Thomas Muller felt Bayern Munich's DFB-Pokal final victory over Bayer Leverkusen was a "sad moment" because the game had to take place behind closed doors. 

Bayern have been in electric form since top-flight football in Germany resumed after the coronavirus shutdown, storming to an eighth consecutive Bundesliga title before closing out another campaign of domestic dominance with a 4-2 win in Berlin on Saturday. 

David Alaba's brilliant free-kick opened the scoring at the Olympiastadion and Serge Gnabry doubled the advantage. 

Although Leverkusen improved considerably after the break, Robert Lewandowski scored a brace to move past 50 goals for the campaign and seal glory. 

Nevertheless, playing at Germany's most famous stadium without fans led to mixed emotions for Muller.

"It's a bit of a sad moment," he told ARD.  "When the fans are missing at a cup final like this, it's not the same. 

"We did well for most of the way, but it hurts a little bit too." 

Wherever they were watching, once again Bayern supporters had plenty to enjoy from a team revitalised under Hansi Flick, who will now aim to repeat the 2012-13 treble when the Champions League concludes next month.

"We leave the stadium proud that we have achieved this," Flick told Sky. "What the team has achieved in the last few weeks is sensational. The attitude is simply fantastic.

"I am very, very happy. The way the team performs is extraordinary."

There was little doubt over the destination of the trophy after Gnabry drilled home an unerring finish in the 24th minute.

"We are so lucky to have won the double today," he told Sky.

"In the first half we had the game completely under control, we could have scored one or two more goals.

"Then Leverkusen had a lot of counter-attacks, but in the end we won 4-2, and that's the most important thing."

Manuel Neuer is one of the survivors of Bayern's last treble season and the captain is eager to go all the way again.

"We have experienced in the last few weeks how motivated and hungry FC Bayern is," Neuer told Sky.

"What we have achieved is something very special. The attitude was sensational.

"We have a little break now, and then we'll prepare ourselves at the top and of course try to bring in the treble."

Bayern Munich defeated Bayer Leverkusen 4-2 to retain their DFB-Pokal crown and wrap up a domestic double for a second successive season. 

Having missed out on Champions League qualification, Leverkusen were aiming to cause an upset and clinch their first trophy since 1993 in the process, but Kai Havertz and company failed to step up in Berlin. 

David Alaba and Serge Gnabry put Bayern in cruise control by the interval, with a 20th DFB-Pokal triumph all but wrapped up when Lukas Hradecky fumbled Robert Lewandowski's effort over the line moments after a glaring miss by Kevin Volland. 

Sven Bender headed in four minutes later to make things interesting, but Hansi Flick's side held firm before adding a fourth in an eventful finish, Lewandowski on target again before Leverkusen scored from the penalty spot.

Bayern cut through Leverkusen's press with an exceptional move in the 10th minute but Kingsley Coman failed to beat Hradecky. Yet Bayern only had to wait another six minutes for their opener, Alaba sending an exquisite free-kick into the right-hand corner. 

Hradecky pulled off an outstanding stop to deny Thomas Muller, playing in his eighth DFB-Pokal final, though he was beaten again when Gnabry drilled home after being released by Joshua Kimmich. 

Volland was introduced as Leverkusen searched for a way back into the contest, though the substitute completely missed his attempted shot with just Manuel Neuer to beat. 

Leverkusen's misery was compounded before the hour as Hradecky let Lewandowski's long-range strike slip through his grasp.

Bender took advantage of slack marking to swiftly pull one back, though it never looked likely to be enough to spark a comeback. After missing from point-blank range in the 73rd minute, Lewandowski added his second of the contest in the closing stages, lifting a delicate finish over Hradecky.

There was time for more drama, though, with Havertz hammering home from the penalty spot after Alaba's handball was spotted by VAR.

 

What does it mean? Two down, one to go for Bayern...

Bayern's development under Flick has been outstanding and with a domestic double once again wrapped up, this feels like a team with the confidence and quality to go all the way when the Champions League resumes in August. 

Kimmich in control as Thiago exit nears 

If reports are to be believed, Thiago Alcantara will soon be swapping Bayern for Premier League champions Liverpool. Yet in Kimmich, the Bundesliga giants are in excellent hands. He was typically composed as he dictated proceedings, topping off his display with a fine assist for Gnabry. 

Havertz's blushes spared by Hradecky 

Havertz failed to impress in what could well be his final outing for Leverkusen, but it was a calamitous error from team-mate Hradecky which will take the glare off his subdued display. The in-demand youngster did at least make an impact with a superbly taken penalty.

What's next? 

Bayern's players now face a month-long break before they take on Chelsea in the Champions League, leading 3-0 from the first leg. Leverkusen, meanwhile, will hope to retain their key players ahead of next season. 

Tuesday's Der Klassiker between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich looks set to play a decisive role in where the Bundesliga title ends up, and the game itself could conceivably be decided by the two teams' options on the flanks.

There is something deeply satisfying and exhilarating about an effective, attack-minded wing partnership, and there have been many such combinations down the years that fit the bill.

Lionel Messi and Dani Alves, Luis Figo and Roberto Carlos, Philipp Lahm and Arjen Robben, Djalma Santos and Garrincha – the list goes on.

While there are also many effective flank pairings in modern football, when considering which are the most effective from an attacking sense, it is difficult to look past those served up by Germany's big two.

Although Jadon Sancho has only been fit enough to make a couple of substitute appearances since the Bundesliga resumed, there is every chance he will be back in the starting XI on Tuesday, with Achraf Hakimi, Alphonso Davies and Serge Gnabry all likely to feature as well.

All four are enjoying fine seasons – below, we examine just how effective the quartet have been.

Hakimi v Davies

Given they'll both be operating on the same side of the pitch, Hakimi and Davies will likely spend a significant amount of time in close proximity or running at the other, hoping to punish any defensive lapses. Even watching it could be exhausting, given how quick they are.

Both are more renowned for their attacking tendencies than defensive nous, which is certainly understandable with respect to Davies, who is effectively in his first season as a full-back. A straight comparison highlights plenty of common strengths when they are unshackled.

Davies' remarkable pace has attracted attention at times this term, and with good reason – his top speed of 35.3km/h is second only to Kingsley Coman (35.7km/h) in the Bayern side, though Hakimi clocks in as the quickest player since these records began in the Bundesliga, having got up to 36.5km/h.

Bayern youngster Davies shades it in terms of ball carries (running with possession for at least five metres), however. He embarks on 19.9 per game, 0.4 more than Hakimi, while Davies holds on to the ball for 12.4m on average – the Dortmund right-back keeps it for 11.5m.

Davies has also attempted more take-ons (118 to 113), has a better dribble success rate (58 per cent to 56 per cent) and runs an average of 11.2km per 90 minutes, 600m more than Hakimi.

Nevertheless, Hakimi's 146 carries for more than 10m is a Bundesliga-high, and while Davies negligibly edges him out in many of the aforementioned metrics, the Moroccan's 14 Bundesliga goal involvements is more than double that of the young Canadian.

Either way, it is clear to see both full-backs play a significant role in driving their respective teams up the pitch - Davies might be in for a more robust test of his defensive capabilities in this contest, however.

Sancho v Gnabry

It's worth pointing out neither player is exactly guaranteed to start – fitness issues have meant Sancho only made substitute appearances in Dortmund's past two matches, while Gnabry was on the bench at the weekend.

However, given their respective records this term, if they are in top condition, there is little doubt both will start. It is the biggest match of the season, after all.

Sancho and Gnabry have enjoyed immensely productive campaigns. The Bayern winger has had a hand in 20 Bundesliga goals, while the England international hit 30 with his 16th assist of the season at the weekend when setting up Hakimi.

Sancho is way out in front in terms of take-ons, having attempted a league-high of 131 this term, completing 47 per cent. Gnabry has looked to beat his man 92 times, succeeding 48 per cent of the time.

But there are fundamental differences between their respective styles of play when in possession.

Gnabry is more likely than his counterpart to end a carry with a shot, doing so 29 times in 2019-20, behind only Timo Werner (36). Similarly, 22 of his successful dribbles have come inside the penalty area – a joint-high for the division with Robert Lewandowski and Marcus Thuram.

By comparison, Sancho has only completed eight dribbles in the box and just 14 of his carries ended with a shot. However, eight of them have led to an assist, which is a Bundesliga record in 2019-20 and seven more than Gnabry.

This suggests, to a certain degree, that Gnabry lacks some of the awareness of Sancho, or at the very least possesses more of a single-minded approach.

The data also highlights Sancho's slightly deeper role, which is backed up by the fact he tends to run further (11.2km per match to 10.7km), sprint more (35.5 per match to 34.1) and has reached a higher top speed (34km/h, to 33.2km/h) than Gnabry.

While Sancho arguably comes out on top generally, there's no doubting both are exceptional talents and if they get anywhere close to their best on Tuesday, either he or Gnabry could light up the Klassiker by themselves.

Hansi Flick has revealed Thiago Alcantara is struggling with a muscular injury just four days before Bayern Munich visit Borussia Dortmund for Der Klassiker.

Spanish midfielder Thiago completed 90 minutes as leaders Bayern beat Union Berlin 2-0 last weekend, picking up where they left off in their first Bundesliga game since the resumption.

However, Flick has confirmed the 29-year-old has since picked up a muscle problem that puts his availability for Saturday's clash with Eintracht Frankfurt in doubt.

Though Flick has not ruled Thiago out of that match, it is a quick turnaround for Tuesday, when Bayern face their nearest rivals Dortmund in a game which could have a huge say in the eventual destination of the title.

Discussing Bayern's injury problems at his pre-match news conference, Flick told reporters: "With Serge [Gnabry], it looks good.

"With Thiago, we have to wait. We hope that we have both with us. We will catch up.

"Otherwise the situation is like last week."

Thiago has played in all but three of Bayern's 26 Bundesliga matches to date, the Bavarians beginning this round of fixtures four points clear of Dortmund.

They have kept three successive clean sheets too, despite not having centre-back Niklas Sule available since October because of a knee injury.

Germany international Sule is still keen to be involved before the campaign finishes, though Flick is cautious.

"We don't want to rush anything," he added.

"Niklas has expressed the wish to play this season. We have to see how stability in the knee allows."

After more than a two-month pause, top-level European football returns on Saturday with the Bundesliga's resumption – and EA Sports have released their 'Team of the Season So Far' on FIFA Ultimate Team ahead the German top-flight's return.

Undoubtedly the highlight of the first weekend back will be the Revierderby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke, while pacesetters Bayern Munich go to Union Berlin.

For many football fans out there, gaming will have played a significant role in filling the void left behind by the real thing over the past two months – and FIFA 20 is giving Bundesliga fanatics extra reason to stick around with its boosted cards.

Featuring the likes of Jadon Sancho, Kai Havertz, Erling Haaland, Robert Lewandowski and Timo Werner, all of whom have boosted ratings in the 90s, fresh TOTSSF cards are now available in FUT.

Check out the full release below.

TEAM OF THE SEASON SO FAR

GK: Yann Sommer (Borussia Monchengladbach) – 94

RWB: Achraf Hakimi (Borussia Dortmund) – 91

CB: Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund) – 96

CB: Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig) – 93

LB: Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich) – 92

RF: Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund) – 96

CDM: Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich) – 96

CAM: Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen) – 94

ST: Timo Werner (RB Leipzig) – 97

ST: Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund) – 95

ST: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) – 99

SUBSTITUTES

GK: Lukas Hradecky (Bayer Leverkusen) – 91

CB: Martin Hinteregger (Eintracht Frankfurt) – 88

CB: Matthias Ginter (Borussia Monchengladbach) – 92

CM: Suat Serdar (Schalke) – 88

CM: Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich) – 95

RW: Serge Gnabry (Bayern Munich) – 93

LM: Filip Kostic (Eintracht Frankfurt) – 94

CAM: Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund) – 95

ST: Florian Niederlechner (Augsburg) – 89

Common Goal reached a milestone on Tuesday – 150 players or managers signed up to the charity movement.

Manchester City and Scotland star Caroline Weir made the pledge to commit one per cent of her income to sporting charities.

Led by Manchester United's Juan Mata and Street Football World, Common Goal was launched in 2017 – a project used to fund charities across the globe, which has raised more than €2million.

Mata, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, Bayern Munich forward Serge Gnabry, Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini and Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels are among the high-profile footballers to have joined the cause, while Danish outfit FC Nordsjaelland are the first professional club involved.

But it is the women – the likes of Weir, United States female stars Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe – female leadership and the new generation, led by 16-year-old Real Madrid youth-team player Bruno Iglesias and Wolfsburg's Xaver Schlager, shining through.

And while Common Goal has come a long way since its launch, the organisation is not resting on its laurels as it tackles the "greatest social challenges of our time" and eyes a collective effort.

"We reached 150 and it's a female, a 24-year-old, playing for Manchester City, she already has more than 70 caps for her country, she is doing her degree, she is a very smart woman, an extraordinary footballer," Ben Miller, one of the founding team of Common Goal, told Stats Perform. "It's very significant but again it's a woman or the female leadership that's shining through Common Goal.

"There's a huge diversity of players in this team of professionals and it's really reflective of football. Yes, Chiellini, Hummels, Gnabry and Klopp are there, and Casey Stoney, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe but there's players from second and third divisions and that's what it's like.

"Football is like a triangle, not many are at the top of it. Interestingly in the female membership, most of the women are at the top of their profession, at the top of the triangle. If you look at the male membership, there are a significant number of high-profile players who have shown a great deal of faith in the model.

"If we work as a team, we can actually have a significant contribution to making the world a better place through football itself, with a mechanism which is transparent and high-impact and aligned to the UN sustainable development goal, so it has a clear track towards 2030. We're all very ambitious to see this work but we have a way to go before we reach a tipping point, where it really becomes a normal thing to do if you're an athlete."

"To start with a single player, and now it's 150, yes, it's amazing," he added. "But, one per cent of what the football industry generated last year would be €400million and there are a lot of football players. I'm happy but we have to continue to grow this and explain how simple it is. It's not one thing or the other. The way this will work is the power of the collective. I'm happy but we still have a long way to go and I think these landmarks are important because they give us a boost to keep going.

At a time of crisis as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc globally, Common Goal has set up the COVID-19 Response Fund – supported by the UEFA Foundation for Children.

"It's not reinventing the wheel, it's using the existing network of football-based community projects that are in the heart of the communities that will be hardest hit by COVID-19," Miller said. "Caroline Weir for example, her donation will go towards the response fund. Existing members, who are coming up to the end of the year and will do another donation, they can choose to put that in the COVID-19 fund as well. You don't have to be a Common Goal member to participate, anyone can donate.

"The idea is to give immediate response but to give the mid- to long-term support that the organisations will need to re-establish themselves. All the programs are on hold, people need access to food and medicine, survival basics… help empower the young boys and girls."

Common Goal, though, is not without its challenges amid cynicism and a lack of trust within the football world towards charity organisations. Klopp made the pledge in front of a star-studded crowd during The Best FIFA Football Awards in September. However, no one made contact or wanted to find out about Common Goal following the announcement in Milan.

But with 90 per cent of donations going directly to charities, compared to 50 per cent in a lot of cases with other charities, Miller has faith in what Common Goal is building, thanks to its members – with several players donating significantly more than one per cent.

"You have a 16-year-old kid [Iglesias], who has made the decision, not to wait until he gets in Real Madrid's first team and the senior Spain team but he is going to do it now. He is going to make this part of his journey, no matter where he goes," Miller continued.

"This just gives me an incredible amount of faith in the future, that this new, younger generation of players who are embracing this from the word go. They're not going to wait until they reach a certain level and allow people to make these kinds of decisions for them. Because making this decision is a fundamental part of who they are as a human being."

Miller added: "It's the first time in our lifetime that a crisis that's happening in the real world has actually penetrated the bubble of elite football players. They've never been affected by anything before. The ones that are in touch are still in touch of what's happening – they're aware that there are 70 million displaced people because of the refugee crisis. But a lot simply aren't and it's not a criticism to them, it's just the world in which they live, it's very insular.

"We're all in the same boat. We're all the same – that's the fundamental message. If I don't care about you, you don't care about me, we don't care about what's happening in Australia, Spain or the UK, then we don't stand much of a chance of tackling any of the crises we face."

Serge Gnabry says he always enjoys returning to London, after he scored twice in Bayern Munich's 3-0 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Gnabry netted four times in a 7-2 rout of Tottenham in October during Bayern's last trip to the English capital and the Germany international – a former Arsenal player – shined once more on his return to London.

The forward scored Bayern's opening two goals in the space of three second-half minutes, with the excellent Alphonso Davies teeing up Robert Lewandowski with 14 minutes remaining.

"I certainly do," Gnabry told BT Sport when asked if he enjoys playing in London. "I have a lot of friends here. A lot of them were in the stands tonight and I think they were giving me good power.

"So of course, I always enjoy coming back!"

Bayern have one foot in the last eight ahead of the second leg on March 18, though Gnabry insists the Bundesliga leaders will not allow any complacency to creep in even with a three-goal cushion.

"Three goals should give us a lot of confidence. We need to be prepared for the second leg and we can't take it serious enough," he added.

"We saw last season with Liverpool beating Barcelona after a 3-0 advantage, we know we have to be careful, we have to go into the second leg with all of our focus.

"We knew we had to be patient, we had the game in control even in the first half, had a couple of chances and didn't take them, but we knew we'd get our chances and in the end we took them.

In his post-match news conference, Bayern coach Hansi Flick was asked whether he found it strange that Arsenal had allowed Gnabry to leave for Werder Bremen back in 2016.

"No I'm happy," said Flick, who also confirmed Kingsley Coman had suffered a muscular strain and would require five days' rest.

It was a sentiment echoed by Thomas Muller, who is delighted to playing alongside a player in such fine form as Gnabry.

"I'm happy he is scoring so much in London now and not five years ago, because if that were the case he probably wouldn't be with us now," Muller told Sky Sport.

Robert Lewandowski equalled a Champions League best set by Cristiano Ronaldo as he led Bayern Munich to an emphatic win at Chelsea.

Lewandowski scored once and assisted another two goals as the Bundesliga leaders claimed a 3-0 win at Stamford Bridge in the first leg of their last-16 tie on Tuesday.

The Bayern striker combined with Serge Gnabry to devastating effect to set up two goals in the space of three minutes for the Germany winger, before tapping in a cross from the electric Alphonso Davies to secure a potentially unassailable first-leg advantage.

Lewandowski moved onto 11 goals in seven Champions League games, his best record in a single season, while he also matched Ronaldo's record of nine away goals scored in Europe's top club competition in the same campaign set back in 2013-14.

Remarkably, the Poland star had gone 672 minutes without a goal in the Champions League knockout phase until his simple finish.

Bayern's win means they have scored three or more goals away from home against four separate English sides in the competition since 2013 - Arsenal twice, Tottenham, and now Chelsea.

The margin of defeat was Chelsea's heaviest at home in any European competition in their history.

While Lewandowski and Gnabry were responsible for the goals, it was the performance of young converted full-back Davies that particularly caught the eye.

The 19-year-old was a menace down the left with his pace and also kept Chelsea wing-back Reece James on the fringes of the action with some superb defensive work.

As well as creating two chances overall, including Lewandowski's tap-in, Davies regained possession eight times in the 90 minutes. Only Thiago Alcantara (17) did so more often for Hansi Flick's side.

Serge Gnabry starred as Bayern Munich seized control of their Champions League last-16 tie against Chelsea with a resounding 3-0 win in the opening leg at Stamford Bridge.

After a dominant opening half in which Thomas Muller hit the crossbar, the Bundesliga leaders – facing Chelsea for the first time since losing to the Blues in the 2012 final – took the match away from their hosts in the space of three second-half minutes.

Gnabry, who scored four in a 7-2 rout over Tottenham in Bayern's last trip to London, netted a brace when twice combining brilliantly with Robert Lewandowski, who got Bayern's third with 14 minutes remaining.

With Bayern in the ascendency ahead of the return fixture on home soil, Chelsea's misery was compounded when Marcos Alonso was sent off late on.

Retaining his place in Chelsea's line up at Kepa Arrizabalaga's expense, Willy Caballero had a save to make in the first minute when he kept out Muller's strike.

Muller turned provider 10 minutes later with a brilliant exchange of passes with Kingsley Coman, who sliced wide, while Caballero twice denied Lewandowski.

With Olivier Giroud failing to turn in Mason Mount's cross at the other end, the bar came to Chelsea's rescue from a Muller header.

But Bayern made no mistake with their next chance – Lewandowski squaring for the supporting Gnabry to side-foot home.

They swiftly added a second, too, with Lewandowski and Gnabry combining once more for the latter to slot into the bottom-right corner.

Gnabry could have had his third before the hour only to hammer over on the volley, though Bayern were inconvenienced by Coman succumbing to an apparent hamstring injury.

Chelsea seemed to be gathering a head of steam late on, yet Frank Lampard's side found themselves down – and all but out – when the excellent Alphonso Davies raced clear to tee up Lewandowski for his 11th Champions League goal of the season, with Alonso then seeing red after a VAR check for violent conduct.

Robert Lewandowski scored a late winner to send Bayern Munich four points clear at the top of the Bundesliga with a 3-2 over bottom side Paderborn.

Hansi Flick's men twice saw a one-goal lead erased by their lowly visitors in an absorbing encounter, with efforts from Serge Gnabry and Lewandowski cancelled out by Dennis Srbeny and Sven Michel.

However, two minutes from the end of normal time Gnabry and Lewandowski combined to seal maximum points for Bayern, albeit in unconvincing fashion.

After avoiding a remarkable slip-up, Bayern can watch the rest of the weekend's action with the pressure firmly on challengers RB Leipzig as they visit Schalke on Saturday looking to reduce the gap back to a point.

 

 

Serge Gnabry suggested Cologne had no answer to Bayern Munich's rapid start on Sunday as three goals in the opening dozen minutes took the Bavarian giants back top of the Bundesliga.

Robert Lewandowski, Kingsley Coman and Gnabry all struck early on as Bayern raced out of the blocks en route to a 4-1 victory that saw them move above RB Leipzig again in the standings.

Gnabry scored again in the second half before Mark Uth pulled one back, with Bayern's two-goal forward delighted with the way the visitors approached the early stages of the contest.

"We are happy to have three points. I think we came out very strong in the first half - Cologne did not have a chance," Gnabry told the Bundesliga's website.

"I think in the second half we should have scored our fourth goal earlier to not let them come back, but in the end we are happy about the three points and I think we showed a strong performance."

Gnabry could have had a hat-trick but he lost his balance and hit the crossbar after rounding Cologne's goalkeeper Timo Horn, who also tipped a long-range effort from Joshua Kimmich onto a post before the break.

Despite the eventual scoreline, Bayern's inability to add to their three-goal haul until midway through the second half frustrated goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

"I was expecting a little more resistance in the beginning," he told Sky of Cologne.

"We could have scored up to 10 goals. We have to reproach ourselves.

"It annoys me that we didn't keep playing because we made life difficult for ourselves."

Cologne had come into the game on the back of four straight home wins in the Bundesliga, but they were blown away by Bayern in the opening exchanges.

"In the first half you could see that we're still developing," head coach Markus Gisdol said at a news conference.

"Bayern showed their class. We were too passive and weren't courageous enough.

"I had hoped that we could have stayed in the game for longer. But in the second half we presented ourselves well. The boys can learn something from both halves."

Bayern Munich returned to the top of the Bundesliga as they swept aside Cologne 4-1 on the back of three goals in the opening 12 minutes.

RB Leipzig leapfrogged Bayern with a 3-0 victory over Werder Bremen on Saturday, but Hansi Flick's side responded the following day by blowing away their hosts early on.

Thomas Muller laid on goals for Robert Lewandowski and Kingsley Coman before Serge Gnabry rifled in a third from a Joshua Kimmich corner.

Gnabry added a second 24 minutes from time, with Mark Uth pulling one back for Cologne, as Bayern went back above Leipzig, who now trail the reigning champions by one point after 22 games.

Lewandowski reached 40 goals for club and country this season in the third minute, collecting a Muller pass and smashing into the roof of the net to make it 12 goals in 14 games against Cologne.

The home side were being cut open at will and Lewandowski and Muller were involved again when the latter found Coman, whose effort deflected in off Rafael Czichos to make it 2-0.

Bayern refused to let up and they had a three-goal lead when Gnabry brought down Kimmich's delivery to the far post and steered into the bottom-right corner of the net.

Only the woodwork prevented the Bavarian giants' lead from being greater at the interval as an off-balance Gnabry hit the crossbar and Timo Horn tipped Kimmich's long-range effort against the post.

Cologne might have found a way back had Jhon Cordoba not had two goals disallowed for offside inside the opening 10 minutes of the second half.

Bayern had eased off but scored a fourth in the 66th minute when Gnabry cut in off the left and curled home his second before Cologne finally got a consolation, Uth remaining onside to apply the finish to Florian Kainz's cross.

Gnabry squandered a glorious chance for his hat-trick when he fired wide after a lovely backheel from Muller, who missed out on a treble of assists in the process.

 

What does it mean? Bayern deliver perfect response to Leipzig win

Bayern, 29-time Bundesliga champions, are not used to playing catch up but Leipzig's win on Saturday added some extra pressure to this fixture.

Cologne were in good form too having won four top-flight home games in a row, yet Bayern's blistering start meant the result was a foregone conclusion after just a dozen minutes.

Muller's here to assist you

With another two assists, Muller reached 14 for the season, already equalling his personal best from the 2017-18 season.

The 30-year-old's contract expires at the end of next season and his recent form shows Bayern would be wise to agree fresh terms.

Katterbach caught out all too often

None of Cologne's back four came out of the early exchanges with any real credit but Noah Katterbach in particular struggled against Coman.

Katterbach's rotten afternoon was ended by injury inside the opening half an hour and it did not help that his replacement Kainz was arguably Cologne's best player.

What's next?

Bayern have the chance to move four points clear of Leipzig as they next play on Friday when they host Paderborn. Cologne head to Hertha Berlin the following day.

Bayern Munich took advantage of RB Leipzig's slip up to move one point behind the Bundesliga leaders with a 5-0 demolition of Schalke.

Buoyed by Leipzig's defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt earlier on Saturday, Hansi Flick's side were dominant from the off at Allianz Arena, leading from the sixth minute when Robert Lewandowski lashed in his 21st league goal of the season.

Thomas Muller bookended a fine first-half display, with the terrific Leon Goretzka striking against his previous club with a sensational scissor-kick five minutes after the break.

Thiago Alcantara helped himself to a simple finish as the hosts ran riot, with a blunder from goalkeeper Markus Schubert – playing in place of the suspended Alexander Nubel, who will join Bayern at the end of the season – enabling Serge Gnabry to complete the scoring in the 89th minute.

Manuel Neuer's mistake handed Suat Serdar an early chance but his effort was tame and Schalke punished when Lewandowski thumped home after Schubert failed to deal with a cross into box.

Muller rightly had a goal disallowed for offside, before Schubert pulled off a fine save from Goretzka's close-range header.

Former Schalke star Goretzka did brilliantly to tee up Lewandowski for what appeared to be Bayern's second, only for VAR to deem Benjamin Pavard had strayed offside.

Schalke's luck ran out in first-half stoppage time – Muller nudging in his 100th goal at the Allianz Arena after connecting with Goretzka's cushioned header.

Schubert brilliantly denied David Alaba and Thiago in quick succession, but Bayern had their third when Goretzka volleyed in his first Bundesliga goal of the campaign.

Schalke's misery was added to eight minutes later, Lewandowski toying with Omar Mascarell before laying it on a plate for Thiago.

Bayern were not done there, however, and the hosts had their fifth when Schubert completely misjudged a curling effort from Gnabry and diverted it into his own net.

 

What does it mean? Pressure back on Leipzig

Julian Nagelsmann's side's 2-0 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt handed Bayern even more impetus and the Bundesliga champions are now in touching distance of leaders Leipzig.

It is turning out to be an enthralling title race, with Borussia Monchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund are also in the running.

Bayern host Leipzig on February 9 in what looks set to be a pivotal fixture.

Goretzka gives Schalke the blues

While Lewandowski has now scored in his past nine league appearances against Schalke, Goretzka was the fulcrum for Bayern. He teed up Muller before rounding off his performance with an exquisite finish.

Schalke's Bayern nightmare rumbles on

Schalke have now suffered 54 Bundesliga defeats to Bayern in 100 meetings, conceding 214 goals in the process, and are without a win against them in 19 matches.

What's next?

Bayern visit struggling Mainz in a week, while Schalke travel to the capital to face Hertha Berlin on Friday.

Serge Gnabry completed full training on Thursday ahead of Bayern Munich's Bundesliga clash with Hertha Berlin.

The champions head to the capital on Sunday for their first game in the second half of Germany's domestic season.

Gnabry was forced to miss part of the mid-season training camp in Doha due to problems with his Achilles tendon, which he sustained at the start of the month.

However, Bayern confirmed on their website that the 24-year-old winger completed the full 90 minutes of training on Thursday, including a match.

The news comes a day after top scorer Robert Lewandowksi returned to team training, the striker having undergone surgery following the 2-0 win over Wolfsburg on December 21.

Gnabry has scored six times in the Bundesliga this season and set up a further six goals. Only Thomas Muller (11) has provided more league assists for Bayern this term.

Hansi Flick's side face Hertha knowing they could be seven points off the top of the table if leaders RB Leipzig beat Union Berlin on Saturday.

Bayern Munich have confirmed Serge Gnabry hurt his Achilles during training on Sunday, though defender Lucas Hernandez was able to return to action.

Hernandez has been out since October after undergoing ankle surgery but the World Cup winner is closing in on a comeback.

The France international took part in circuit training with his team-mates but did not participate in the ball work and tactics sections of the session.

While Hernandez's return boosts Bayern, the Bundesliga champions were dealt a blow when Gnabry pulled up in Doha.

"Gnabry has an issue with his Achilles tendon," coach Hansi Flick told reporters at a news conference. 

"He had to stop today's running session early. We have to take that very seriously and hope that he returns soon."

Robert Lewandowski, Kingsley Coman and Javi Martinez missed the mid-season training break due to injuries, with long-term absentee Niklas Sule also unavailable for the trip.

A group of young players - Joshua Zirkzee, Sarpreet Singh, Leon Dajaku, Oliver Batista-Meier, Chris Richards and Bright Akwo Arrey-Mbi - were added to the Bayern group that went to Doha.

"We have filled the squad in order to make training as competitive as possible," added Flick. "It's our job to lead these boys into the first team.

"We will not let players play that are not at 100 per cent. We have to build Kingsley up carefully.

"Robert has top conditions at home. When we are back in Munich on January 14, we hope that he will be fit again."

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