FULL LIST: Bayern To Play Barcelona In Champions League, Liverpool Face Ajax

In this file photo, the UEFA Champions League trophy is displayed prior to the start of the UEFA Champions League final football match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on May 28, 2022. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Bayern Munich were placed in the same section as Robert Lewandowski’s Barcelona in Thursday’s draw for the UEFA Champions League group stage in Istanbul, while Erling Haaland will face his former club as Manchester City were paired with Borussia Dortmund.

Bayern and Barcelona will also come up against Inter Milan in Group C, which is completed by the Czech champions Viktoria Plzen.

Bayern beat Barcelona 8-2 in a one-off quarter-final in Lisbon in 2020, while the Catalans also lost 3-0 twice to the Germans last season as they were eliminated in the group stage.

Lewandowski, 34, signed for Barcelona during the close season for a fee that could reach 50 million euros ($49.9m) after scoring 344 goals in eight years at Bayern.

“Only football writes such stories,” said Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic.

“Barcelona have got stronger. ‘Lewy’ is there. They’ve done a thing or two in the transfer market. There will be some exciting games.”

Haaland left Dortmund for Premier League champions City in the close season. Those sides will also face Sevilla and Danish champions FC Copenhagen in Group G.

City and Dortmund last met in the Champions League quarter-finals in 2021, with Pep Guardiola’s side advancing 4-2 on aggregate. City also beat Sevilla twice in the group stage in 2015/16.

 Liverpool Face Rangers

Last season’s beaten finalists Liverpool will play Ajax, Napoli and Rangers in Group A, while reigning champions Real Madrid will face Celtic as well as RB Leipzig and Shakhtar Donetsk in Group F.

It is the third season running in which Real and Shakhtar have been placed in the same group.

With war continuing to rage in Ukraine, Shakhtar will play their home games in the Polish capital Warsaw.

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side faced Ajax in the group stage just two years ago, while the Anfield outfit came up against Napoli in 2019.

Meanwhile, Rangers are back in the group phase of Europe’s elite club competition for the first time in 12 years — in the 2010/11 season they held Manchester United to a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford but in 2012 they were demoted to the Scottish fourth tier when mounting debts forced them into liquidation.

After reaching last season’s Europa League final, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side knocked out PSV Eindhoven in the play-offs on Wednesday to reach the group stage.

“The first thing to say is this is a proper, proper challenge,” Klopp told Liverpool’s official website.

“We did not ask for any favours and we have not been given any but this is not a competition where you can look for easy ways through because the standard is always unbelievably high.”

PSG Among Favourites, Again

Meanwhile, Paris Saint-Germain — who again start among the favourites to win a trophy that has continued to escape them since the Qatari takeover of more than a decade ago — will meet Juventus as well as Benfica and Israeli champions Maccabi Haifa in Group H.

Chelsea, winners in 2021, will take on Serie A champions AC Milan as well as Red Bull Salzburg and Dinamo Zagreb in Group E, while Tottenham Hotspur will face last season’s Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt along with Sporting Lisbon and Marseille in Group D.

Porto and Atletico Madrid meet for the second season running in Group B, which also features Bayer Leverkusen and Belgian champions Club Brugge.

This season’s group stage will begin with the first round of games on September 6 and 7.

The match calendar is expected to be released following the draws on Friday for the group stages of the Europa League and Europa Conference League.

All six matchdays will be played in the space of nine weeks, finishing much earlier than usual on November 1 and 2, with UEFA needing to complete the group stage before the World Cup begins on November 20.

The final will be played on June 10 next year at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, which was supposed to host the final in 2020 and again in 2021 — on each occasion, UEFA moved the game to Portugal due to pandemic-related restrictions.

See the full features below: 

The draw for the 2022/23 UEFA Champions League group stage, made in Istanbul on Thursday:Group A: Ajax (NED), Liverpool (ENG), Napoli (ITA), Rangers (SCO)Group B: FC Porto (POR), Atletico Madrid (ESP), Bayer Leverkusen (GER), Club Brugge (BEL)

Group C: Bayern Munich (GER), Barcelona (ESP), Inter Milan (ITA), Viktoria Plzen (CZE)

Group D: Eintracht Frankfurt (GER), Tottenham Hotspur (ENG), Sporting (POR), Marseille (FRA)

Group E: AC Milan (ITA), Chelsea (ENG), Red Bull Salzburg (AUT), Dinamo Zagreb (CRO)

Group F: Real Madrid (ESP), RB Leipzig (GER), Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR), Celtic (SCO)

Group G: Manchester City (ENG), Sevilla (ESP), Borussia Dortmund (GER), FC Copenhagen (DEN)

Group H: Paris Saint-Germain (FRA), Juventus (ITA), Benfica (POR), Maccabi Haifa (ISR)

Dates:

Matchday 1: September 6-7

Matchday 2: September 13-14

Matchday 3: October 4-5

Matchday 4: October 11-12

Matchday 5: October 25-26

Matchday 6: November 1-2

AFP

 

Bayern Star Lewandowski Poised For Barcelona Move — Reports

Bayern Munich's Polish forward Robert Lewandowski celebrates scoring his team's fourth goal during the UEFA Champions League, second-leg round of 16, football match FC Bayern Munich v FC Chelsea in Munich, southern Germany on August 8, 2020. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP
Bayern Munich’s Polish forward Robert Lewandowski celebrates after scoring a goal for Bayern Munich on August 8, 2020. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

 

 

Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski is set to move to Barcelona in a deal worth 50 million euros ($50.4m), according to multiple reports on Saturday.

Both clubs reached an agreement overnight (Friday), according to Bild and Kicker newspapers and the Sky Germany channel, ending a standoff with the Polish forward who has said he wants to leave the Bavarian giants.

At the end of May, Lewandowski said “it is certain that my story with Bayern has come to an end.”

Lewandowski, twice voted FIFA men’s player of the year, is reported to be set to sign a four-year contract with Barcelona.

“The striker has planned to arrive today (Saturday) in Barcelona to undergo his medical examination and sign for four seasons,” Catalan newspaper Sport reported.

“The Polish player will not be at the presentation of the Bavarian team today,” said Catalan daily Mundo Deportivo, adding that the 33-year-old will join the Spanish team for their tour of the United States from July 18-31.

Bayern had only offered Lewandowski a one-year extension to his contract, which expires in the summer of 2023, according to German media.

The Polish international was also unhappy with the salary offered and had clashed with the Bavarian club’s coach Julian Nagelsmann, over his tactical choices.

Lewandowski joined Bayern in 2014, scoring 344 goals in 375 competitive matches and broke the Bundesliga single-season scoring record.

He won the Bundesliga in each of his eight seasons with the club as well as the Champions League, the Club World Cup and three German Cups.

‘My Bayern Story Has Come To An End’ – Lewandowski 

In this file photo, Bayern Munich’s Polish forward Robert Lewandowski celebrates scoring during the UEFA Champions League Group E football match between FC Bayern Munich and FC Dynamo Kyiv in Munich, southern Germany, on September 29, 2021. CHRISTOF STACHE / AFP

 

Robert Lewandowski said Monday that his time with Bayern Munich was over, without specifying his future plans, amid reports that Barcelona have made him an offer. 

“Today it is certain that my story with Bayern has come to an end,” the Polish star striker told reporters in Warsaw.

“I can’t imagine further cooperation, after what has happened over the last few months,” he added.

“A transfer will be the best solution. I trust that Bayern won’t stop me, just because they can.”

With a year left on Lewandowski’s contract, Barcelona have reportedly made an offer of 32 million euros ($34.5 million) to sign him.

READ ALSO: American-Nigerian Coach Ime Udoka Takes Celtics To NBA Finals

In an interview with Polish broadcaster Eleven Sports PL, Lewandowski dropped a teaser about how he would enjoy living in Spain.

“I think it’s a really good place — not just to go on holiday there,” he said, adding that he has a house in Mallorca.

Bayern CEO Oliver Khan and director of sports Hasan Salihamidzic have both publically stated the club will not let Lewandowski leave before 2023.

Earlier this month, Lewandowski’s agent Pini Zahavi warned Bayern against insisting on the contract.

“Of course they can keep Robert for another year, to be fair he has a contract until 2023, but I wouldn’t recommend that to them,” Zahavi told German daily Bild.

He added that the issue for Lewandowski is not about extra money.

“He has felt disrespected by those in charge (at Bayern) for months, that’s the truth.

“FC Bayern has not lost Lewandowski the player, but Robert the person.”

Zahavi said he hopes Bayern’s senior figures “will think about it again” and allow Lewandowski the opportunity “to fulfil a lifelong dream and move to the club (Barcelona) he has always dreamed of.”

A back-to-back winner of FIFA’s best male player award, Lewandowski has won every title available since joining Bayern in 2014, including eight Bundesliga trophies for a total of 10 having won two with ex-club Dortmund.

He also won the Champions League with Bayern in 2020.

Lewandowski was top-scorer in the Bundesliga last season for the fifth year running after netting 35 goals in Germany’s top flight.

On Monday, Bayern also confirmed the exit of France midfielder Corentin Tolisso whose contract has expired after five years in Munich.

AFP

Bayern Munich One Win From 10th Straight Bundesliga Title

Bayern’s players celebrate Bayern Munich’s German midfielder Serge Gnabry (2nd R) scoring the 0-2 goal during the German first division Bundesliga football match Arminia Bielefeld v Bayern Munich in Bielefeld, western Germany, on April 17, 2022. INA FASSBENDER / AFP

 

Bayern Munich can secure a 10th straight Bundesliga title next weekend after they bounced back from their Champions League exit in midweek with a 3-0 win at Arminia Bielefeld on Sunday.

An own goal by Bielefeld defender Jacob Laursen and strikes by Serge Gnabry and Jamal Musiala saw Bayern move nine points clear in the table.

“A bit of frustration was released after we were knocked out,” Gnabry told DAZN.

Bayern returned to winning ways five days after conceding a last-gasp equaliser at home to Villarreal to crash out of the Champions League with a 2-1 aggregate defeat in the quarter-finals.

READ ALSO: Quadruple-Chasing Liverpool Reach FA Cup Final, Ending Man City’s Treble Bid

“I’ve had a hard time dealing with it,” Bayern midfielder Joshua Kimmich, who was outstanding Sunday, said.

“It’s still in the back of your mind.”

There are four league games left and Bayern can secure the title by beating second-placed Borussia Dortmund in next Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash in Munich.

“We definitely want to clinch it against Dortmund,” Kimmich added.

Bayern were ahead after less than 10 minutes in Bielefeld when a Kimmich pass found its way to Robert Lewandowski, who got a touch before Laursen helped it over the line.

Bayern had a let-off when Japan midfielder Masaya Okugawa clipped the ball over Dayot Upamecano before firing past Manuel Neuer, but the goal was ruled offside.

Just before half-time, Bielefeld midfielder Fabian Kunze was stretchered off after being elbowed in the head by Bayern’s Tanguy Nianzou, who was booked for the challenge.

It was Bielefeld’s third serious head injury in recent weeks.

In the seventh minute of first-half stoppage time, Bayern doubled their lead when Gnabry got on the end of another Kimmich pass to tap home.

Bielefeld kept searching for a goal to get back into the game after the break, but Bayern substitute Musiala secured the points with a late third.

AFP

Villarreal Upset Bayern Munich To Raise Champions League Hopes


Villareal’s players celebrate at the end of during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg football match between Villarreal CF and Bayern Munich at La Ceramica stadium in Vila-real on April 6, 2022. Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP

 

Villarreal inflicted a shock 1-0 victory over Bayern Munich on Wednesday as Arnaut Danjuma’s strike boosted the Spanish team’s hopes of causing a huge upset in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Danjuma diverted in Dani Parejo’s shot in the eighth minute at La Ceramica to seal a surprise win, with Bayern perhaps even fortunate not to be further behind going into the second leg in Germany next week.

Gerard Moreno hit the post and then curled a long-range effort agonisingly wide after Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer had skewed a clearance, briefly leaving his own net gaping.

“We produced a tremendous performance and to be honest we should have won by more,” said Villarreal’s Giovani Lo Celso.

“We were much better than Bayern tonight,” said Dani Parejo. “We’ve beaten one of the best teams in the world.”

READ ALSOAubameyang: Barcelona’s Free Gift Who Keeps On Giving

Julian Nagelsmann’s six-time European champions will still be heavy favourites to overturn the deficit at the Allianz Arena but Villarreal showed again they are not to be underestimated, having already sent Juventus crashing out in the last 16.

“It’s a deserved defeat, we weren’t good,” admitted Nagelsmann. “In the first half we had too little power, we didn’t create chances and we gave up control.”

Unai Emery’s side were seen as one of the kindest opponents available in the draw last month, with perhaps only Benfica placed lower than them in the quarter-finals pecking order.

Bayern, nine points clear at the top of the Bundesliga, up against a Villarreal side who sit seventh in La Liga, 12 points off the top four, and into the last eight of the Champions League for the first time since 2009.

Yet Emery’s side have a knack for rising to the occasion, having gone unbeaten in four league games against Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid this term, after defeating both Arsenal and Manchester United en route to winning the Europa League last year.

Faster, Hungrier


Bayern Munich’s Canadian midfielder Alphonso Davies (L) and Bayern Munich’s Polish forward Robert Lewandowski react to their defeat at the end of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg football match between Villarreal CF and Bayern Munich at La Ceramica stadium in Vila-real on April 6, 2022. Christof STACHE / AFP

 

They were faster and hungrier than Bayern all over the pitch in the first half and in the eighth minute, took the lead.

The excellent Lo Celso found space on the halfway line and drove forward, playing right to Moreno, who pushed the ball forward to the line where Lo Celso had continued his run.

Lo Celso stabbed a brilliant cut-back with the outside of his left foot to Parejo, whose skewed finish would probably have been saved by Neuer, only for Danjuma to intervene, diverting it away from the goalkeeper and into the opposite corner.

Villarreal kept coming and thought they had a second although it would have been a fluke. Off-balance, Francis Coquelin wedged a left-footed cross into the box but it wandered off course, plopping over Neuer and into the net. Coquelin was just offside.

Bayern were rattled, incapable of establishing control. They should have been two down in the second half as Moreno struck the post from distance before being denied a simple finish by a last-ditch block from Alphonso Davies.

Moreno’s best chance came just after the hour as Neuer came a long way out of his goal, only to scuff his clearance straight to the forward, who had an open goal and a whole half of pitch in front of him.

With Neuer sprinting back, a long shot curled just wide of the post.

Davies unleashed two shots at Villarreal’s goal while Kingsley Coman’s rasping effort had to be tipped wide by Geronimo Rulli as Bayern briefly threatened.

But it was their opponents who had the best chances on the counter-attack, Lo Celso guilty of waiting too long in the area on one break, before Alfonso Pedraza blazed wide at the end of another. Bayern may be relieved the deficit stayed at one.

AFP

Six Bayern Players Return To Training After COVID-19 Outbreak

File photo: Bayern Munich’s Polish forward Robert Lewandowski celebrates scoring his team’s fourth goal with teammates during the German first division Bundesliga football match between FC Bayern Munich and VfB Stuttgart in Munich, southern Germany, on March 20, 2021. (Photo by ANDREAS GEBERT / POOL / AFP)

 

Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich on Wednesday welcomed back six of their players who had previously been sidelined by Covid-19.

Bayern captain Manuel Neuer, as well as Leroy Sane, Dayot Upamecano, Alphonso Davies, Omar Richards and Tanguy Nianzou all trained Wednesday.

The group were among the nine players who missed last Friday’s 2-1 home defeat by Borussia Moenchengladbach after testing positive for the virus.

Kingsley Coman and Corentin Tolisso, who also trained Wednesday, had already left quarantine.

Of the nine who missed Friday’s defeat, only defender Lucas Hernandez remains in isolation.

As a precaution, Sane, Upamecano, Davies and Nianzou all worked separately after a group warm-up at Bayern’s training ground.

Bayern remain six points clear at the top of the table before Saturday’s match at Cologne.

Lewandowski Scores Brace As Bayern Down Dortmund


Bayern Munich’s Polish forward Robert Lewandowski (2nd R) celebrates scoring the 2-3 from the penalty spot with his teammates Bayern Munich’s French forward Kingsley Coman (2nd L), Bayern Munich’s French midfielder Corentin Tolisso (L) and Bayern Munich’s Canadian midfielder Alphonso Davies (R) during the German first division Bundesliga football match BVB Borussia Dortmund v FC Bayern Munich in Dortmund, western Germany, on December 4, 2021. Ina Fassbender / AFP

 

Robert Lewandowski scored twice as Bayern Munich opened up a four-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga with a 3-2 win at second-placed Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.

Julian Brandt and Erling Haaland scored Dortmund’s goals at Signal Iduna Park, but Lewandowski netted and converted the winning penalty, either side of a Kingsley Coman goal.

Dortmund coach Marco Rose was shown a red card for arguing with the referee after a Mats Hummels handball led to Lewandowski converting the key spot-kick 12 minutes from time.

“In the first half, we should have led by more and in terms of how we played, I’m not sure we deserved to win,” said Bayern forward Thomas Mueller.

“But in terms of fighting, we were there.”

This was Bayern’s seventh straight win over Dortmund, including five Bundesliga victories and two German Super Cup triumphs.

READ ALSO: Klopp Hails ‘Legend’ Origi As Liverpool Strike Late To Beat Wolves

Dortmund were unhappy to not be awarded a penalty after Marco Reus appeared to be fouled just before Lewandowski’s crucial spot-kick.

“We always had the feeling that we could win. That’s why it’s doubly bitter that we lost like that,” fumed Reus.

Dortmund forged ahead in the fifth minute when Brandt, who was later stretchered off after a clash of heads, slammed in a superb shot.

A Hummels mistake led to Lewandowski equalising four minutes later against his former club when the Poland striker motored onto a Thomas Mueller pass and fired home.

Bayern capitalised on another Dortmund error when Coman’s excellent strike put the visitors in front before half-time.

Just 120 seconds after the break, Dortmund were level when Haaland shot past diving Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer after Dayot Upamecano cheaply gave away possession.

Dortmund were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty when their captain Marco Reus appeared to be fouled by Lucas Hernandez.

At the other end, Hummels was again at fault when VAR confirmed his handball, to Rose’s fury, and Lewandowski made no mistake.

It was Lewandowski’s 22nd goal in 15 Bundesliga games against Dortmund, which he left in 2014.

Bayern midfielder Corentin Tolisso fired wide of an open Dortmund goal during 10 tense minutes of stoppage time.

Schick hits four 

Earlier, Czech Republic striker Patrik Schick scored four second-half goals as third-placed Bayer Leverkusen romped to a 7-1 thrashing of bottom club Greuther Fuerth.

Schick became the first Leverkusen player to score four goals in one half of a Bundesliga match.

“In the first half, I didn’t have a single shot at goal. The second half was like opening a bottle of ketchup,” Schick quipped.

Amine Adli and Edmond Tapsoba scored early goals for Leverkusen before Fuerth pulled a goal back from Jeremy Dudziak.

Schick was then involved in the next five Leverkusen goals as the hosts ran riot.

He set up Ecuador’s Piero Hincapie just before the break, then fired in four goals in just 27 minutes — two with his left foot, one with his right and a header.

Schick has now scored 12 times in 11 league games this season and trails only Lewandowski, who has netted 16 goals, in the scoring charts.

Wolfsburg crashed to a 3-0 defeat at Mainz ahead of Wednesday’s all-or-nothing Champions League clash at home to Lille.

Wolfsburg never recovered from conceding a goal by forward Jonathan Burkardt after just 68 seconds and were 2-0 down after only four minutes when Anton Stach scored from outside the box.

To compound Wolfsburg’s misery, their French defender Maxence Lacroix scored a late own goal.

Hoffenheim climbed into the top four with a 3-2 home win over Eintracht Frankfurt, whose three-match winning streak was ended.

Colombia striker Rafael Borre gave Frankfurt an early lead, but goals by Dennis Geiger, Georginio Rutter and Diadie Samassekou put Hoffenheim in command.

Substitute Goncalo Paciencia scored Frankfurt’s second to set up a tense final 20 minutes, with empty stands in Sinsheim due to high numbers of Covid cases in the region.

AFP

Lewandowski Scores Double As Bayern Thrash Dynamo Kiev

Bayern Munich’s Cameroonian forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (2nd L) celebrates scoring his team’s fifth goal with his teammtes during the UEFA Champions League Group E football match between FC Bayern Munich and FC Dynamo Kyiv in Munich, southern Germany, on September 29, 2021. CHRISTOF STACHE / AFP

 

Robert Lewandowski scored twice for the second straight Champions League game this season as Bayern Munich cruised to a 5-0 home win over Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday.

Lewandowski claimed the 76th and 77th Champions League goals of his career as Bayern cantered into a two-goal lead at the break before Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting netted in the second half.

Lewandowski also hit a brace in the 3-0 drubbing of Barcelona a fortnight ago and, in total, he has scored 24 goals in his last 18 Champions League appearances to bolster his credentials for the Ballon d’Or award at the end of November.

The result means Bayern top Group E, two points clear of their next opponents Benfica, who beat Barcelona 3-0 in Lisbon on Wednesday.

“We did pretty well,” said man-of-the-match Sane. “We kept things calm at the back, showed our dominance and we were strong in our finishing.”

The 25-year-old appeared to have scored the goal of the night when he sent the ball flying into the net from the left wing, but he admitted it was a fluke.

“No, it wasn’t intentional, I just wanted to put a good cross in. My technique isn’t that good,” he said with a smile.


Bayern Munich’s Polish forward Robert Lewandowski celebrates scoring during the UEFA Champions League Group E football match between FC Bayern Munich and FC Dynamo Kyiv in Munich, southern Germany, on September 29, 2021. CHRISTOF STACHE / AFP

 

Dynamo Kiev coach Mircea Lucescu picked a defensive line-up designed to contain the Bundesliga champions, but the hosts took the lead with less than 12 minutes gone.

Kiev captain Serhiy Sydorchuk handled in the area from a Joshua Kimmich corner and Lewandowski converted the resulting spot-kick in front of 25,000 fans, a third of the Allianz Arena’s capacity due to Bavaria’s Covid-19 regulations.

The Poland striker scored his second when Bayern’s relentless pressing led to Thomas Mueller threading a pass between two defenders for Lewandowski to fire home on 27 minutes.

This was the 19th Champions League game in which Lewandowski has scored two or more goals.

It threatened to turn into a first-half rout as Sane’s shot smacked against the post 10 minutes before half-time.

On one of the rare occasions when Dynamo got out of their own half, Uruguayan winger Carlos de Pena forced Manuel Neuer to tip the ball over the bar.

Poland international Tomasz Kedziora and Volodymyr Shepelev came off the bench to help the visitors repeatedly thwart Bayern after half-time until Gnabry hit the net on 68 minutes.

Sane went close on two occasions, before Gnabry finished off a counter-attack that started in Bayern’s box.

With Sane, Mueller and Lewandowski sprinting up in support, Gnabry went it alone and fired in a superb shot which crashed in off the underside of the crossbar.

Sane’s attempted cross then caught Dynamo goalkeeper Heorhiy Bushchan off guard as he was beaten at his near post.

Lewandowski trudged off to a standing ovation with 11 minutes left and his replacement Choupo-Moting headed in Bayern’s fifth in the dying stages.

AFP

Lewandowski Drops Hint On Future As Bayern Head To Bottom Side Fuerth

Lewandowski equalled Gerd Mueller’s 49-year-old scoring record in May as he netted his 41st Bundesliga goal of the season. Photo: Kicker Magazine.

 

Robert Lewandowski has hinted he could finish his career at Bayern Munich as the Bundesliga leaders prepare for Friday’s away match at bottom side Greuther Fuerth.

Lewandowski won Europe’s “Golden Shoe” on Tuesday as top scorer in European football after he scored a Bundesliga record 41 goals in 29 games last season.

The Poland forward is already the German league’s joint top-scorer this season alongside Dortmund star striker Erling Braut Haaland with seven goals in five league games.

The 33-year-old Lewandowski has a Bayern contract until June 2023 and despite having often been linked to a move to Real Madrid in the past, he told reporters that he “doesn’t need to prove myself in another league”.

“I can compete with the best from other leagues in the Champions League. I’m 100 percent focused on Bayern Munich – I don’t think about anything else, but my team,” he added.

Lewandowski caused a stir when he brought his newly-won Golden Shoe award to training on Wednesday and his Bayern team-mates queued up for photos with the trophy.

The Bavarian giants grabbed top spot in the Bundesliga last weekend with a 7-0 demolition of Bochum.

Bayern have chalked up 38 goals in their first eight games this season in all competitions and more goals are expected at Fuerth on Friday.

Since winning promotion last season, Fuerth have taken one point from a home draw against Bielefeld in their first five Bundesliga games.

Defending champions Bayern start as clear favourites, but wait on the fitness of Serge Gnabry, who was absent with flu on Wednesday, as was attacking midfielder Jamal Musiala and reserve goalkeeper Sven Ulreich, who picked up ankle and knee injuries respectively after colliding in training at the start of the week.

Lewandowski was not the only Bayern star to win an award this week as club captain Manuel Neuer was on Wednesday awarded the Bavarian Order of Merit for his services to the southern German state.

During the ceremony, Neuer said his goal is to win the World Cup again and repeat Germany’s 2014 trumph in Brazil. “That’s something that’s on my to-do list.”

AFP

Lewandowski Nets Brace As Bayern Outplay Barcelona Again

Bayern Munich’s Polish forward Robert Lewandowski (9) scores a goal during the UEFA Champions League first-round group E football match against Barcelona at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on September 14, 2021. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Bayern Munich gave Barcelona a brutal demonstration of how far the Catalan club has fallen by strolling to a 3-0 win in the Champions League on Tuesday, with Robert Lewandowski scoring twice in a rout at Camp Nou.

Without Lionel Messi for a first European campaign since 2003, Barca were outplayed by Bayern, who might have scored more but in the end, settled for three thanks to Thomas Mueller’s deflected opener and Lewandowski’s double.

When Lewandowski made it two before the hour, the possibility of another humiliation in the mould of last year’s 8-2 defeat by the same opponents in Lisbon felt very real.

Instead, Bayern delivered perhaps an even louder message about the gulf in class by easing off in the latter stages, as Barca’s fans expressed their anger, dismay, and finally a sense of resignation.

Sergi Roberto was on the end of the loudest whistles from the home supporters and it was impossible not to wonder if the criticism came in part from disappointment at the lack of progress down the right flank, where Messi once created so much.

Ronald Koeman’s position has come under scrutiny in recent weeks and his 5-3-2 formation, which defies Barcelona’s attacking traditions, will not have strengthened his hand.

Yet the bottom line here was the lack of quality in the Barcelona line-up, coming after their turbulent summer of sales, which was inferior to Bayern’s in every department.

Mueller has scored seven goals in six appearances now against the Catalans while Lewandowski has scored in 18 consecutive matches.

Julian Nagelsmann’s strong start as the coach continues – this was a sixth consecutive victory – but he will know Bayern will face tougher Champions League opposition than this.

In true underdog fashion, Barca flew into Bayern early on, eager to impress themselves physically on an opponent they perhaps knew would be technically superior.

The crowd were in on it too, cheering as Luuk de Jong outmuscled Alphonso Davies and Sergi Roberto held off Dayot Upamecano.

There was then a hint of a chance when Memphis Depay slid De Jong but he lacked the speed to capitalise and Benjamin Pavard cleared.

The early enthusiasm could only sustain Barcelona so long and as the game settled, gradually Bayern took control.

Leroy Sane volleyed at Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Gerard Pique had to make a last-ditch challenge to stop Mueller.

But Bayern’s authority was set, even if their opening goal owed a lot to fortune, Mueller unleashing from 30 yards and the ball diverting off the back of Eric Garcia, wrongfooting Ter Stegen and creeping inside the post.

Barca wilted before half-time, the atmosphere turning sour as passes went astray and attacks broke down.

A renewed push after half-time saw Sergio Busquets drive wide but Bayern came again.

Sane hit the right foot of Ter Stegen from eight yards and then Lewandowski made it two, studding the ball into an open goal after the Barca keeper committed to Jamal Musiala’s shot that cannoned off the post.

Under threat of another thrashing, Koeman took off Sergi Roberto and Busquets, to a chorus of whistles from the home fans. The 18-year-old Yusuf Demir and a 17-year-old Gavi came on.

Yet Bayern spared Barca a humiliation, waltzing through for one more late on as Lewandowski danced through a sprawl of bodies and fired with five minutes left. For Barca, three felt like a relief.

Barcelona Face Bayern Again Without Messi

File photo: Ex-Barcelona Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Barcelona and Bayern Munich at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on August 14, 2020. (Photo by Manu Fernandez / POOL / AFP)

 

“We need change from top to bottom,” Gerard Pique said but even he could not have predicted what followed as Barcelona, without Lionel Messi, reunite with Bayern Munich on Tuesday, a year on from the defeat that changed everything.

After the 8-2 loss by Bayern in the Champions League quarter-finals, Pique said Barca needed change of all kinds, “not just players and coaches, but structurally”, insisting “new blood” was needed. “We are not able to compete in Europe,” he said.

The humiliation felt like rock bottom, a brutal confirmation of mediocrity delivered by a club about to reach the summit of Europe against one no longer anywhere near it.

Pique demanded revolution but little has improved in the year since, the club’s financial horrors laid bare by Messi’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain, which has been harder to stomach for the fans than any thrashing on the pitch.

Ten days after the loss in Lisbon, Messi sent Barcelona the burofax stating his desire to leave and while he insisted it had nothing to do with the Bayern defeat, he also said they “had given off a very bad image. It was wrong.”

And so for the first time in almost two decades, Barca begin a Champions League campaign this week without their best ever player, who registered his first Champions League goal in 2005 and went on to score 120 in 149 games for them, against 41 different opponents, including seven hat-tricks.

Messi won four Champions Leagues in 10 years at Camp Nou but none in his last six and while he was far from blameless, every failure enhanced the sense of a historic career being wasted.

Whether the theory Messi’s absence will liberate others has merit remains to be seen but there is certainly less pressure now to succeed, even less than last season, when a gallant draw with PSG in the second leg came as something of a relief after a 4-1 loss in the first.

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Memphis Face of New Era? 

File photo:  Bayern Munich’s Polish forward Robert Lewandowski celebrates after scoring his team’s sixth goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Barcelona and Bayern Munich at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on August 14, 2020. (Photo by Manu Fernandez / POOL / AFP)

 

Dampened expectations could at least offer a more forgiving platform for Barca’s youngsters to thrive and others, like Memphis Depay and Ousmane Dembele, to step forward.

“Memphis can mark a new era at Barca,” said Koeman this week. “He has the things you need to be a success here: personality and character.”

If new blood was needed, Koeman has helped accelerate the transition as the likes of Pedri, Frenkie de Jong, Sergino Dest and Ronald Araujo have risen in prominence, ready perhaps to lead themselves.

There have been departures too, 20 of them since the final whistle blew in Lisbon, not to mention the coach, with Quique Setien being swiftly replaced by Koeman. Five of those that played against Bayern in 2020 have gone.

It was the board Pique was targeting most and there has been wholesale change there as well, with Joan Laporta taking over as president and installing Mateu Alemany as the new director of football.

But Laporta’s first six months has been so consumed by keeping the club afloat, there have been precious few decisions aimed at taking it forward.

Last month, Laporta indicated the club’s total debts amounted to 1.35 billion euros, with player salaries 103 per cent of income, a figure now closer to 80 per cent after the transfer window. Saving, not improving, has been the priority.

The result is perhaps a club with better hopes for the future but a team that looks even worse than the one before and it would be a huge surprise if Barcelona troubled either the Champions League’s latter stages or primary contenders.

When Pique said they were “no longer able to compete in Europe” last year, there was anger in his voice but there is more of an acceptance now, an awareness that for now the pinnacle is almost certainly out of reach.

For Barcelona, the worst may be over but it could be a while before the good times return.

AFP

Florenzi Out Of PSG’s Bayern Showdown After Positive COVID-19 Test

Alessandro Florenzi Photo Credit: PSG Website

 

Defender Alessandro Florenzi has become the latest Paris Saint-Germain player to test positive for Covid-19 and will miss the Champions League game at Bayern Munich, his club tweeted on Monday.

Following the “latest PCR Sars-Cov2 test, Alessandro Florenzi is confirmed positive,” the club wrote on its Twitter account.

The full-back joins fellow Italian Marco Verratti who has also tested positive.

For the first leg of their quarterfinal in Munich on Wednesday, PSG were already without Argentine Leandro Paredes, who is suspended, as well as midfielder Verratti.

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Florenzi and Verratti were both part of the Italian squad on the recent international break.

The tie is a rematch of last season’s final, which Bayern won 1-0.

Florenzi “will therefore respect the isolation and is subject to the appropriate health protocol”, said PSG saying that “the player has been in isolation for several days as a precaution”.

The full-back, on loan from Roma, was not on the team sheet for Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Lille in Ligue 1.

In his absence, coach Mauricio Pochettino’s options at right-back include German Thilo Kehrer and Frenchman Colin Dagba.

AFP