Augsburg, Germany – Bayern Munich lost influential midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger to a broken collarbone earlier this week, and starts an extended period without the German international Sunday against Augsburg.
Schweinsteiger was injured early in the second half of Wednesday's Champions League win over Napoli, 3-2 at the Allianz Arena, and Bayern "suffered badly after he went off," according to coach Jupp Heynckes.
Although Augsburg, in its first season in the Bundesliga, may not present too big of a challenge this weekend, Bayern will have to prove it can survive with its midfield general on the sideline after the upcoming international break.
"We were shocked by the loss of Schweinsteiger," Bayern forward Mario Gomez said after the Napoli match. "He's our engine in midfield, he increases the pace or calms things down."
Schweinsteiger, who is on the shortlist for the FIFA Ballon d'Or, will be out through the Bundesliga's winter break, missing six league matches, two matches in the Champions League and the DFB Pokal Cup quarterfinal against Bochum.
With Bayern atop the league by four points after a great start, in which it's scored 30 goals in league play and allowed just three, the remaining games in the first half could determine just how much work is left to do next year.
Heynckes has options at his disposal, but the easy solution this week would be Luiz Gustavo and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk playing together in the holding midfield roles. One of the duo used to line up next to Schweinsteiger.
"We've successfully replaced injured players up to now," Heynckes said. "I hope it works out again this time."
Bayern still has Gomez and his 12 league goals, which is four more goals than Augsburg has all season. In addition, Augsburg will be without a number of its regulars through injury, making its task even more complicated.
Second-place Schalke visits Hannover in Sunday's other match, while defending champion Borussia Dortmund will try to put the pressure on the top two with a win Saturday against Wolfsburg.
Dortmund is five points off the pace, but has regained some of the form that carried it to the title last season and Wolfsburg is currently in the bottom half of the table.
"Dortmund are playing slightly better football than us at the moment and will probably control the game. We need to prepare for that," said Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath.
Also Saturday, Hertha Berlin hosts Monchengladbach, Nurnberg hosts Freiburg, Werder Bremen hosts Cologne, Bayer Leverkusen hosts Hamburg, and Hoffenheim hosts Kaiserslautern. On Friday, Mainz hosts Stuttgart to open the weekend's action.