By Oliver Trust
BERLIN, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) -- It didn't take long for Bayern Munich's sports director to assemble the club's coaching staff for an emergency meeting.
As three key performers - Corentin Tolisso, Kingsley Coman and Rafinha - will be sidelined for several weeks or months, it is time to be brutally honest ahead of the Champions League group opener against Benfica in the Estadio da Luz this Wednesday evening.
It seems Bayern's management was too optimistic when it came to the size of its squad. Only 15 experienced players are left at present to face the Portuguese champions after Juan Bernat (Paris St Germain), Arturo Vidal (FC Barcelona) and Sebastian Rudy (FC Schalke 04) were all allowed to leave.
Self-reproach won't help in these dark hours, and Bayern's coach Niko Kovac will have to promote some inexperienced youngsters from the club's second team. The 2018 German champion might be well advised to consider adding a few players in the next winter transfer window.
It seems almost irresponsible to challenge the top dogs of European football and still have to rely on a second team of youngsters to do so.
"Not much should happen now," commented former German international and Bayern midfielder Stefan Effenberg.
Arjen Robben (34), Franck Ribery (35), Jerome Boateng (30) are all over the age of 30 so further accidents could force Bayern to struggle in their Champions League campaign. Kovac is already running out of options to cover the left (David Alaba) and right backs (Joshua Kimmich).
Serge Gnabry is not an adequate replacement as he is supposed to support the attack along the flanks in case Ribery and Robben need a break or are injured.
"Our squad is big enough to face all challenges," Uli Hoeness announced a few weeks ago. Kovac accepted the president's opinion; he might have spoken too soon.
"We have to accept the situation and find solutions," Kovac commented adding that he supported a squad size of around 19. "Much more doesn't make sense to me, [it will] disturb the group's concentration," Kovac emphasized.
It remains the club's goal to win the Champions League, but everything has to work out perfectly if that is to happen.
While Effenberg doesn't expect Bayern to be the winner this season "because other teams are better equipped", Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is determined to win the cup.
The former German international is convinced winning the Champions League is the key to attracting fans from around the globe, to gaining additional merchandising income and to becoming more attractive to international stars.
Next season several of Bayern's "golden-agers" may well retire, and the club would need new faces and top quality.
That though requires further investment. "We are ready to make a big transfer, but in the first place we don't intend to join the crazy race currently taking place on the international markets," Rummenigge emphasized.
Since 2003 Bayern has been the only team to win its curtain raiser on 14 consecutive occasions. Against Benfica, the record is positive as well. Bayern have won five of the eight games between the teams and drawn three.