Wolfsburg v Bayern Munich Preview: Flu-hit hosts aim to shackle scourge Lewandowski

The striker scored five goals in nine minutes in his last Bundesliga outing against the Wolves, whose squad are badly hit by a virus

Wolfsburg host Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga on Saturday, with Dieter Hecking’s squad badly struggling with flu ahead of the impending visit of their nemesis Robert Lewandowski. 

The Poland striker made Bundesliga history in the reverse fixture in September, coming off the bench at half-time with Bayern trailing 1-0.

What happened next was scarcely believable, as Lewandowski netted five goals in an astonishing nine-minute spell to set Bayern on their way to a stunning 5-1 success.

The teams met again a month later in the DFB-Pokal, but this time it was Thomas Muller who did the damage with a brace in a 3-1 victory for die Roten at Volkswagen Arena.

Lewandowski and Muller have combined for 39 Bundesliga goals this season – seven more than Wolfsburg have managed in total as Bayern look well set for an inexorable charge to a fourth successive title.

The pair have scored all of Bayern’s 10 league goals since the season’s resumption, Lewandowski registering nine in his last seven matches across all competitions.

As if Wolfsburg’s task was not difficult enough, Hecking’s men have been badly struck down by the flu this week, with 11 players missing training earlier this week due to the virus and other injury concerns.

Koen Casteels (bursitis), Nicklas Bendtner (flu) and Bruno Henrique (bronchitis) all missed sessions, while Wolfsburg are hopeful that Andre Schurrle, Daniel Caligiuri and Josuha Guilavogui will all be in contention against Bayern.

“The staffing situation is very tense,” said Hecking, who himself has been struggling with illness.

“We have to work beyond the normal level [against Bayern]. The 1-5 and 1-3 [defeats], they were clear. This time we want to make it better.”

“The 11 that will be on the pitch on Saturday must give their all,” added Wolfsburg defender Dante, formerly of Bayern.

“There is no point in complaining about the number of absentees. You’ve also got to enjoy games like this, get stuck into every challenge and ensure every pass arrives at its destination.”

Wolfsburg at least have the advantage of an extra three days’ rest after Bayern drew 2-2 at Juventus in the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday, having thrown away a two-goal lead.

And Hecking’s men can take consolation from the corresponding fixture last season, when they thumped the champions 4-1 in a scintillating display.

For Bayern, who lead second-placed Borussia Dortmund by eight points, Rafinha is suspended after picking up his fifth booking in the 3-1 win over Darmstadt last weekend.

Messi, Ronaldo can smell defenders' fear – Boateng

The Germany international was left flat on his back by La Pulga in one of 2015’s most memorable goals, and believes the pair can sense weakness in opponents

Bayern Munich centre-back Jerome Boateng believes Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo can smell a defender’s fear in one-on-ones.

Real Madrid star Ronaldo and Messi have scored 63 goals between them for their clubs this season, with the latter’s combination with Luis Suarez and Neymar at Barcelona drawing praise.

Boateng gave an insight into what it was like coming up against the world’s best and how they capitalised on scared defenders.

“With Ronaldo or Messi, whatever option you choose is difficult if they come at you with open space. They’re just so fast,” he wrote for The Players’ Tribune.

“Neymar and Messi are low to the ground and can turn quickly, so it’s difficult for defenders like me, who are tall centre-backs.

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“Ronaldo, he’s got the height, but he’s also got incredible speed, strength and a good header. You can’t be lazy or caught on your heels with those players, because they will win and they will score.

“They are just too good for you to make even a little mistake. More than speed or technique though, as a defender you need confidence.

“Ronaldo, Messi, Suarez, Neymar – they can all smell if you’re afraid to duel with them. One whiff and then they destroy you. So you gotta show up.”

Boateng said the key to defending against the likes of Ronaldo and Messi was making decisions immediately.

“You have to assess the tactical situation. Quickly,” he wrote.

“Am I covered, with my other defenders on my back? If I have cover, I can risk going for the ball in a duel or tackle.

“But if I’m the last man on the line, I can’t risk a tackle. I need to do whatever I can to slow the ball down by using my positioning, hoping I can buy time for my team-mates to track back.”

Kimmich takes blame for Juventus comeback

The midfielder was drafted into the backline due to injuries in the Bavarians’ defence, and was found wanting as Dybala and Sturaro levelled for the Old Lady

Bayern Munich youngster Joshua Kimmich has admitted he should have done better for both of Juventus’ goals as the Serie A champions fought back to record a 2-2 draw in Tuesday’s Champions League encounter in Turin.

Goals from Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben saw the Bavarians go 2-0 up after 55 minutes of play, but Paulo Dybala and Stefano Sturaro netted in the final 30 minutes of the game to frustrate Pep Guardiola’s men.

Kimmich’s poor touch allowed Mario Mandzukic to set up Dybala, while he was beaten to the ball by Sturaro for the equaliser after a ball came in from the left.

The Germany Under-21 midfielder featured at centre-back due to the absence of Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez.

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“I always give my all, but unfortunately I made some mistakes,” Kimmich told reporters. “I will just try to do better next time.

“Playing in midfield is different, but I knew I would play in defence. A mistake like that should never be happening.

“My team-mates all cheered me up after the game with positive words. This shows that we have great team spirit.

“I have only played five or six games as a centre-back, but I think it’s good for me that we have a lot of possession. That keeps me out of aerial duels.

 “I don’t care in which position I play so long as I am in the team. All that matters to me is playing.”

Bayern will be looking to book their ticket for the quarter-final in the second leg at the Allianz Arena on March 16.

Neuer: Juve have no mental edge over Bayern despite comeback

The Serie A side fought back from two down to draw with Bayern in the first-leg of their Champions League tie, but the goalkeeper insists his side are still in a good position

Manuel Neuer has dismissed the notion that Juventus could hold a psychological advantage over Bayern Munich ahead of the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Juve were two goals down to Bayern in Tuesday’s game, but staged a stirring second-half comeback, with goals from Paulo Dybala and Stefano Sturaro earning a draw for the Italian champions.

Coach Pep Guardiola was angered by suggestions that Bayern wilted physically after such an authoritative start and, when asked whether Juve’s fightback will give them a mental edge at the Allianz Arena in three weeks’ time, Neuer responded: “I don’t know about that. I think it is very good that we scored two goals.”

Neuer did, however, admit that Bayern took their foot off the gas after Robben put them two goals to the good in the 55th minute.

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“It is unfortunate for us that we did not reward ourselves with a win and go back home with a 2-0 result,” he added.

“Now everything is undecided of course, although it would have been like that with a 2-0 victory as well. We know that there was more for us to get out of that.

“We weren’t too sure after our 2-0. I’d rather say that, for example, we rushed a few of the chances. We did not stay calm and were not cool enough.

“Of course we did make mistakes which lead to the goals and we played against an opponent who makes the best out of our mistakes.”

Allegri calls for Juventus to show 'belief and courage'

Reigning Serie A champions Juventus remain confident of reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League after their first-leg draw, according to their head coach

Massimiliano Allegri said Juventus lacked confidence early on in their 2-2 Champions League draw at home to Bayern Munich on Tuesday. 

Thomas Muller’s 43rd minute goal in Turin saw the visitors lead at half-time and they went 2-0 up against last season’s beaten finalists when Arjen Robben scored 10 minutes into the second half.

But Paulo Dybala and Stefano Sturaro hit back to give Juve hope of progressing to the quarter-finals and Allegri remains confident ahead of the second leg at Allianz Stadium on March 16.

“We need to have more confidence in our own abilities and not sit so deep,” the Juventus coach told Mediaset Premium.

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“We can do it and I’m happy to have certain players back from injury. In order to qualify we have to win and now we have to do it there.

“The team played well and we have to build on the second-half performance more than the errors of the first half. We should’ve done better playing our way out of defence, but still created some interesting opportunities.

“We improved in the second half and above all gained confidence, so we were rewarded for that. It proves that in the Champions League you need more belief and courage.

“Of course we believe in our chances, absolutely, and the fightback gives us more confidence. Right now we have to focus on Serie A though.”