Niko Kovac’s Bayern Munich launch their 2019/20 season: Cup defence
There are question marks over Robert Lewandowski’s fitness as newly-crowned Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich head to Freiburg on Saturday, when he could equal or beat Gerd Mueller’s 49-year-old record of 40 goals in a Bundesliga season.
Lewandowski only trained for 40 minutes on Thursday.
Bayern insisted he trained “a little shorter than the rest of the team” to keep him fresh after missing three weeks last month with injury.
Lewandowski netted a hat-trick last Saturday, leaving him on 39 league goals this season, in a 6-0 thrashing of Borussia Moenchengladbach, which confirmed a ninth straight Bundesliga title for Bayern.
The Poland international has two matches to break Mueller’s record, set over 34 games in 1971/72. Bayern also host Augsburg on the final day of the season on May 22.
“It doesn’t help if you want it too much, you have to stay calm and play for the team,” said the 32-year-old Lewandowski.
“I have to be grateful that I get so many assists from my team-mates.”
Lewandowski’s tally is all the more remarkable as injury and squad rotation have seen him play only 27 of Bayern’s 32 games so far.
“You can see that he is in terrific form. He has two more opportunities and he wants it badly. He will give it his all,” said Bayern captain Manuel Neuer.
Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is “astounded” by Lewandowski’s performances, having believed Mueller’s record would last for “eternity”.
In the Bundesliga table behind Bayern and second-placed RB Leipzig, Wolfsburg, Borussia Dortmund and Eintracht Frankfurt are all battling for the two remaining Champions League places.
Dortmund, who are fourth but just a point ahead of Frankfurt, have a tricky match on Sunday evening at Mainz, who shocked Bayern at the start of May.
There is speculation star striker Erling Braut Haaland could leave if Dortmund fail to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
The pressure on Dortmund could be ramped up if Frankfurt beat relegated Schalke on Saturday to climb back into the top four.
Leipzig can secure second by avoiding defeat at home against third-placed VfL Wolfsburg on Sunday.
At the other end of the table, second-from-bottom Cologne face a crucial game at fellow strugglers Hertha Berlin, who are only three points above the relegation play-off place.
By his own admission, the Germany winger has struggled to settle at Bayern this season after his high-profile move from Manchester City, having spent most of 2019/20 sidelined with a knee injury.
The 25-year-old scored in the rout of Gladbach and is hungry for more trophies after being part of last Saturday’s Bundesliga title party.
“It’s always special to win a league title. It’s not easy. When you win it once you get a taste for it and it makes you hungry for more,” said Sane, who also won two Premier League titles with City.
Sane wants to finish the season strongly to secure a place in Joachim Loew’s Germany squad for Euro 2020, which will be announced on Wednesday. - AFP