Bellerin names the toughest opponent he has faced

The Arsenal defender says Douglas Costa is the best winger he has come up against despite the Gunners’s victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League

Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin has named Bayern Munich winger Douglas Costa as the toughest opponent he has faced.

The right-back faced Costa in Arsenal’s 2-0 victory over Bayern in the Champions League earlier this season and identified the Brazilian as a particularly tricky customer despite the result and clean sheet.

Costa went on to torment Mathieu Debuchy in the reverse fixture at the Allianz Arena in a 5-1 victory for the German champions.

“Probably Douglas Costa,” Bellerin told Amuse when asked about his most difficult opponent in senior football. 

“You make mistakes in a game, but if you come away with a win, that’s all gone. The result is all that matters, and we won that game.”

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Bellerin believes that the win over Bayern in the group stage proves that Arsenal have the ability to knock out holders Barcelona in the last 16.

“I played for Barcelona for eight years, so it’s a massive thing for me and my family, who have been watching me since I was young,” he added.

“The day the draw was announced I started getting texts and calls from everyone. It’s crazy how a game moves so many people.

“We’re very excited – it’s going to be a hard game, but if we did it against Bayern, then we can do it against Barcelona. We have a great team mentality and our confidence is very high, so we fancy anyone at the moment.”

Low leaves Euro 2016 door open for injured Boateng

The centre-back faces an injury lay-off of at least three months after hurting himself against Hamburg, but he may yet make the trip to France

Germany head coach Joachim Low has offered his full support to Jerome Boateng as the Bayern Munich defender looks to recover from injury in time for Euro 2016.

Boateng sustained an adductor injury in Bayern’s 2-1 win over Hamburg on Friday, with the problem reportedly set to keep him out for at least three months.

The centre-back – who started all seven games in Germany’s triumphant World Cup campaign in 2014 – expressed his confidence of being fit in time for the finals, which get under way in France in June.

And Low says Boateng will be afforded every possible opportunity to complete his recovery.

“We will support him,” the coach said. “I have spoken with Jerome and told him that I believe in him and he can still do it despite the serious muscle injury.

“Just like with Sami Khedira before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil we will keep the door open as long as possible for him.

“Jerome is a fighter and a top professional. He has the will and the attitude to do whatever it takes.

“Now he needs patience and should not be put under pressure.”

Philipp Lahm, meanwhile, expressed sympathy for his team-mate, claiming the news soured the win over Hamburg.

“For us this is very, very bitter, because it is not days or one or two games, but for a longer period, which hurts a lot,” he said.

“Jerome is a top performer for us, it is a pity that he is out for weeks, it clouds the victory a bit.”

Robben: I need games but respect Guardiola's decisions

The Dutch winger says he accepts his coach’s decision to start him on the bench against Hamburg as he returns from injury

Arjen Robben hopes to quickly return to the Bayern Munich starting line-up, but respects Pep Guardiola’s team selection.

Robben came on as an 81st-minute substitute in Bayern’s 2-1 victory over Hamburg last Friday, making his return from a muscle injury in his first competitive appearance since the 4-0 Champions League win over Olympiacos in November.

The Dutchman is eager for more game time in order to rediscover his best form, but will not question Guardiola’s authority in naming the team.

“I noticed that I’m getting stronger. I need rhythm, I need games. This time it was only 10 minutes,” Robben is quoted as saying by TZ.

“Of course [I’d like to be playing more], but this is the coach’s decision and you have to accept it.

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“I haven’t even been in training for two weeks; I still need a little more time, but I will do everything in training.”

The 32-year-old urged his team-mates to settle back into regular action quickly ahead of their Champions League last-16 meeting with Juventus next month.

“We must continue to work well and improve ourselves. Juventus will come faster than you think. We need to be at full throttle in every match,” Robben added.

Why Lewandowski and Muller are right to snub English clubs

Bayern Munich’s Polish striker, Robert Lewandowski, has pulled no punches when responding to rumours linking him with a move to the English Premier League.

Having been linked with both Liverpool and Manchester United by media outlets all over Europe throughout this season, Lewandowski eventually hit back at the reports by claiming English clubs were still lagging behind Bayern. This is despite the huge influxes of cash at clubs like Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United.

The evidence this season is that Lewandowski is absolutely correct. Both Chelsea and Manchester United have faced significant struggles for form in the Premier League. Former Bayern boss Louis van Gaal is coming under intense pressure from United supporters after breaking the club’s record for Premier League matches without a win. Meanwhile, Chelsea sacked manager Jose Mourinho after their worst ever start to a Premier League season.

The question of why he would want to move to England, when Bayern are flying high, and many of his alleged suitors are not necessarily looking likely to clinch Champions League football for next season, is a good one. Bayern’s dominance means they are at odds of 1/100 at the time of writing in the Bundesliga betting and Pep Guardiola’s men are 11/4 to win the Champions League. But still the rumours persist.

Lewandowski played under Jurgen Klopp during his time at Borussia Dortmund, and there are suggestions that the German, now manager at Liverpool, would like to take the Bayern man to Anfield to help with his Merseyside revolution. Liverpool, however, are way off the pace in the Premier League and even though Lewandowski might relish the chance to work under his old boss, would he really want to be playing his football for a mid-table English side during the peak years of his career?

Should Lewandowski leave – and recent reports have suggested that he is perfectly happy at Bayern and not seeking a transfer – it seems that Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid would be more likely destinations. Like Bayern, those clubs play in the Champions League every season. If Lewandowski lifts European football’s most coveted trophy with Bayern this season, perhaps he will seek to win it with another club by moving on.

The January transfer window, which always brings around a certain number of far-fetched rumours, also saw Thomas Muller linked with a £70 million move to Old Trafford to link up with former Bayern boss Van Gaal at Manchester United.

The reports suggested Muller was to be offered a staggering £300,000 weekly salary to try and turn around the ailing fortunes of a club that dominated English football for so long under Sir Alex Ferguson. But Muller, like Lewandowski, has shown no signs of having his head turned, and it is to the credit of both players that money simply doesn’t talk for them.

There are very few clubs that can offer the standard of football and team spirit that Pep Guardiola has nurtured at Bayern. Top players like Lewandowski and Muller won’t jeopardise the success of their careers for a gargantuan salary.

No doubt such rumours will resurface if Pep decides to take one of the jobs in English football that he is being linked with when he leaves the Allianz Arena. Until then, it seems sensible to simply ignore them.

Irreplaceable Boateng absence will really hurt Bayern – Lahm

The defender is set for three months out of action after injuring his groin against Hamburg, and his team-mate told Goal they will find it impossible to replace him


Bayern Munich’s Philipp Lahm has lamented the loss of the “irreplaceable” Jerome Boateng, who is set for a three month spell on the sidelines with a groin injury.

The 27-year-old defender was taken off during his side’s win over Hamburg on Friday, with tests later confirming the severity of the knock. 

Lahm admitted the blow will “really hurt” a Bayern side who are hoping to claim a treble of trophies in Pep Guardiola’s final season at the club.

Jerome’s absence is a heavy burden, because he is one of our key players,” he told Goal on Monday. 

The worst thing is that he’ll be out for several weeks, not just one or two games. That really, really hurts.”

Attention now turns to who can fill in for Boateng while he’s out of action and while Lahm concedes no-one can fully replace the centre-back, he feels the squad is good enough to deal with the setback

We aren’t frightened because we have some very good players [who could come in], but it’s a bitter loss as you prefer to have your full squad available,” the 32-year-old said.

Man for man, we can’t replace him. He’s an excellent player – his pace, his build-up play and his tackles make him one of the best, if not the best centre-back in the world. 

It is hard to replace him. But it should not be forgotten that we have other very good players, too, who have a lot of experience.”

Asked whether Bayern should look to the transfer market for a replacement, Lahm said it’s not his place to talk about that, but made it quite clear he has full faith in the current squad.

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He also spoke about the relief of seeing several other players return from long-term injuries to bolster the ranks over the second half of the season. 

There are also a lot of players who have now come back from injuries,” he added.  

The good thing is that there aren’t midweek matches at the moment, so we can use this time to get into our stride.

For example, Holger Badstuber was absent for two years absent – to play every three days after that is difficult. 

Javi Martinez was injured for a long time, too, and also Mehdi Benatia, David Alaba and Juan Bernat had minor problems. 

I hope that these players get back to their best as fast as they can, because that will be important for the team.”