Robben: I crave winning trophies again

The Bayern Munich winger is looking forward to adding to his trophy collection, with the club in position to win a treble this season

Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben has said that he craves the feeling of winning silverware once again, after a barren 2011-12 looks set to be followed by a frutiful haul this season.

The last time the Bavarians won a major trophy was in 2010 when the club won the Bundesliga and the DFB-Pokal.

However, this season they find themselves 17 points clear of second-place Borussia Dortmund in the league, into the semi-final stage of the cup and with a 3-1 lead over Arsenal in the last 16 of the Champions League.

“I long to be overwhelmed by that happiness,” Robben told Bild. “I still remember how it feels to touch cups and trophies. It tingles, it’s just unbelievably beautiful.

“The best moment is immediately after the game on the field and in the booth. You feel redemption. On the balcony [at the town hall] it is also very nice, but by then you have to sleep on the victory and it is already clear in my head.”

The Netherlands international added that Bayern need to take the rest of the season one game at a time and not start thinking they have won anything already.

“Our heads need to focus on Dusseldorf, then think about Arsenal and then to Wolfsburg,” he said. “Nothing else. We need to continue to concentrate and not start to dream. We need to focus on the title in May and not now.”

Emre Can: I will play anywhere to get Bayern chance

The teenager hopes to get his chance in the first team before the end of the season while he feels that Pep Guardiola’s arrival could be the catalyst he needs to make the step up

Bayern Munich youngster Emre Can has revealed that he would play in any position if it meant he would get his chance in the first team at the Allianz Arena.

The 19-year-old midfielder is yet to make his Bundesliga debut for Jupp Heynckes despite being heralded as one of the top young players in Germany, and he revealed that he would be willing to adapt his game to become part of the coach’s plans.

I would play anywhere – I mainly want to play games! I feel more comfortable in midfield but can also play centre-back or left-back,” he told AZ.

As a young player, I should not put up with everything, but on the other side should not be too cheeky. I need match practice, but sometimes I’ll play in the reserves.”

The former Germany Under-17 captain revealed that he is looking forward to working with Pep Guardiola when the trainer arrives in the summer and hopes the Spaniard’s penchant for young players will see him gain further opportunities.

Of course this [Guardiola’s arrival] is again an extra incentive to make the next step now and begin to get some minutes on the pitch.

I come from the youth team and it is normal that Mr. Heynckes back often says something.

“He says to me, ‘boy, you need to improve your passing game!’; he takes me to the side very often.”

Reports over the winter break linked Emre with a loan move to Bayer Leverkusen to get some first-team experience, but the teenager admitted that he is willing to bide his time at the Bundesliga leaders and push the current starting eleven.

He added: “I wanted to stay here. I feel physically well, hopefully now comes the next step. I can always slip into the squad when someone gets injured.”

Betting Special: Champions League wide open ahead of last 16 second leg ties

Ahead of this week’s second leg ties, Willie Duncan looks at the chances of the teams dreaming of victory in this year’s final at Wembley Stadium

The Uefa Champions League resumes this week and, following some fascinating first leg results at the last 16 stage, the betting market for Europe’s premier club competition is wide open as this week’s second leg ties get underway on Tuesday night.

After Barcelona’s shock 2-0 defeat at the hands of Milan in the first leg of their last 16 tie, the Catalan giants have been pushed out to second favourites to win the competition for the first time this season, with BetVictor making the 2011 champions a 4/1 (5.0) chance to regain their title.

Instead, Bayern Munich have been installed as tournament favourites following on from their impressive 3-1 first leg win over Arsenal at Emirates Stadium and Jupp Heynckes’ men can be backed at 11/4 (3.75) with BetVictor to go one better than last year, when the German champions were defeated in the final by Chelsea.

Nine-time European champions Real Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw at home against Manchester United in the first leg of their tie but, following impressive back-to-back victories over Barcelona in the past week, Jose Mourinho’s side are rated as a 5/1 (6.0) chance with BetVictor to claim Champions League glory.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side are chalked up as a 17/2 (9.50) shot with the same firm to regain the crown that they last won in 2008.

Borussia Dortmund were held to a 2-2 draw in their first leg tie against Shakhtar Donetsk but, with home advantage in the second leg, Jurgen Klopp’s men are warm favourites to progress to the quarter-finals and can be backed at 15/2 (8.50) with BetVictor to claim Champions League glory this term.

There may be value, though, in backing Italian champions Juventus to claim the crown.

Antonio Conte’s men qualified as winners from a tough group which included Shakhtar Donetsk and last year’s champions Chelsea, to take their place in the last 16.

A thumping 3-0 win in Glasgow over Celtic in the first leg of their last 16 clash to all but seal their place in the last eight of the competition and they look decent value at 9/1 (10.0) with BetVictor to claim glory in this year’s competition.

With that in mind, the 6/1 (7.0) quote from BetVictor for Italy to be this year’s Champions League “winning nation” is the value pick, with Germany rated as the 11/8 (2.38) favourites to provide the tournament winners with the same firm while the 7/4 (2.75) on offer from BetVictor for Spain to provide the winning team is sure to garner plenty of support.

With an open draw from the quarter-finals onwards, a large slice of luck is required to work out the potential permutations for tournament finalists at this stage but the 20/1 (21.0) quote from BetVictor for Juventus to face Manchester United in the final is appealing here while the same firm’s 16/1 (17.0) quote for the Italian champions to line up against Bayern Munich in May’s showpiece final is worthy of consideration for value hunters.

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Kahn: Current Bayern side are the best ever

The 43-year-old is thoroughly impressed with the Bavarians’ dominance this season, and believes they could win the treble

Former Germany international Oliver Kahn believes that the current Bayern Munich squad are the best team in the club’s history, and expects the Allianz Arena side to dominate German football in the years to come.

The Bavarians have broken a number of records this season and currently sit atop of the Bundesliga table, while they are still in the race for the Champions League and DFB Pokal as well.

Former head coach Felix Magath recently already voiced his admiration for Bayern, and Kahn has now followed suit with words of praise.

“Magath was right when he said this is the best Bayern ever,” Kahn was quoted as saying by Kicker.

“The defensive core of the team is superb. And they have incredible options in attack. I played at Bayern for 14 years, but I cannot remember a similarly dominant team.

“A very interesting era could be on the cards. The Bundesliga could become pretty boring in the years to come.

“Bayern have a realistic chance of winning the treble.”

Bayern currently hold a 17-point lead over second-placed Borussia Dortmund in the league table.

Why Bayern and Manchester United should think again before signing Lewandowski

The Borussia Dortmund striker has won a host of admirers with his goalscoring exploits, but does he have the ability to excel at the very highest level?

By Peter Staunton

Borussia Dortmund recently played host to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga and in the absence of Robert Lewandowski through suspension, second-choice striker Julian Schieber was handed the opportunity to showcase his credentials.

Sadly for the former Nurnburg player, his afternoon did not last long, as he was dismissed for two bookable offences half an hour into the game.

Until that point, by which time Dortmund had eased into a two-goal lead, Schieber put on a decent display. He was effective in and around the box and was key in bringing both Marco Reus and Mario Gotze into play.

Little changed after his dismissal. Dortmund remained dominant in midfield and continued to threaten in the attacking third. In truth, neither Schieber nor Lewandowski were missed.

Throughout Jurgen Klopp’s transformation of this Dortmund team, there has been a lingering perception that the team as a collective has been responsible for the Poland international’s growing reputation – rather than as a result of his individual brilliance.

Nuri Sahin, Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin Grosskreutz and the aforementioned midfield duo have all proved to be wonderful allies to Lewandowski’s goalscoring prowess and have arguably done more individually than their in-demand team-mate.  

Bayern Munich and Manchester United are set to go head to head this summer for the signature of Lewandowski, who is all but certain to depart Dortmund sooner rather than later after deciding against extending his stay at Signal Iduna Park.

After his move from Lech Poznan in 2010, he struggled to command a place in the starting XI ahead of Lucas Barrios. It was not until the Paraguay international was injured that Lewandowski at last claimed a regular starting berth. And while he has adequately replaced his former team-mate, it is still very much a matter of debate whether or not Dortmund are any better for his presence.

The Pole is indeed a fine reference point to any team which uses a lone striker. His hold-up play is key in bringing other players into the game and both his aerial strength and finishing have improved beyond recognition.

But the Bundesliga is not exactly blessed with legions of commanding central defenders and Lewandowski’s goalscoring record is awash with late strikes against already-vanquished opponents.

The 24-year-old lacks pace and is not the type of forward who excels in one-on-one situations – still missing far more opportunities than he ultimately converts.

Across the Bundesliga there is an abundance of striking talent plundering goals, many of a similar stature to the BVB striker and capable of making the grade with Europe’s top clubs.

Stefan Kiessling, Adam Szalai and Vedad Ibisevic are three of the division’s finest hitmen.

Szalai, Mainz’s Hungarian striker, is probably the most promising given his tender age. But nobody is yet going to suggest that any of them deserve a slot in the first team of either Bayern Munich or Manchester United.

This is why Lewandowski should think very carefully about his next move. The conditions at Dortmund provide the framework for him to thrive and score goals, just like they did for Barrios and will continue to do for Scheiber, or whoever replaces the wantaway striker.

His agent Cezary Kucharski’s recent comments suggest that the Pole already considers himself among the world’s finest strikers and it appears he is desperate to test himself at one of Europe’s so-called elite clubs.

But away from the comforts of the Bundesliga, Lewandowski has been found wanting. His record in Europe reflects well this season, but his international return is questionable.

He has only three competitive goals to his name in over 50 caps and two of those came against San Marino around four years ago, with his current international drought now stretching to eight games.

The two clubs leading the chase for his signature would be advised to keep their wallets shut and wait for an opportunity to sign a better player.

In Bayern’s case, however, their agenda is a little different. The Bundesliga leaders have a long tradition of weakening rivals by signing their players and would relish the opportunity to do so again at the expense of Dortmund.

On ability, however, Lewandowski would be the club’s third choice striker, behind Mario Mandzukic and Mario Gomez.

And what would incoming Bayern boss Pep Guardiola do with three out-and-out strikers? This is the same coach who discarded both Samuel Eto’o and Zlatan Ibrahimovic while at Barcelona.

There is no doubt that if surrounded by excellent players, Lewandowski would score goals for Bayern, but he would not propel them to another level. As Franz Beckenbauer put it, a transfer to the Allianz Arena would “make no sense”.

And while he enjoyed a fruitful partnership with Shinji Kagawa during the Japan international’s time at BVB, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck all offer better options in attack.

If previous indications are anything to go by, he needs to be the focal point of the side and surrounded by quality attacking talent.

At present, he is not good enough for any of his potential suitors to afford him that indulgence and they would be wise to think twice before securing his services come the summer.