Bayern Munich-Cologne Preview: Lewandowski demands more goals

The club have scored 14 times in their last two league games and the striker is urging more of the same

Bayern Munich will go 11 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga if they win at Cologne on Friday, but Robert Lewandowski believes it is still all to play for in the title race.

Paderborn coach Andre Breitenreiter lauded the German champions as “the best team in the world” after his side were on the receiving end of a 6-0 home defeat to Pep Guardiola’s men last weekend.

Ruthless Bayern – who sit eight points clear of second-placed Wolfsburg – had consigned Hamburg to a humiliating 8-0 thrashing in their previous league match and should have too much firepower for a Cologne side who are without a win in four matches and in danger of being relegated.

Striker Lewandowski responded to being dropped to the bench in the Champions League stalemate at Shakhtar Donetsk by netting twice at Paderborn and the Poland striker has stressed the importance of free-scoring Bayern maintaining their ominous form. 

He told the club’s official website: “It’s our mentality. We always want lots of goals, regardless of the score at the time. We always want more. And an eight-point lead over Wolfsburg isn’t that much.

“Wolfsburg are playing very well, so we have to be on our guard until the end of the season. Regardless of our lead in the table, we always have to concentrate.”

Wolfsburg face a difficult trip to Werder Bremen for a clash between two in-form sides on Sunday, so Bayern could be in an even stronger position at the summit after this weekend.

Cologne drew 1-1 at home to Hannover last weekend and it would be a major surprise if they beat a Bayern side who have not suffered defeat at the Allianz Arena since April 2014.

Peter Stoger’s side lost 2-0 at home to the Bavarian giants back in September, but, despite residing down in 13th in the table, only Bayern have claimed more wins on the road than their tally of five.

Midfielder Yannick Gerhardt is the only player unavailable to Stoger, as he is still suffering from an infection.

Guardiola will check on the fitness of defender Mehdi Benatia (thigh), but Philipp Lahm (ankle) is still ruled out along with knee injury victims Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez.

But there was positive news of midfielder Thiago this week, who trained with the ball on Tuesday for the first time since October as Lahm also stepped up his recovery.

Neuer is a revolutionary goalkeeper, says Thierry Henry

The France legend believes the Bayern No.1 could be responsible for a new wave of shot-stoppers who are more active defensively

Thierry Henry has described Fifa Ballon d’Or nominee Manuel Neuer as a revolutionary for his style of play as a sweeper-keeper.

Neuer starred for Bayern Munich as they romped to Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal success last season and was one of the best players at the World Cup last summer as Germany enjoyed success in Brazil.

The shot-stopper’s efforts were so impressive that he finished third in Ballon d’Or voting behind Cristiano Ronaldo, who triumphed for the third time, and four-time winner Lionel Messi.

Former Arsenal and Barcelona striker Henry, who was a World Cup winner himself in 1998, believes Neuer will inspire a fresh generation of No.1s to be more involved in the defensive side of football, rather than staying static between the sticks.

“I think we definitely saw something new. Neuer changed what we perceive as the job of a goalkeeper,” he told Fifa.com.

“The role had already evolved when keepers were prohibited from picking up back-passes, but the person who has really revolutionised the position is Neuer.

“We’ve seen formations with a lot of people high up the pitch, but we’d never seen a goalkeeper play so far from his goal. Johan Cruyff’s Ajax side also had keepers who passed the ball a lot but never from level with the defenders.

“With Neuer, it’s like you always have an extra man. That change also owes much to the freedom he’s been given by his coach, but Neuer can do it as he’s a truly great goalkeeper.

“He always stays composed when making his passes – he’s like a genuine libero. That role really emerged in the 80s and 90s but now Neuer is the new libero. That’s what amazed everyone at that World Cup, and now all keepers will start to play like him.”

Lewandowski is a better fit for Guardiola than Mandzukic – Hoeness

The former Bayern attacker is confident the Poland international will start banging goals in regularly for the side soon, after scoring twice on Saturday

Former Bayern Munich striker Dieter Hoeness believes the Bundesliga champions were right to sell Mario Mandzukic to make way for Robert Lewandowski, despite the latter’s hampered goalscoring record at the Allianz Arena.

Despite scoring 33 goals in 54 Bundesliga games across his two seasons at the Bavarians, Mandzukic was sold to Atletico Madrid in the summer.

His sale had long been predicted after Lewandowski had been snapped up on a free transfer agreement from close rivals Borussia Dortmund a few months earlier.

While Mandzukic has had a strong start to life in Spain, netting 20 goals in 32 games in all competitions, his replacement at Bayern has struggled to find any consistency. 

However, Hoeness believes the Poland international is a better fit under coach Pep Guardiola than his predecessor and is confident he will hit top form soon and add to the 13 in 30 in all competitions he has so far.

“I believe that Lewandowski is better in Guardiola’s concept fits as Mandzukic,” he told TZ. “However, I regret that Mandzukic is no longer playing in the Bundesliga. 

“I think Lewandowski’s breakthrough is imminent. He is still very, very important for Bayern.”

Hoeness also remarked on his brother, former Bayern general manager Uli, who was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail for tax evasion last year. 

While he has been granted day release from prison, he must return at 6pm every night, and Dieter says things are going well.

“He is doing well under the circumstances,” he added. “He now has different tasks and a bit more freedom during the day. At night he goes back to the door, and that’s not very nice.

“At the beginning I was really worried that he might break because of the situation. Now things have improved thanks to God. It is a good development, and that is encouraging.”

'Lewandowski isn't a dodgy purchase'

The striker has been criticised for his performances since joining Bayern Munich, but retains the support of one of the club’s former stars

Robert Lewandowski’s critics are deluded if they think the striker is a “dodgy purchase”, according to Bayern Munich legend Stefan Effenberg.

The Poland international, 26, was left on the bench for the first leg of the club’s last 16 Champions League tie with Shakhtar Donetsk last week having scored just once in his last five Bundesliga appearances.

However, Lewandowski was back in the starting XI on Saturday and scored twice as the reigning champions thrashed Paderborn 6-0, with Arjen Robben also bagging a double to add to goals from Franck Ribery and Mitchell Weiser.

Effenberg, who had two spells with the Bavarians during his playing career, is adamant the striker is the same player who blossomed at BVB and says he offers much more than just goals.

“People who say that Lewandowski was a dodgy purchase have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to football,” he told Sky. “He is extremely important to the team.

“The charisma and quality that he had at Dortmund, he has at Bayern. The difference is that at the Allianz Arena he has three or four other world-class attackers alongside him.”

Bayern are back in Bundesliga action on Friday when they host Koln.

'Ibrahimovic wanted Madrid move to spite Guardiola'

The striker had a rocky relationship with the Spaniard at Barcelona and was prepared to join their arch-rivals to get back at him

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s agent Mino Raiola says the PSG star almost joined Real Madrid after leaving Barcelona in a bid to exact the “perfect revenge” on his former boss Pep Guardiola.

The striker moved to Camp Nou in 2009 but departed after just one season following a series of bust-ups with the 44-year-old.

And Raiola claims that Ibrahimovic wanted to reunite with his former Inter coach Jose Mourinho at the Bernabeu in a move he says would have been the perfect response to his ill-treatment. 

“Zlatan wanted to play for Real when he left Barça. It would have been the ideal move. The perfect revenge against Guardiola,” Raiola told Marca.

“Real Madrid is a political club and not a normal club. I don’t understand the way they do things.

“It would have been the perfect club for him because he’s a great player, he’s passionate and because he can do something amazing at any moment.”

Raiola went on to describe current Bayern Munich boss Guardiola’s behaviour as “shocking”, insisting the Spaniard was to blame for Zlatan’s early exit from Camp Nou.

“Only ‘The Philosopher’ [Guardiola] knows [What happened between him and Zlatan],” he said.

“As a person, his behaviour was terrible, shocking. He’s a great coach. He was calling Zlatan for one year. About 10 times.

“At Barcelona he told him whatever he needed or wanted he would be helped with. Then all of a sudden he stopped talking to him.”