Minjae Kim saves Munich…central defender Upamecano out with thigh injury

German professional soccer club Bayern Munich has sent its star central defender Kim Min-jae, 28, to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) 2023 Asian Cup in Qatar. Kim’s central defense teammate, Dayo Upamecano (France), has been ruled out for several weeks with a thigh injury.

Munich defeated Union Berlin 1-0 in the 13th round of the 2023-2024 German Bundesliga at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, on Sept. 25.

Second-place Munich (14 W, 2 D, 2 L, 44 pts) closed the gap on first-place Leverkusen (15 W, 3 L, 48 pts) to four points.

Munich, who lost Kim Min-Jae to the Asian Cup, deployed Upamecano and Matthias der Licht in central defense on the day.

Upamecano had a good game, keeping a clean sheet and getting involved in the attack, but he complained of a thigh strain just before half-time and was replaced by Eric Dier at the start of the second half.

Manager Thomas Tuchel announced after the game that Upamecano would be out for several weeks. “He has a tear in the muscle behind his thigh,” he said in his post-match press conference, “It’s not something that will heal in a few days. It will take weeks to recover.”

Coach Tuchel was disappointed. “It’s a difficult injury for Upamecano and our team to accept,” he said, adding that “Upamecano has been in top form in the last few weeks.”

Upamecano’s departure leaves Munich with Der Licht and Dier as their central defenders. However, Dier doesn’t have the perfect chemistry with the existing players, as he only joined the club a few days ago from Tottenham Hotspur. Furthermore, Dier has been criticized for his weak defense since his time at Spurs.

This will further cut down on the loss of Kim Min-jae, who was sent to the Asian Cup. Munich’s defense faltered in Kim’s absence, resulting in a 0-1 loss to bottom-of-the-table Werder Bremen on Nov. 21.

Munich will be without Kim for up to three more games. They are scheduled to play Augsburg on Nov. 27, Mönchengladbach on Nov. 3, and Leverkusen on Nov. 11. The match against Leverkusen on Nov. 11 is a crucial one, as it will decide the season’s title race.

If South Korea makes it to the Asian Cup final, they will play the final on March 10 (0:00 a.m. KST on March 11). It will be interesting to see if Munich can cruise without dropping a point until Kim Min-jae returns.