Bayern Munich under pressure to maintain title course, keep stars

AFP , Friday 18 Mar 2022

Pressure is piling up for Bayern Munich on and off the field amid speculation about stars Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry while their bid for a 10th straight Bundesliga title is under threat after seeing their lead slashed.

Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich forwards Robert Lewandowski (left) and Serge Gnabry (second from left) are both out of contract in 2023. AFP

Bayern face a tough home tie Saturday against Union Berlin, who are known for grinding out results, while the hosts have defenders Niklas Suele and Benjamin Pavard sidelined respectively by injury and Covid.

"We will have to change a few things in defence," said Bayern head coach Julian Nagelsmann on Friday.

"We still have a four point lead, but this is an important game with the international break coming up."

Over the last week, second-placed Dortmund have cut Bayern's lead from 10 points down to four with eight games left and Germany's top two clubs to meet on April 22.

Bayern have drawn their last two league games and need to secure the futures of 2020 Champions League winners with Lewandowski, Gnabry, Manuel Neuer and Thomas Mueller out of contract in 2023.

"I want a resolution to this as quickly as possible, they are important players for us," Nagelsmann admitted.

The longer Bayern wait to extend contracts, the more speculation grows.

"FC Bayern has never allowed itself to be driven by headlines or rumours," Bayern president Herbert Hainer told magazine Kicker, while club CEO Oliver Kahn said they will not be "put under pressure from outside".

Lewandowski has 29 Bundesliga goals to his name this season and is on course to be top scorer for the seventh time in nine seasons.

Yet his agent Pini Zahavi has told Kicker "there is no contact with FC Bayern yet" amid reports Manchester United want to table an offer.

Likewise Gnabry has scored 13 goals from the wing this season, but is reportedly tempted by a return to former club Arsenal.

Sky's Norwegian pundit Jan-Aage Fjoertoft, who is close to Dortmund star Erling Haaland, claims Lewandowski wants to leave Bayern this summer and Kahn has confirmed he has met with Haaland's advisor Mino Raiola.

Bayern want to discuss contract extensions only once they have secured a tenth straight Bundesliga title, which Hainer says has their "entire concentration" as does their Champions League quarter-final against Villarreal.

At the other end of the Bundesliga table, strugglers Hertha Berlin have appointed their third coach this season in the fight against relegation, but Felix Magath must watch Saturday's match against Hoffenheim from home after testing positive for Covid.

One to watch: Andre Silva

The Portugal striker has rediscovered his goal-scoring form and wants to shoot down ex-club Eintracht Frankfurt for his rejuvenated club RB Leipzig on Sunday.

"It's still a special game, but now I'm playing and fighting for Leipzig," said Silva who scored in last Sunday's 6-1 thrashing of bottom side Greuther Fuerth.

Silva spent two years with Frankfurt, chalking up 45 goals in 71 appearances, hitting the net 28 times last season in Germany's top flight, but initially struggled after switching to Leipzig in the summer.

However, since Domenico Tedesco replaced Jesse Marsch as head coach last December, Silva has refound his form with seven goals in his last 12 league games while Leipzig have shot up the table to fourth.

Key stats

16 - the amount of times Union defender Bastian Oczipka has faced Bayern in the league, losing 14 and drawing two. No other player in Germany's top flight has such a miserable record against Bayern.

10 - games without a win in 2022 for Hertha Berlin, nine in the Bundesliga as well as a cup defeat to rivals Union, which threatens a first relegation since 2012.

Four - home league games without a win for Cologne over Sunday's visitors Borussia Dortmund who ground out 1-0 wins over Bielefeld and Mainz in the last week.

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