Thomas Muller is as important to Bayern as Oktoberfest is to the city of Munich, according to club president Herbert Hainer.

Muller signed a new contract on Tuesday to remain with the Bundesliga champions until 2023.

The 30-year-old has spent his entire career with Bayern and has made 521 appearances for the club, scoring 195 times and providing 146 assists since making his debut in 2008.

That has led Hainer to compare the former Germany international to one of Munich's most famous events.

"It is of course very good news and I was incredibly happy when I heard it," he said in quotes published on Bayern's Twitter account.

"Thomas Muller is a hero, a symbol of FC Bayern Munich. He's spent his entire footballing career here and he's blossomed once again in recent months under Hansi Flick.

"He provides so many assists, he's an outstanding player, and I think that Thomas Muller belongs to FC Bayern, much like Oktoberfest belongs to the city of Munich.

"And in that respect, that's really great news."

Muller is not the only key figure at Bayern to have penned an extension in recent days, with Flick agreeing a deal to remain as permanent coach last week.

Flick took over on an interim basis in November and Bayern were on a 15-match unbeaten run - winning 14 of those games - before competitions were suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"When the matter was brought to the supervisory board, we made a very quick and unanimous decision," Hainer said of Flick's contract.

"As head coach of FC Bayern Munich, you will of course be measured by titles and that will certainly be the case with Hansi Flick.

"But we are absolutely convinced by Hansi Flick. If you look at what he has done with the team over the past few months, he has not only got the team winning, but it's also about the way the team plays.

"They play incredibly attractive, great, attacking football, they score a lot of goals and win most games.

"They're already so good, but I'm convinced Hansi Flick will continue to develop this team."

Hansi Flick is hopeful Bayern Munich can come to a positive resolution with a group of club stalwarts whose contracts are set to expire in 2021.

Flick was on Friday signed to a three-year deal by Bayern, having taken over as interim coach in November and restored them as Bundesliga favourites after a poor start under Niko Kovac.

Bayern are four points clear at the top with the Bundesliga, like most leagues across Europe, suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Thomas Muller penned a new deal to remain with Bayern until 2023 on Tuesday, but a host of others will be out of contract at the end of next season.

Manuel Neuer, David Alaba, Jerome Boateng, Javi Martinez and Thiago Alcantara will all be heading into the final year of their current deals in the 2020-21 campaign.

Asked about prospective extensions for the quintet, Flick told a media conference held via Zoom: "These are also decisions that every player has to decide for themselves.

"In the past weeks and months, I have already explained how important Manuel Neuer, David Alaba or Thiago are to us.

"They have undergone enormous developments over the past six months and were real top performers. The club also noticed that and I hope that it goes in the right direction."

The Bundesliga is suspended until at least April 30 and the likelihood is that, if it is to resume, the season will be completed behind closed doors.

On the so-called 'ghost games', Flick added: "The DFL [German Football League] is based on very clear guidelines. So everything is controlled.

"We have to be open to changes in the short term in connection with politics and the whole development.

"At the moment we should avoid physical contact, so we concentrate after three weeks of cyber training.

"It's a welcome change for the players. It takes time to get things back in. It's important that you can get used to it again.

"We will also have to get used to the fact that the games will take place without fans. We want to deal with it professionally."

Hansi Flick was handed the Bayern Munich job on a permanent basis on Friday with the future of several first-team regulars top of his agenda.

Six of his most experienced players were out of contract at the end of next season but that number can be trimmed to five after Thomas Muller extended his stay at the Allianz Arena.

The 30-year-old has penned a new deal until 2023 after a hugely impressive 2019-20 season that has seen him contribute six goals and 16 assists in 25 Bundesliga games.

It is a promising start to Flick's tenure, although there remains much to do.

Here, we look at the five players whose contracts expire in 2021.
 

 

MANUEL NEUER

A symbol of the modern era at Bayern and captain for club and country, Neuer has kept more clean sheets (10) than any other Bundesliga goalkeeper this term.

However, the 33-year-old's save ratio of 69 per cent leaves plenty to be desired, meaning Alexander Nubel's pending arrival next season should apply significant pressure.

It feels unlikely Bayern will not put a deal on the table for Neuer, but would the 2014 World Cup winner hang around as a number two?


DAVID ALABA

The lavishly gifted Austria star has flourished under Flick, stepping effortlessly into the heart of defence following injuries to Niklas Sule and Lucas Hernandez.

The 27-year-old has played every minute of Bayern's past 20 matches and has no shortage of admirers.

Amid reports of him being unsettled in Bavaria, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester City have all been linked with his services of late.


JEROME BOATENG

In many ways, the exemplar of Bayern's renaissance under Flick. The former Germany defender played 13 of 26 matches at the start of the season.

Since January he has started nine of 11 games, performing with his customary assurance and recording a 92 per cent pass completion rate.

However, Boateng will be 32 in September and this run of form might come to be viewed as a fitting swansong at the Allianz Arena, especially once Benjamin Pavard and Hernandez return to fitness.


JAVI MARTINEZ

A well-liked and versatile performer, Martinez's eight years at Bayern have been peppered with injury woes.

The 30-year-old Spain international has started five of the past 12 games and a return to boyhood club Athletic Bilbao would not be a surprise.


THIAGO ALCANTARA

Thiago wowed with a midfield masterclass in the game that arguably sealed Flick's long-term future – the 3-0 Champions League win at Chelsea last month.

The Spain playmaker has supplied eight assists this season and won 61 per cent of his duels.

At 28, Thiago is in his prime and must be a central figure in any Bayern reboot.

Thomas Muller has signed a new contract with Bayern Munich that ties him to the club until 2023.

The 30-year-old, a one-club man who made his Bayern debut in 2008, follows head coach Hansi Flick in committing to the Bundesliga champions for the next three years. 

Hansi Flick has brought the same harmony to Bayern Munich as iconic head coach Jupp Heynckes created, according to Lothar Matthaus.

Flick on Friday signed a contract to be Bayern's head coach until 2023, having taken over from Niko Kovac on an interim basis in November and guided the club into a four-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga.

Matthaus, who won seven Bundesliga titles with Bayern, has backed that decision, comparing the atmosphere under Flick to that seen under Heynckes, who masterminded Bayern's famous treble in 2012-13 and returned to win the Bundesliga in 2018.

Heynckes himself said over the weekend it was the right choice to appoint Flick on a permanent basis and Matthaus is in agreement.

"Definitely [the logical decision], it would have been incomprehensible if Bayern hadn't extended with him," Matthaus said to AZ.

"Hansi absolutely deserves this. FC Bayern are on the right track with him. It's a harmony like last seen under Jupp Heynckes, the team plays great football.

"He has improved the team overall, their football and tactically. In addition, there is his human dealings. Thanks to him, players like Jerome Boateng and Thomas Muller have once again reached their top level. 

"And Hansi also relies on young players like Alphonso Davies or Joshua Zirkzee. This is important because FC Bayern wants to ensure that the young players find their way from the youth centre [to the first-team] as often and regularly as possible. Hansi can shape an era in Bavaria."

Matthaus also hopes there will be another benefit to Flick's appointment.

He added: "It could be a sign to all players who have not yet renewed their contract: Thiago Alcantara, Thomas Muller, David Alaba, Manuel Neuer.

"Flick has raved enormously about Neuer in recent weeks, calling him the world's best goalkeeper." 

Bayern Munich have made "a wise decision" by appointing Hansi Flick on a permanent basis, says Jupp Heynckes.

It was announced on Friday that Flick had signed a contract to be Bayern's head coach until 2023, having taken over from Niko Kovac on an interim basis in November.

Flick, Joachim Low's former Germany assistant, rejuvenated the struggling Bundesliga champions and guided them back to the top of the table, opening up a four-point advantage over second-placed Borussia Dortmund before the coronavirus pandemic brought action to a halt.

He has also led the Bavarian giants into the semi-finals of the DFB-Pokal and secured a 3-0 aggregate lead over Chelsea in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Heynckes, who masterminded Bayern's famous treble in 2012-13, believes keeping Flick on permanently was the right choice.

"Bayern made a wise decision by signing Hansi Flick as head coach," Heynckes told DPA.

"For me, he is the ideal coach because he has already had a lot of experience in various positions in football in the past.

"His qualities are professional competence, leadership in all areas, seriousness, solidity and an excellent public demeanour.

"I wish him and Bayern the greatest success in all three competitions."

Bayern Munich's contract negotiations with a quartet of key players will not be affected by the coronavirus pandemic, insists CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller, David Alaba and Thiago Alcantara are all out of contract in 2021 and are mulling over the offer of fresh terms from the Bundesliga champions, who extended Hansi Flick's stay as head coach on Friday.

Rummenigge reassured Bayern fans that any economic impact from the spread of COVID-19 would not play a part in how those talks played out.

"Our offers are extremely fair and serious - without a 'corona discount'," he told Bild

"I think that not many clubs around the world handle [it like] this in this crisis."

Flick signed on for three years after impressing in interim charge at the Allianz Arena.

He took over from Niko Kovac in November before being appointed head coach on a full-time basis until the end of the season.

Having appeared in danger of failing to mount a title challenge under Kovac, Flick has since restored the winning habit, returning Bayern to the top of the Bundesliga.

However, he is likely to face a rebuilding job during his tenure as the nucleus of a squad who have inspired a decade of dominance are reaching the end of their contracts.

Hansi Flick has done enough to convince Bayern Munich to make him their permanent head coach, with the club confirming on Friday he had signed a contract until 2023.

A former assistant to Germany coach Joachim Low, Flick steadied the ship in the wake of Niko Kovac's sacking and has gone on to gain the second-best points-per-game record in Bundesliga history at 2.47 – only Pep Guardiola's 2.52 is better.

Bayern have scored 67 goals in their 21 games in all competitions since he took the helm and were on a 15-game unbeaten run when the coronavirus outbreak brought the majority of football in Europe to a halt.

We take a look at the games that may well have convinced Flick's superiors to keep him in the top job for the next three years.

 

November 9, 2019 - Bayern Munich 4-0 Borussia Dortmund

After overseeing a 2-0 Champions League win over Olympiacos in his first game at the helm, Flick's first taste of Bundesliga action came in Der Klassiker against Dortmund.

Despite the change of coach, Robert Lewandowski continued his fine scoring streak by taking his Bundesliga tally to 16 with a double – one goal either side of an effort from Serge Gnabry early in the second half.

An own goal from former Bayern defender Mats Hummels capped a resounding victory.

Lewandowski said: "Hansi Flick did a great job in just a few days to set us up tactically very well. The players believed directly in him and his words, he has breathed a new life into us."

During the international break that was followed it was confirmed Flick would stay on until at least Christmas.

 

December 11, 2019 – Bayern Munich 3-1 Tottenham

Flick went on to rack up four straight wins to start his tenure, but back-to-back defeats to Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach left Bayern seventh in the Bundesliga and seven points off top.

They quickly got back on track with a 3-1 win over Tottenham in a Champions League group-stage clash at the Allianz Arena.

Kingsley Coman scored the opener but was forced off in the 27th minute with a knee injury that kept him out for two months.

Thomas Muller and Philippe Coutinho made sure of the win after Ryan Sessegnon's equaliser, with Lewandowski remaining an unused substitute as Bayern reached the last 16 with maximum points.

 

February 1, 2020 – Mainz 1-3 Bayern Munich

Bayern confirmed Flick would see out the campaign during the mid-season break and this victory over Mainz made it seven straight successes in all competitions.

The reigning Bundesliga champions effectively put the game to bed within 26 minutes – Lewandowski, Muller and Thiago Alcantara scoring during a rampant first-half showing.

Most importantly, though, it sent the Bavarian giants to the top of the table and there has been no moving them since.

 

February 25, 2020 – Chelsea 0-3 Bayern Munich

A last-16 tie with Chelsea in the Champions League looked sure to provide plenty of entertainment and the first leg at Stamford Bridge was tightly poised at half-time.

Gnabry struck twice in the space of three minutes early in the second half to break the game open and Lewandowski's instinctive finish in the closing stages ensured Bayern left west London with a healthy aggregate lead.

The result carried even more weight given that it was the first time the teams had met in Europe's premier club competition since Chelsea defeated Bayern in the final at the Allianz Arena in 2012.

 

February 29, 2020 – Hoffenheim 0-6 Bayern Munich

Lewandowski suffered a broken tibia in his left leg against Chelsea and was consequently ruled out for approximately one month.

The Poland international had scored 39 goals in 33 appearances in all competitions for Bayern in 2019-20, but his team-mates stepped up to the mark in their first game without him.

In a match that was overshadowed by demonstrations against Hoffenheim owner Dietmar Hopp that forced a stoppage in play, Gnabry, Joshua Kimmich and Joshua Zirkzee – who was making his first Bundesliga start – struck inside the opening 15 minutes and Coutinho made it 4-0 by half-time.

Coutinho doubled his tally early in the second half and Leon Goretzka rounded off a triumph that sent out a message to Bayern's title rivals.

Hansi Flick has signed a three-year contract as Bayern Munich's head coach, the Bundesliga champions confirmed on Friday.

Flick took over from Niko Kovac in November in an initial interim role, before being appointed head coach on a full-time basis until the end of the season.

Having appeared in danger of failing to mount a title challenge under Kovac, Flick has since restored the winning habit, returning Bayern to the top of the Bundesliga.

Prior to the forced hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, Bayern had gone four points clear of Borussia Dortmund at the summit, crushed Chelsea away in their Champions League last-16 first leg and booked a place in the DFB-Pokal semi-finals.

Club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told Bayern's website: "FC Bayern is very happy with Hansi Flick's work. The team has developed very well under him and plays attractive football, which is also reflected in the results.

"We are the only German club that is still represented in all three competitions. I also like the way he leads the team, his human qualities are convincing, his empathy speaks for him.

"FC Bayern trusts Hansi Flick and we are convinced that we will continue to achieve our goals with him in the future."

Speculation since Germany's mid-season break suggested Flick's work with Bayern was earning him admirers elsewhere, with reports claiming he had received offers from top-level clubs in Germany and England.

Such stories seemed to be applying pressure to Bayern, although sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic insists the club were working to a plan all along when it came to the former national team assistant coach's future.

"From day one when Hansi took over the team, we had a plan for how we would deal with the situation," Salihamidzic said.

"First, Hansi took over for two games, then until Christmas, then there was an agreement that he would be our coach until the end of the season.

"Hansi has been loyal and disciplined to this, that is a quality. Another is the results that Hansi achieved with our team. These results speak for themselves.

"Hansi and I know in which direction we want to develop the team. Football faces great challenges. We believe that Hansi is also the right head coach for this time."

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has urged Bayern Munich supporters to avoid travelling to Saturday's behind-closed-doors clash with Union Berlin amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The German Football League announced on Friday all nine Bundesliga games will go ahead this weekend, before a proposed two-week hiatus comes into effect from March 17.

Bayern midfielder Thiago Alcantara hit out at the decision for games to be played in Germany, with all of Europe's other major leagues being halted with immediate effect.

And Rummenigge has pleaded with his club's fanbase to resist the urge to congregate outside Stadion An der Alten Forsterei on Saturday.

"Please don't come to Berlin. Please do not gather in front of the stadiums," he said at a pre-match news conference on the eve of the game. 

"These are all contacts that we must prevent so that the virus does not spread quickly. Please do not come to the stadiums - you are not doing the clubs and the players a favour.

"We have given our employees rules of conduct several times and issued disinfectants. If there are any abnormalities, they will of course be tested immediately. 

"If a player or staff member tests positive, everyone must be in quarantine - that's a requirement."

Bayern's Champions League last-16 second leg with Chelsea next week has also been called off by UEFA and Rummenigge is expecting a major knock-on effect.

"Nobody can predict how long the situation with the virus will remain the same," he said. 

"It may be necessary for the European Championship to be postponed for health reasons. Maybe we have to use June to finish the club competitions.

"Everyone should understand what ending the season would mean for clubs. Most of the revenue comes from the TV sector. 

"If this sector were to fail, there are fears that many small and medium-sized clubs will experience liquidity problems. We hope this will end quickly."

Bayern have won 10 of their last 11 Bundesliga games and boss Hansi Flick insisted it is business as usual for his side ahead of their trip to the German capital.

"We will train today, play tomorrow and then we'll see," he said. " We have to make sure that we keep the team fit. We just have to keep adapting to new situations. 

"We'll prepare professionally. Anything else that comes after that, we'll see and then decide.

"We will treat the matchday as professionally as we normally would. We have to accept this and focus on the next game against Union. 

"We also have social responsibility. We have to try to get the virus to spread as slowly as possible.

"In the end it is a matter of mentality. Whoever has watched the games with no spectators - they are not normal games. Our job is to prepare the team and focus on football."

Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick is reluctant to discuss in public what his future may hold as the Bundesliga champions step up their trophy chase.

German football magazine Kicker this week claimed Flick has attracted interest from English Premier League clubs after engineering a stunning turnaround in fortunes at Bayern.

Still only interim head coach of the Bundesliga leaders, this week saw Bayern great Lothar Matthaus urge the club to appoint Flick on a permanent basis.

Flick said on Friday: "At the moment everything is going well, but we are in a day-to-day business.

"I'm at Bayern Munich at the moment, and at the end of the day they're my point of contact.

"There have been things that have been agreed, and everything else isn't relevant to me."

Flick's side face Augsburg in the Bundesliga on Sunday and have carved out a three-point lead at the top of the table heading into the weekend.

Bayern were rattled by Augsburg in a 2-2 draw at the WWK Arena in October, Alfred Finnbogason grabbing a stoppage-time equaliser for the hosts.

Struggling at the time by their high standards, it will be a different Bayern side that Augsburg face this time, a team who have won 13 of their last 14 competitive games.

Flick inherited a team from Niko Kovac who were off the pace domestically and looked unlikely to put up a serious Champions League challenge.

Yet Bayern have not only steamed ahead in Germany, but they also have one foot in the European quarter-finals after a thumping 3-0 win at Chelsea in their last-16 first leg.

There is plenty to be optimistic about for the Bavarians, and on the fitness front there was some positive news from Flick, even though Robert Lewandowski remains out after recent groin surgery.

"Javi Martinez and Lucas Hernandez both trained today and are therefore available," Flick said. "[Kingsley] Coman, on the other hand, cannot play on Sunday."

The former Germany assistant coach referred in his pre-match news conference to Augsburg having "hurt" Bayern earlier this season and the need to approach Sunday's game in the right manner.

Flick said: "I am focused on Augsburg, then we can take a breather. There will be three tough games before the international break."

Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick was satisfied with his team's performance after edging Schalke 1-0 in the DFB-Pokal quarter-finals.

Joshua Kimmich's 40th-minute goal proved to be enough as Bayern dominated possession at the Veltins Arena on Tuesday.

Despite the narrow victory, Flick was happy to move into the last four as Bayern remained on track for a second straight DFB-Pokal crown.

"My team played very well and very intelligently. I am satisfied with the way we won this game," he said, via the club's website.

"We played against a Schalke side that played very defensively. Nevertheless, we created chances and did very well overall, during the game we had over 80 per cent possession.

"At the end of the day, it's always important in the cup that you progress. We're in the semi-finals, so I'm very proud of my team. The players are in good spirits, they're in good form.

"We didn't want to change much. We'll start to recover now, the boys will have a day and a half off and then we'll start our preparations for the game against Augsburg."

Kimmich drilled an effort into the bottom corner from the edge of the area after a corner was cleared into his path before half-time.

The defender acknowledged it was a tough encounter, but felt Bayern deserved their win.

"I don't think it was possible to roll over opponents like the side we faced because Schalke played very deep and narrowed lots of space. It was not always possible to play fast and directly," Kimmich said.

"We tried to, but not everything worked out. We also had two or three dangerous counters against us. All in all, it was still a well-deserved victory.

"I'm happy that I made it 1-0 and that the game ended like that. At that moment you just go for it and hope that it goes in."

Top of the Bundesliga, Bayern host Augsburg on Sunday.

Bayern Munich head coach Hansi Flick is hoping on-field issues are the focus against Schalke on Tuesday - although he conceded further fan protests are a possibility.

Flick's men handed out a 6-0 thrashing to Hoffenheim on Saturday but the result was overshadowed by protests from the Bayern ultras, who held up offensive banners towards the home club's owner Dietmar Hopp.

After the referee took the players off the pitch to wait for the banners' removal following appeals from the Bayern players, the two teams saw out the rest of the match by passing the ball among themselves as a show of solidarity towards Hopp.

Flick, and chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, apologised after the match for what they described as "ugly" and shameful protests and the former wants everyone to turn their attention to the DFB-Pokal quarter-final against Schalke in Gelsenkirchen.

He told reporters: "We are here because we want to play football.

"The performance [against Hoffenheim] was spoiled by our own fans with actions that I don't approve of and it has to be tackled.

"Everyone has to pull together but I want to concentrate on sport again."

Asked if he thought that would be the end of protests against billionaire owners in the Bundesliga following accusations certain clubs are circumnavigating league rules on ownership, Flick replied: "No, but it's important the club continues to talk about this.

"If something happens we have to speak the same language in our reaction. We have to communicate that internally and there should not be two opinions on how that will look."

 

Bayern's weekend win and RB Leipzig's failure to beat Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday means Flick has transformed a previously underachieving side with the defending champions now sitting three points clear at the top of the Bundesliga.

And he is hoping for more of the same against a Schalke team beaten 3-0 at Cologne on Saturday.

He added: "The last two games showed the football we can play. That's the benchmark and of course you want to see that all the time as a coach.

"The team are making a big impression, both physically and in the way they play. It all adds up.

"It is obvious that we want to go to Berlin [for the final] in the DFB-Pokal, to be champions in the Bundesliga and to go as far as possible in the Champions League."

Hansi Flick and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge called the Bayern Munich fans who protested against Hoffenheim backer Dietmar Hopp "idiots" as the Bundesliga leaders' 6-0 win was overshadowed by incidents in the stands.

Bayern cantered to a third successive Bundesliga win to go four points clear of RB Leipzig, Philippe Coutinho scoring twice while Serge Gnabry, Joshua Kimmich, Joshua Zirkzee and Leon Goretzka were also on target inside the opening 62 minutes.

Yet the game was paused with 20 minutes remaining after an offensive banner was unveiled and insulting chants where directed at Hopp, who is an unpopular figure for some in Germany due to his financing of Hoffenheim.

The match was eventually restarted, with a furious Flick having pleaded with his own supporters to stop their chants and remove the banner, and the game's closing stanzas were played in bizarre fashion as both sets of players simply passed the ball between themselves.

"The things that happened have no place here," Flick said at a news conference after the game.

"I myself grew up here in this region. I myself have known Dietmar Hopp for over 20 years.

"I'm just sorry for what happened here. For one thing, because he [Hopp] has done so much for this region. But also because each of these idiots who held up these banners has at least one in his family whom Dieter helped or who benefited from - through cancer research or generally through the things that Dietmar Hopp supports in medical research. They should just think about what they are doing."

Along with Oliver Kahn and Hasan Salihamidzic, Flick was among the Bayern contingent who went over to their section of supporters at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena to try and get them to cease their protests.

There were similar chants from Borussia Dortmund's fans in their win over Freiburg, with BVB supporters recently banned from Hoffenheim matches for the next two seasons for such incidents.

After Bayern's win, club chairman Rummenigge stood on the pitch alongside Hopp along with the two teams in a show of solidarity.

"I am deeply embarrassed about these idiots," Rummenigge said in quotes published on Bayern's website.

"I have to say this: As of today, the moment has come when the whole Bundesliga, the DFB and the DFL has to join together and act against idiots like these.

"Football's ugly side reared its head here today.  I am also deeply embarrassed on behalf of Dietmar Hopp, who is a man of honour and has ensured that not just football but sport across the board in this region has been seen in a positive light.

"I have also apologised to him. However, what happened in the away end is really inexcusable. This is an ugly side of Bayern at a game that was in fact a great day for our team. There is no excuse for these actions.

"Everything was caught on camera and we will take the firmest of action against those responsible who tarnished the name of FC Bayern today."

Hansi Flick says Bayern Munich must "become closer together as a team" in star striker Robert Lewandowski's absence, while Joshua Zirkzee could get his first-team chance.

Lewandowski has been a near ever-present in his six-year Bayern career, but the 31-year-old has been ruled out for four weeks after suffering a knee injury against Chelsea in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Bayern have a 3-0 first-leg lead in their European tie but are engaged in a tense Bundesliga title tussle, meaning the loss of a striker who has scored 39 goals in all competitions comes as a weighty blow.

Interim head coach Flick did not hide from the significance of the setback as he addressed the media ahead of Saturday's match against Hoffenheim, also discussing Kingsley Coman's status after he hobbled off at Chelsea.

"With Kingsley, we hope that he will only be out for five days. Robert's situation is different," Flick told a news conference.

"Of course, Robert has shown what quality he has, not just in front of goal. The past few games have also shown that he is someone who fits perfectly into the team.

"He is a source of inspiration for who we are defensively, too, and therefore he is so important to us.

"It is crucial that we all become closer together as a team now and successfully use the time that he is missing."

Flick would not confirm how Bayern will line up at Hoffenheim - although Philippe Coutinho will feature - but Serge Gnabry, Thomas Muller and 18-year-old Zirkzee are all in his thinking for a central striking role.

The Netherlands youth international has already scored twice in the Bundesliga but has made just three fleeting substitute appearances.

"There are a lot of considerations," Flick said on Friday. "But it is always good if the opponent puzzles over something and does not get all the information.

"Serge is of course a candidate, and Thomas could also play in this position. We leave that open.

"Joshua Zirkzee is also a player who is in the squad and will therefore be included in the considerations. We need him in the squad because we are not richly blessed in that position."

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