three starts this season have come in Cup action for Nottingham Forest, so perhaps he’ll get another and have an opportunity to impress as the club face Arsenal FC at 12:10p on ESPN+.
- Matt Miazga was back from his own COVID layoff, but still on the bench as Deportivo Alavés drew with Real Sociedad last Sunday. This week, the club will face Athletic Bilbao at 12:30p on ESPN+.
There you have it, quite a bit to catch your attention this weekend, so what will you be watching? Let us know in the comments section below.