Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski said it would be amazing to break Gerd Muller's Bundesliga record after taking another giant step towards history.

Lewandowski scored a hat-trick in a 6-0 demolition of Borussia Monchengladbach as Bayern celebrated a ninth successive Bundesliga title on Saturday.

Poland international Lewandowski took his league tally to 39 for the season, moving him to within one of Muller's all-time Bundesliga single-season record of 40 set in 1971-72.

"I have the chance to break this record," Lewandowski, who claimed his 249th Bundesliga victory – surpassing Claudio Pizarro as the foreign player with the most wins in the league, said. "It won't be easy, for sure. Ok, we have two games but if I want to break it, I have to score two goals.

"I have to work hard in the next game because I know it won't be easy. But to break the record would be something amazing for me as well because if you have 34 games – even less in my situation this season – it will be something.

"I have to believe it can happen. I have the chance. I have to be ready for this."

Bayern were crowned Bundesliga champions before kicking a ball thanks to Borussia Dortmund's dramatic win over RB Leipzig.

Hansi Flick's Bayern proceeded to put on a worthy celebration against Gladbach, humbling the visitors at Allianz Arena to maintain their stranglehold on the Bundesliga – equalling the record in Europe's top-five divisions (Juventus) with their ninth straight league crown.

Bayern won their 30th Bundesliga title (31-time German champions overall). Indeed, 52 per cent of the 58 trophies since the Bundesliga was founded in 1963 have gone to the Bavarian powerhouse.

For Bayern, it is their 16th title this millennium. Dortmund, Gladbach (five each) and Werder Bremen (four) have a combined total of 14 championships since the league was founded. 

"We knew one hour before the game for sure that we were already champions," added Lewandowski, who has now scored 201 Bundesliga goals for Bayern – after Muller (365 for Bayern), he is only the second player in league history to net 200-plus goals for a single team.

"But for us, it was more important to show on the pitch why we are champions and to show the best football. What we did during the game was spectacular, it was amazing because we scored so many goals. We showed that we are the best this season."

Thomas Muller joked Robert Lewandowski is "not normal" after the Bayern Munich star scored a hat-trick to close in on a Bundesliga record.

Bayern were crowned Bundesliga champions on Saturday before kicking a ball thanks to Borussia Dortmund's dramatic win over RB Leipzig.

Hansi Flick's side proceeded to put on a worthy celebration against Borussia Monchengladbach, hammering them 6-0 at Allianz Arena to mark their ninth straight title in sensational style.

Lewandowski was integral, scoring a hat-trick to take his tally of league goals to the campaign for 39, moving him to within one of Gerd Muller's all-time Bundesliga single-season record of 40 set in 1971-72.

With two games remaining – against Freiburg and Augsburg respectively – it seems almost certain that Lewandowski will etch his name into the record books, and current team-mate Muller remains in awe at his prowess.

"We do have to say, that we as a team try our hardest for him. But how he is able to score those goals is not normal as well," he joked.

Muller has now won 10 Bundesliga titles, though conceded it has not always been a smooth ride this season. Indeed, his fellow long-time team-mates Jerome Boateng, Javi Martinez and David Alaba, along with head coach Flick, are all leaving at the end of the campaign.

"I do have to say that the game was more championship-like than the actual championship," Muller said.

"It was a great game today. We were there from the first until the last minute. Thanks to all the emotions and the euphoria, we knew that we had won the championship before the actual match.

"If you look at the big picture, then it was very hard for us over the past two weeks to be honest. Through all the talks I had with the others, the elimination in the Champions League really hurt us.

"We felt like we could do something in the Champions League this season. But we were able to overcome that in the recent two weeks. We were able to properly take a deep breath.

"There is not a lot of romance in this business, but we tried to have as much romance at the end of the season today as we could.

"Jerome will leave, David will leave, Javi will leave and the coach will leave. I know that Hansi hasn't been here for so long, but the other three were my team-mates for nearly ten years now, so they were always there when we won the championship for nine times in a row."

When it comes to Lewandowski, however, Muller added: "Well that is not about romance. I don't know how many hat-tricks and braces this guy had. It is more like mathematics!"

It proved to be a bittersweet moment for Flick, who is entering the final two games of a short but hugely successful tenure in which Bayern have won seven trophies.

"It's outstanding what the team has achieved," he said. "You could see that we were ready. That's the mentality of this team. The game today was worthy of champions.

"The whole club creates this atmosphere that you can be successful. Bayern has always been my club, I was a big fan when I was young, Gerd Muller was my big idol, Paul Breitner, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

"I have now experienced two fantastic years here. To experience this togetherness on a daily basis is outstanding. These two years have been very valuable for me."

Robert Lewandowski scored a hat-trick as Bayern Munich marked their ninth successive Bundesliga title in style with a 6-0 thrashing of Borussia Monchengladbach.

Borussia Dortmund's earlier defeat of RB Leipzig meant Bayern had their 30th Bundesliga crown sealed before kick-off on Saturday, and though no fans were in attendance at Alianz Arena, Hansi Flick's team nevertheless put on a party befitting of their achievement.

Lewandowski was sensational, scoring twice in the first half as Bayern stormed into a 4-0 lead – Thomas Muller and Kingsley Coman also on target – before scoring his 39th league goal of the season from the spot, taking him to within one of Gerd Muller's all-time single-season record.

A red card for Tanguy Kouassi somewhat marred Bayern's second half, though Leroy Sane rounded off the rout late on.

Recent upheaval might have leant a touch of anti-climax to Bayern Munich's latest title win but 2020-21 has shown their total dominance of the Bundesliga does not look likely to end anytime soon.

A thrilling quarter-final tie against Paris Saint-Germain saw Bayern's reign as European champions end as they were eliminated on away goals.

The aftermath of that dramatic Champions League showdown saw speculation mount over Hansi Flick's future and the Bavarian giants were in the unusual position of naming the coach of their nearest rivals, RB Leipzig's Julian Nagelsmann, as their next boss before domestic glory had been rubber stamped.

However, familiar celebrations can now begin after rivals Borussia Dortmund beat second-placed RB Leipzig 3-2, with the prints of some familiar faces all over this latest success.

FC Hollywood on cloud nine

Continuing a streak started by Jupp Heynckes' treble winners in 2012-13, Bayern have now won the Bundesliga for nine seasons in a row. Much as this statistic can draw mirth in some quarters over the competitiveness of Germany's top flight, it certainly did not always used to be this way.

Previously, the longest stretch of consecutive titles in a row was three, although on three of the four occasions this occurred, Bayern were the team responsible.

Indeed, Die Roten's 30th crown overall means they have won 52 per cent of the championships on offer since the Bundesliga was founded in 1963. The picture was a little more even before the turn of the century, with Bayern having now won 16 this millennium.

Bayern have equalled the record established by Juventus in Europe's top five leagues and can go clear on their own with 10 in a row next term, given the collapse of Andrea Pirlo's men in Serie A this season.

This era of success is built upon a number of mainstays. Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer and outgoing trio David Alaba, Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez have been present for all nine of the title wins.

Muller and Alaba now have 10 overall, setting a new player record in Germany, while Martinez is the only player in Bundesliga history to win the title as many as nine times without ever failing to do so in any season.

 

Hansi off with incredible record

Flick's involvement with Bayern has been more fleeting than the stalwarts above, but he has nevertheless left an indelible impression upon one of Europe's great clubs.

His record overall is 68 wins from 83 games, with eight draws and seven defeats. That amounts to an 82 per cent win percentage – a record for any Bayern coach.

Similarly, a goals-per-game average of 2.9 is better than any of his predecessors, numbers that were enhanced during the German record-breaking run of 23 straight wins in all competitions between February and September 2020.

Consequently, the trophies stacked up and Flick's six major honours amount to one every 14 games.

He averages 2.45 points-per-game from 55 Bundesliga outings, a figure only bettered by Pep Guardiola (2.52 PPG from 102 matches).

 

Hail King Lewy

Flick is likely to reflect fondly upon the fact his brief Bayern tenure has coincided with Robert Lewandowski taking his phenomenal goalscoring exploits to another level.

Even though the Bundesliga boasts the sought-after talents of Erling Haaland and Andre Silva, each of whom have managed 25 top-flight goals this season, the race for the Torjagerkanone has not even been particularly close.

Despite spending a spell on the sidelines recently, arguably decisively when it came to Bayern's derailed Champions League hopes, Lewandowski has scored an astounding 36 goals in 26 appearances, leaving him in direct competition with Gerd Muller's celebrated all-time mark of 40 goals in a single campaign, rather than his contemporaries.

The Poland superstar's haul comes from 112 shots overall and 55 on target. Lewandowski's goals-per-minute average of 60.9 is the best of any Bundesliga player to have scored multiple goals this season.

Among players with 10 goals or more, only Max Kruse (37.04 per cent) has a better shot conversion rate than Lewandowski's 32.14.

He has 30 non-penalty goals, outstripping an expected goals (xG) figure of 21. By way of comparison, Haaland's non-penalty goals to xG comparison is 23 to 19.8 and Silva's is 19 to 18.1.

Like most great strikers, Lewandowski has a fine foil in Thomas Muller, whose 17 assists are comfortably a Bundesliga best this season, placing him five clear of Eintracht Frankfurt's Filip Kostic on 11.

 

Kimmich the man in control

The foundations for Lewandowski's incredible exploits come from Bayern's smooth control of matches and no one has been more responsible for that in 2020-21 than Joshua Kimmich.

A defensive utility man when he broke into the Bayern team under Guardiola, Kimmich is now one of the premier midfielders in world football and at the heart of his club's considerable achievements.

Among Bundesliga midfielders, Kimmich has completed the second-most passes – behind Stuttgart's Wataru Endo (1,479) – with 1,465 at an accuracy of 87.8.

He has supplied 10 assists from 59 chances created, with Kostic (80), Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho (65) and Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku (63) the only players among those classed as midfielders by Opta to have crafted more openings for team-mates.

Kimmich has made 32 interceptions, 35 tackles and is joint-seventh among Bundesliga midfielders when it comes to his 184 recoveries.

 

Time for a Neu last line of defence?

Neuer is now the first goalkeeper to win nine Bundesliga titles, putting him one clear of Oliver Kahn.

However, it might be fair to ask whether his position as Bayern number one might come under renewed threat from understudy Alexander Nubel once Nagelsmann is in position.

Of goalkeepers to have played 20 or more Bundesliga games this season, five – Peter Gulacsi, Lukas Hradecky, Koen Casteels, Alexander Schwolow and Andreas Luthe – have conceded fewer than Neuer's 40.

Similarly, eight clean sheets have him fourth overall behind Gulacsi, Casteels and Stefan Ortega Moreno.

Neuer's 77 saves from 116 shots on target faced give him a save percentage of 65.52 – leaving him around the middle of the pack when it comes to the Bundesliga's elite stoppers. Florian Muller of Freiburg leads the way, repelling 71.07 per cent of shots to have threatened his goal.

Bayern's skipper has an expected goals on target (xGOT) against figure of 40.6. Having conceded 39 non-penalty goals, Neuer has conceded fractionally fewer goals than he would be expected to, given the quality of chances coughed up by a backline lacking its previous assurance. 

 

Nagelsmann could bring fresh solidity to Bayern that would be welcomed by the 35-year-old Neuer, whose aptitude outside of his penalty area enabled Flick to operate with such a daringly high defensive line, sometimes at the expense of the goalkeeper's personal statistics.

Leipzig's number one Gulacsi has only been breached 28 times, but has faced 41 fewer shots on target than Neuer this term, actually giving him a lower save percentage (62.67). His 25 non-penalty goals conceded align with an xGOT of 25.62.

The arrival of Nagelsmann and Leipzig's best defender Dayot Upamecano might well be great news for Neuer, one of the few Bayern players to emerge from this latest success with a few question marks over their form.

Neymar's long-term commitment to Paris Saint-Germain has been in question at times. 

A return to Barcelona had been rumoured. 

Now the Brazil international is set to stay in the French capital.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR TO FINALISE PSG EXTENSION

Neymar is set to sign a new contract with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain this weekend, L'Equipe reports.

The four-year extension will be worth €30million (£26m) per season and run through 2026, nearly a decade after he arrived from Camp Nou for a record €220m fee. 

The signing would come days after a report that Barcelona approached PSG about Neymar, but the French club insisted he was not for sale. 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea are casting a wide net to bolster their attack, with Bild reporting Mohamed Salah is on Thomas Tuchel's shortlist along with Erling Haaland and Romelu Lukaku

- Zinedine Zidane may return to Juventus as head coach after Real Madrid's Champions League exit, Tuttosport reports, adding that the Real Madrid boss also is considering taking some time away from the sport. 

Georginio Wijnaldum's Liverpool deal expires in June and the midfielder could be on the way to Bayern Munich, Sport1 reports. 

- Memphis Depay remains a top target for Barcelona, but the Spanish giants could turn to Donyell Malen of PSV if they cannot land the Lyon star. 

- Marca claims Eden Hazard is on the way out at Real Madrid, with Los Blancos ready to listen to offers for the forward. 

- Jan Oblak could be moving to the Premier League this summer, with ESPN saying Manchester United are among the potential destinations for the Atletico Madrid goalkeeper. 

- Celtic striker Odsonne Edouard will sign for Leicester City, Teamtalk reported. The 23-year-old also has drawn inquiries from West Ham and Liverpool

- Aston Villa will offer £15million for Burnley's Dwight McNeil, Football Insider reported. McNeil is under contract through 2024. 

Erling Haaland and Romelu Lukaku appear to be the top forwards on English clubs' shopping lists this off-season.

But Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski may enter the frame amid rumours about his future.

Manchester City and Chelsea are known to be eager to bolster their attacking options and have the funds to finance a major move.

 

TOP STORY – ENGLAND ON LEWANDOWSKI'S RADAR

SportBild reports that Robert Lewandowski's likely next destination will be the English Premier League, if Bayern Munich opt to sell their Polish forward.

The report claims that Lewandowski's agent Pini Zahavi is trying to put pressure on Bayern for a lucrative contract extension or to sell him to one of England's financially powerful clubs.

Lewandowski still has two years to run on his Bayern contract and the Bavarians are believed to not be ready to negotiate.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano claims that Romelu Lukaku is not planning to leave Inter amid interest from Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Barcelona, pointing to comments he made following the club's Serie A title triumph on Sunday.

- Romano also claims that Watford, who have won promotion to the Premier League, have begun talks with Inter's Ashley Young who may be available as a free agent.

- Marca reports that PSG are increasingly concerned that Neymar will not sign a contract extension with the club amid talk of a Barcelona move.

- Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer is being tracked by Premier League club Newcastle United, claims the Daily Record.

- Tottenham are interested in Brazilian teenager Rodrigo Varanda who is currently with Corinthians, says The Sun.

Bayern Munich have made a good habit of getting their house in order promptly, and 2021 would seem to be no different.

Having already agreed a deal to sign centre-back Dayot Upamecano from RB Leipzig, the Bundesliga leaders have followed up with an agreement to make Julian Nagelsmann their next head coach.

The Leipzig boss, a boyhood Bayern fan from Bavaria who is still attempting to stop his new club win the title this season, will take over from Hansi Flick on July 1.

A five-year contract and a reported fee of €20million – the most ever paid for a coach – represent a significant investment on Bayern's part and show just how highly they regard Nagelsmann.

The 33-year-old is not exactly taking the wheel of a sinking ship, either: Bayern won six trophies in under two years under Flick and look set to be crowned German champions again.

However, the Bundesliga's youngest ever coach will still face a few crucial tasks upon his appointment that could go a long way towards making or breaking his first term in charge...

Get on with the board

Flick had few serious problems during a remarkably successful spell at the helm, but one notable issue lately has been his relationship with the club's hierarchy.

His decision to announce in public this month that he would be leaving at the end of the season enraged those in charge given they had agreed to keep the news quiet. Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, one of Flick's biggest allies, even saw fit to issue a statement criticising the coach.

Flick is said to have got on poorly with sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic, with disagreements over transfer targets and a general mistrust turning the relationship volatile. Salihamidzic himself has come under scrutiny, with plenty of fans unhappy to see the coach being the one to depart.

Having landed Bayern's top target through a not-insignificant outlay, Salihamidzic will be almost as desperate to see Nagelsmann succeed as the new man himself. A better working relationship between coach and superiors would be a positive way to start.

Fix the defence

Flick has spent much of this campaign trying to solidify a Bayern defence that has conceded 40 Bundesliga goals this term, already eight more than in the whole of 2019-20.

Frailties at the back were exposed in a DFB-Pokal loss at the hands of second-tier Holstein Kiel and more brutally in the Champions League quarter-final exit to Paris Saint-Germain.

Bayern's defence could look very different next season. Upamecano is arriving from Leipzig but David Alaba is expected to sign for Real Madrid, Jerome Boateng is leaving after a decade in Munich and there is still uncertainty around Niklas Sule's future.

With Bayern said to be pursuing a new right-back, there could well be a new-look backline in front of Manuel Neuer next season – one that Nagelsmann will need to hone quickly in pre-season.

 

Support Lewandowski

As talk of Nagelsmann continued on Monday, Sky Sport reported "several" European clubs had made enquiries over the possibility of signing Robert Lewandowski.

Europe's leading marksman in 2020-21 with 43 goals in all competitions, Lewandowski needs four more in the final three games to equal Gerd Muller's record of 40 in a single Bundesliga season.

Should he match or surpass that milestone, and having finally got his hands on the Champions League last season, the Poland star could be tempted to try his hand elsewhere – and has made clear previously that Bayern may not be his final club.

Signing a replacement would be no easy task, particularly in the coronavirus landscape, so Nagelsmann would be wise to make sure Lewandowski feels Bayern's objectives match his own moving forward.

Ignore the noise

For a coach, learning to deal with critics is part of the territory at Bayern Munich, more so than at any club in Germany.

With famous ex-players in positions of power at the Allianz Arena and others prominent figures in the media – former Germany captain Lothar Matthaus chief among them – Bayern coaches will never be far from an opinion or two, whether successful or not (just ask Pep Guardiola).

Matthaus was even rebuked by former team-mate Stefan Effenberg this month for encouraging talk of Nagelsmann replacing Flick, suggesting such comments simply placed further pressure on coaches "that is no longer okay".

Flick had actually handled the persistent Bayern background noise rather well, and Nagelsmann will need to do likewise: the scrutiny on his performance as the world's most expensive coach – at such a young age – will be intense.

 

Blood the youngsters

Leipzig CEO Oliver Mintzlaff specifically praised Nagelsmann for improving individuals and strengthening the collective in his time at the club.

The progress of players such as Upamecano, Ibrahima Konate, Dominik Szoboszlai and captain Marcel Sabitzer highlights the positive impact Nagelsmann's methods can have on young talent.

He will be under pressure to produce similar results at Bayern. Alphonso Davies is already an elite left-back at 20, Jamal Musiala is established in the senior squad at 18 and there are high hopes for young centre-back Tanguy Nianzou.

Given Bayern's pedigree for developing global stars, Nagelsmann will be under pressure to keep the production line going at full speed.

Bayern Munich will try to help Robert Lewandowski make Bundesliga history but securing the title is the top priority, says Hansi Flick.

Lewandowski returned to full training this week after suffering knee ligament damage while away on international duty with Poland last month.

The striker missed both legs of Bayern's Champions League quarter-final against Paris Saint-Germain as the defending champions were knocked out on away goals, while an extended absence hampered his chances of surpassing Gerd Muller's record tally of 40 league goals, achieved back in the 1971-72 season.

Sitting on 35 with just four games remaining, the 32-year-old is set to make his comeback when Flick's table-topping side visit Mainz on Saturday.

A win on the road will secure a ninth successive league crown and while Lewandowski is also so close to achieving personal glory, the team still comes first for Flick.

"I think we all agree that's his major goal," the Bayern boss told a news conference on Friday.

"He's going to be part of the squad, Leon Goretzka is going to be part of the squad, Serge Gnabry is probably going to be part of the squad. The squad is slowly but surely filling up again – we are returning to normal, which is good of course.

"It's important for us to win the championship - we want to do that as quickly as possible."

On Lewandowski's impending return, he added: "Don't forget that he was out for four weeks.

"He's in very good shape, he showed that in training, but we have to wait and see how he handles the training sessions and the comeback attempt, how his body reacts.

"Of course we will all try to support him, but first of all our focus and priority is the success of the team and the club."

Lewandowski was badly missed as Bayern scored just three goals from 45 shots and eight 'big chances' against PSG. In the 3-2 home defeat in the first leg, the German club's tally of 31 attempts were worth 3.8 expected goals (xG).

Out of Europe, the Bundesliga is the solitary focus for Flick and his squad - but the outgoing head coach expects in-form Mainz to make it difficult to get over the line.

"It's definitely a very deserved championship," he said. "We hope we can win it in Mainz, but we know that they are in really good shape, unbeaten in six games – four wins and two draws – and against some teams who are at the top as well.

"They are a team who are aggressive in defence and very compact. When they win possession, they transition very quickly. These are the things we have to be wary of."

Bayern fought back to record a 5-2 win against Mainz in the reverse fixture, making it the first time since 1988 - and just the fourth occasion overall - that the Bavarians had come back to triumph after being at least two goals down at half-time in the league.

Robert Lewandowski has returned to full Bayern Munich training after recovering from knee ligament damage.

Bayern's superstar striker has not played since Poland's 3-0 World Cup qualifying win over Andorra on March 28.

But after nearly a month out, the club confirmed on Wednesday Lewandowski "completed the majority of full training", with coach Hansi Flick optimistic he could feature at Mainz on Saturday.

Bayern also had Serge Gnabry, returning from coronavirus, and Corentin Tolisso, out since February with a thigh injury, back in light training.

The defending Bundesliga champions can clinch another title this weekend and would be delighted to welcome back Lewandowski.

Despite missing several weeks, the 32-year-old still leads all players in Europe's 'top five' leagues in goals (42) and goal involvements (50) in all competitions.

Lewandowski has scored with 28.8 per cent of his shots across 36 matches, although he has also missed 25 Opta-defined 'big chances'. Only Duvan Zapata (29) and Cristiano Ronaldo (27) have squandered more, though this is likely down to the sheer number of chances that come their way.

Of his goals, 35 have come in the Bundesliga, putting Lewandowski just five shy of Gerd Muller's 1971-72 record of 40, albeit now with only four games remaining.

The domestic competition will be Lewandowski's sole focus after Bayern exited the Champions League to Paris Saint-Germain on away goals in his absence.

Lewandowski was badly missed as Bayern scored just three goals from 45 shots and eight 'big chances' over the two legs. In the 3-2 home defeat, their 31 attempts were worth 3.8 expected goals, meaning they should have netted roughly twice as many they did.

Not since Galatasaray lost 4-1 to Arsenal in December 2014 despite 32 efforts had a team been beaten while attempting 30 shots or more in a Champions League game that did not go to extra time.

Back-up Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting scored home and away against his former club, however, and had four goals in six games while Lewandowski was out.

Only Gerard Moreno (six), Kylian Mbappe and Memphis Depay (both five) in the 'top five' leagues netted more in all competitions over this period.

Cristiano Ronaldo's future beyond this season has been a hot topic of discussion.

The 36-year-old Portuguese forward appears set to exit Juventus after three seasons in Turin, despite being contracted for another year.

Ronaldo has been linked with former club Real Madrid and a switch to the United States, but there may be another option.

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO IN UTD-JUVE SWAP DEAL

Manchester United want to sign Cristiano Ronaldo this off-season and would consider a swap deal with Juventus for Paul Pogba, according to Calciomercato.

Ronaldo played for United from 2003 to 2009 in the earlier part of his career, making almost 300 appearances for the Red Devils before his blockbuster move to Real Madrid.

Pogba, who spent time at Juventus from 2012 to 2016, has also been the subject of transfer speculation.

Juventus have this week been linked with a mega swap deal with United as they look for a transfer shake-up this off-season.

ROUND-UP

- The Independent reports Harry Kane's preference, if he was to leave Tottenham, is to remain in England and join either United or Manchester City.

- Juve forward Paulo Dybala has attracted interest from Premier League pair United and Chelsea, claims Tuttosport.

- United are also keen on an off-season move for Madrid defender Raphael Varane, according to The Mail. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United have also been linked with Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, RB Leipzig centre-back Ibrahima Konate, Sevilla star Jules Kounde and Villarreal defender Pau Torres.

- The Daily Mail reports Bayern Munich are bullish they can sign Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland as Robert Lewandowski's heir if he remains in Germany for one more season amid widespread interest this upcoming off-season. Haaland has been heavily linked with City, United, Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

- Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira is wanted by Argentine giants Boca Juniors, reports TyC Sports. Torreira is currently on loan at Atletico Madrid.

Bayern Munich will approach Wednesday's quarter-final second leg against Paris Saint Germain with the confidence expected of Champions League holders.

Sure, they lost 3-2 in an enthralling meeting at the Allianz Arena last week and are without star striker Robert Lewandowski, but Hansi Flick's men had more than enough chances to have emerged victorious and face up to a PSG defence likely to be without the influential Marquinhos.

The main problem for Bayern is Kylian Mbappe's apparent bid to turn the competition into his own personal playground.

Having put Barcelona to the sword with a hat-trick at Camp Nou in the previous round, the France forward was PSG's match-winner once more with a brace in Bavaria.

When the second leg gets under way, Mbappe will be 22 years and 115 days old. No player has scored more than his 27 goals in the Champions League by that age. For reference, Lionel Messi had 18, Raul 12, Wayne Rooney 12 and Cristiano Ronaldo three at the same vintage.

A place among the Champions League greats looks to be Mbappe's for the taking and we've decided to compare his Barcelona and Bayern performances to some of the most memorable goalscoring outings of recent years on the biggest stage.

Lionel Messi – Barcelona 4-1 Arsenal: April 6, 2010

A second-leg penalty from Mbappe as PSG overcame Barcelona 5-2 on aggregate in the round of 16 made him the youngest player in Champions League history to reach 25 goals at 22 years and 80 days, usurping the great Messi.

Of course, Mbappe still has plenty more to accomplish if he is to get close to Messi's deeds in the competition. The six-time Ballon d'Or winner has won Europe's top competition four times. Barca were triumphant finalists in 2009 and 2011, with Messi netting in each game against Manchester United. They fell short in 2009-10, but a dominant quarter-final win over Arsenal that season found him at his very best.

The Gunners battled to a thrilling 2-2 draw at Emirates Stadium and led at Camp Nou through Nicklas Bendtner, but the tie was as good as over before half-time as Messi compiled a blistering hat-trick – smashing in from the edge of the area, finding the roof of the next with an opportunistic effort and then racing clear to sublimely lob Manuel Almunia.

He nutmegged the Arsenal goalkeeper having dribbled through a bedraggled defence for his and Barcelona's fourth. Messi's haul came from eight shots overall, with six on target. Three goals came from his impeccable left boot, with the second right footed. He stamped his mark all over the contest, completing 46 of 52 passes and making 77 touches – a greater level of overall involvement than any other performance on this list.

Robert Lewandowski – Borussia Dortmund 4-1 Real Madrid: April 24, 2013

Injury has robbed us of the Mbappe v Lewandowski showdown we crave and the quarter-final first leg might have panned out differently if Bayern had been able to call upon their attacking talisman.

Lewandowski's deadly finishing has been a constant over the past decade and he produced a breakout performance in the 2013 semi-finals against Real Madrid, while still at Borussia Dortmund.

The Poland striker reached to volley home Mario Gotze's eighth-minute cross and controlled Marco Reus' mis-hit shot to finish smartly early in the second half – prompting a run of three goals in 16 minutes as Lewandowski showed immaculate close control to rifle into the top corner before converting a penalty in similarly emphatic fashion.

All Lewandowski's goals came from inside the area, all with his right foot as he netted four of five attempts on target (seven in total) to fire Dortmund towards an all-Bundesliga final against his future employers.

Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid 4-2 Bayern Munich (aet): April 18, 2017

Mbappe has the opportunity to build on eight goals in this season's competition in the return against Bayern – the joint-most by a French player in a single campaign alongside Wissam Ben Yedder (2017-18) and David Trezeguet (2001-02).

In terms of huge one-season hauls, Ronaldo sets the gold standard. His 17 en-route to glory with Real Madrid in 2013-14 were followed by 16 in 2015-16 and 15 in 2017-18 as Los Blancos claimed three in a row.

In between, when Madrid went all the way in 2016-17, Ronaldo's personal total was – by his own remarkable standards – a relatively meagre 12. However, six of these came in quarter-final and semi-final hat-tricks versus Bayern and Atletico Madrid.

The Bayern treble was the most dramatic as Madrid diced with elimination. They lost 2-1 in 90 minutes at the Santiago Bernabeu but Ronaldo would not be denied, netting in the 76th minute and then twice more in extra time to complete a perfect hat-trick from nine attempts, five of which were on target.

Cristiano Ronaldo – Juventus 3-0 Atletico Madrid: March 12, 2019

Ronaldo's ambition of winning a sixth Champions League at a third club looks set to come up short after Juventus's meek exit against Porto last month. But during his first season in Turin, everything appeared to be falling into place against a familiar foe.

Atletico Madrid won the first leg of the last-16 encounter 2-0, but the writing was on the wall from the moment Ronaldo powered in a towering back-post header in the 27th minute.

Early in the second half, Jan Oblak could only claw away another headed Ronaldo attempt from behind the goal line and the Atlei goalkeeper had no chance when faced with penalty from the Portugal great five minutes from time.

Ronaldo netted with all three of his attempts on target, while his five efforts overall on the night had an xG value of 1.39.

Lucas Moura – Ajax 2-3 Tottenham: May 8, 2019

The 2018-19 season provided relentless drama when it came to improbable comebacks and Tottenham were surely down and out when 2-0 behind after 35 minutes Amsterdam, nursing a 3-0 semi-final aggregate deficit against an Ajax side who had already seen off Real Madrid and Juventus. Enter Lucas Moura.

The Brazilian forward, leading the line for Spurs in Harry Kane's injury absence, streamed into the Ajax penalty area to pull one back early in the second half and by the time he engineered space to dispatch a fine left-footed finish in the 59th minute, the whole complexion of the contest had changed.

Five minutes of stoppage time had just expired when Lucas clipped a third with his trusty left boot to break Ajax hearts. Opta began collecting xG data in the Champions League in 2013-14. Of the hat-tricks on this list with those figures available, Lucas' is the only one with an overall shot value (0.88) below an xG of one.

Kylian Mbappe – Barcelona 1-4 Paris Saint-Germain: February 16, 2021

Despite Messi putting Barcelona ahead with a first-half penalty, Mbappe soon took charge. Magnificent close control, nimble movement and a thumping finish with his left brought PSG level.

Mbappe was again happy to crash home with his weaker foot on the other side of half-time and curled in a majestic strike on the counter-attack after Moise Kean made it three. Four of his six attempts (xG 1.84) were on target in an all-action display.

It made Mbappe the third player in Champions League history to score a hat-trick against Barcelona after Faustino Asprilla for Newcastle United and Andriy Shevchenko for Dynamo Kiev in 1997.

Kylian Mbappe – Bayern Munich 2-3 Paris Saint-Germain: April 7, 2021

Mauricio Pochettino's men overwhelmed Barcelona at Camp Nou but were forced to play a different game against Bayern last week, spending long spells on the back foot.

This gave Mbappe the chance to show his ruthless side as he scored from each of his two shots, albeit helped by an error from Manuel Neuer for the opener. A fit-again Neymar laid on that goal and he and Mbappe have assisted one another 10 times in the Champions League since joining forces in 2017-18 – at least three more than any other pair during this period.

Neymar also set up compatriot Marquinhos to make it 2-0 before Eric Maxim Choupo Moting and Thomas Muller brought Bayern level.

Mbappe's electrifying pace and unerring poise were again on display when he cut inside Jerome Boateng to send the winner fizzing past Neuer at his near post. His five away goals in the knockout rounds is already a single-season record in the Champions League. To earn the chance to add to that number, there is first some mouth-watering business to attend to at Parc des Princes.

Robert Lewandowski has stepped up his recovery from a knee injury as Bayern Munich aim to overturn a first-leg deficit against Paris Saint-Germain without their prolific striker.

Lewandowski suffered damage to his right knee while on international duty with Poland in March, ruling him out of both games against PSG in the Champions League quarter-final tie.

However, Bayern were able to provide a positive update on Monday, with the 32-year-old resuming running duties at the club's training facilities.

In his absence, the reigning European champions were wasteful in the first meeting with their French opponents last week, resulting in a 3-2 loss on home soil.

Hansi Flick's side had 31 attempts, the most in a single Champions League fixture since the start of the 2003-04 campaign. Their expected goals (xG) value of 3.8 was the highest for a team in the competition this season.

Thomas Muller accepts Bayern must be more ruthless in the return fixture in the French capital, but he is confident they have the quality – even without Lewandowski, who has scored 42 goals in all competitions this season – to turn the situation around and seal a place in the last four.

"We'll approach the game as we normally do," Muller told the media.

"It's important to balance risks in individual situations. We won't be going all-out-attack from the off, but we will try to score an early goal.

"We would be happy to have as many chances [as in the first leg]. We need to make better decisions in critical moments. We have done some analysis and I hope we can implement it.

"Unfortunately, we have suffered a few injuries, but we feel we have the quality and are mentally capable of turning the game around."

While Lewandowski is a certain absentee, Flick confirmed in his press conference that Lucas Hernandez, Jerome Boateng, Leon Goretzka and Kingsley Coman had all trained with the squad on Monday, adding: "We assume that those who trained can play."

Only three of the last 50 teams to lose the first leg at home in a Champions League knockout tie have managed to progress, albeit one of those occasions came when PSG were knocked out by Manchester United at the last-16 stage in 2019.

Bayern have been eliminated in each of the last four instances when losing the first leg, all coming in consecutive seasons between 2014-15 and 2017-18.

Bayern Munich host Paris Saint-Germain in a repeat of last season's final and Porto meet Chelsea at a neutral venue in Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final first legs.

Bavarian giants Bayern beat PSG 1-0 to win the trophy last year and have remained unbeaten throughout this season's campaign.

But the reigning European champions are without injured star man Robert Lewandowski and do not have the best of records in this fixture.

Porto will be looking to build on their impressive win over Juventus in the last round when they take on Chelsea in what will be classed at their home leg at Sevilla's Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

The Portuguese side famously lifted the trophy in the 2003-04 season under Jose Mourinho, who was Chelsea boss the last time they reached this stage of the competition seven years ago.

Bayern Munich v Paris Saint-Germain: Can PSG exact some revenge against Lewandowski-less holders?

Not since March 2019, when going down 3-1 to Liverpool at the last-16 stage, have Bayern tasted defeat in Europe's premier club competition.

That is a run spanning 19 games and they could become the second team ever in the competition to go 20 without losing after Manchester United (25 between 2007 and 2009).

The Bavarians have won all but one of those matches, including a victory in last August's final, but they have a negative overall record against Wednesday's opponents.

PSG have won five and lost four of the previous 10 Champions League encounters, though this will be just their second meeting in the knockout phase.

Indeed, Bayern have only lost more Champions League matches against Real Madrid (10) than PSG, while against no side have the Ligue 1 club won more games in the competition.

Bayern will also be without Lewandowski, who has 15 goals in 13 Champions League games since Hansi Flick took over in November 2019 - the most of any player in the competition across that timeframe.

PSG will have their key men available, with Kylian Mbappe looking to build on a return of 35 goal involvements in 33 games for the club in the Champions League.

The France international has scored six goals in seven games in this season's competition, including four goals across the two legs with Barcelona last time out, making this his joint-best campaign alongside 2016-17.


Porto v Chelsea: Conceicao's charges hoping to jump quarter-final hurdle

This will be the eighth meeting between Porto and Chelsea in the Champions League, the Blues winning five and losing just one of those previous encounters.

Only against Madrid (six) have Porto lost more matches, and they were eliminated 3-2 by Chelsea the only previous time they met in the knockout stages in the 2006-07 last 16.

That was a familiar story, Chelsea having won 75 per cent of their Champions League games against Portuguese sides - only versus Spanish teams (13) have they won more, a record they added to with victories over Atletico Madrid in the last 16.

Should they overcome Porto here, Thomas Tuchel - appointed as Frank Lampard's successor in January - will become just the second Chelsea boss to win his first three Champions League knockout-stage matches after Roberto Di Matteo in 2011-12.

Porto are certainly no strangers to the last eight, reaching this stage for the third time since going all the way in 2003-04, but they have won only one of those six ties.

At 38 years and 40 days, it could be an occasion to remember for veteran defender Pepe, who is in line to become the oldest outfield player to feature in a Champions League quarter-final since Manchester United's Ryan Giggs (40y, 123d) in April 2014.

Robert Lewandowski's injury is an example of "situations you have as a coach" for Hansi Flick, who vowed to face the challenge of coping without Bayern Munich's talisman head on.

The prolific Poland striker is facing up to the prospect of a month on the sidelines after damaging knee ligaments in his country's 3-0 win over Andorra.

It is a cruel blow for Lewandowski, who has 35 goals in the Bundesliga and looked well on course to at least match Gerd Muller's famous record of 40 in a single campaign, set back in 1971-72.

The 32-year-old is unavailable for this weekend's crunch clash with second-place RB Leipzig and will miss both legs of the Champions League quarter-final with Paris Saint-Germain.

For Flick, though, dealing with adversity is par for the course.

"These are situations that you have as a coach. I'm sorry for the player who got injured. I would like to have everyone with me," he told a pre-match news conference.

"There is no question that Robert is important to us. We have players who can play in that position. It is a challenge for all of us that we are happy to face. We only know roughly when Robert will be back. It's hard to say in detail."

Asked if Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting could be afforded the opportunity to play in Lewandowski's absence, Flick replied: "Choupo is a player who shows his quality in training and in matches. 

"I leave it open to me how we play. But it is definitely an option."

The return to domestic action comes after another busy international break and precedes the Champions League quarter-finals.

Flick understands that the difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic have made such scenarios inevitable but says thought should be given on how to protect player welfare.

"At the moment there is no alternative. An association also needs its games. There is a lot that has to do with it," he added.

"The players are under a lot of stress - last season, this season, next season won't be any different. 

"Stress management is a topic that teams need to be aware of. But also the national teams. It's not easy because everyone has their goals. But at some point a limit of resilience is reached. One should think about it."

Bayern travel to Leipzig on Saturday four points clear of their nearest rivals with eight games to play but Flick was reluctant to declare the fixture as decisive in the race for the title.

"I'll worry about that when the game is over," he added. "It's a top-level game."

News of Robert Lewandowski being ruled out for a month on Tuesday left many feeling the pendulum might have swung in RB Leipzig's favour in the Bundesliga title race.

Enjoying another phenomenal season, the Poland striker has been irresistible for reigning champions Bayern and had come to within touching distance of history.

With 35 league goals in just 25 matches, Lewandowski was just five strikes from equalling Gerd Muller's all-time single-season record – no one has matched that haul since the Bayern and West Germany great achieved it in 1971-72.

Although already seemingly certain to be regarded as a Bundesliga icon long after he hangs up his boots, eclipsing such a feat while well into his thirties would have surely elevated his legend to a whole new level in German football history.

Who knows, he may yet reach it this term. Assuming he is out for exactly four weeks, the time period Bayern themselves specified, netting another six in Bayern's final three league games is by no means beyond Lewandowski given the rate he had been scoring at.

But without suffering his knee injury against Andorra, he would have had eight league matches to reach that figure, while his absence will also surely impact on the collective for Bayern.

Hansi Flick's men are top but only have a four-point cushion ahead of RB Leipzig, whom they will hosted by on Saturday in a game that could have decisive ramifications on the title race.

But Leipzig cannot fall into the trap of taking the absence of Lewandowski – whose xG overperformance of 8.8 for non-penalty goals (29 scored, 20.2 xG) is unmatched across Europe's top five leagues – for granted.

 

"Basically, Bayern still has a lot of good players even if Robert Lewandowski will be missing the game," Leipzig sporting director Markus Krosche told Stats Perform News. "They can replace him.

"Of course, he is a very important player for them after having scored 35 goals, but the squad is good enough to replace him. That's still not our focus.

"We have to focus on ourselves and what happens on the pitch because that's what counts for us. If we push ourselves to the limit, then we have a great possibility to beat them. It doesn't matter if they play with or without Lewandowski."

Victory for Bayern in Leipzig will see them take a huge step towards a ninth successive Bundesliga title and the omens aren't great for Julian Nagelsmann's side, having won just once in 11 competitive meetings with Bayern.

But Die Roten Bullen head into the weekend unbeaten in eight league games, a run that's seen them amass 22 from a possible 24 points and subsequently claw themselves back to within just a few points of Bayern.

"I am pretty proud," Krosche replied when asked how if felt to be Bayern's main rival in 2020-21. "But not only because we are second in the league and their closest rival, but also the way we have been playing in the last few months makes me proud.

"The boys did a great job and have developed well. The way we play is one of the best styles in the Bundesliga, and it is because of our playing style that we could achieve these results. I am proud about the development of the boys.

"We need to keep doing the same things just like in the last few weeks and months. We need to show this football on the pitch. Of course, we need to push ourselves to the limit against Bayern, but we have a lot of self-confidence.

"Our playing style is really good and the boys are convinced of our idea of how to play. So, we'll try to reach our maximum and then we have a good chance to beat them."

 

Stopping Bayern as an attacking threat will be half the battle on Saturday, as Die Roten are averaging three goals every game in the Bundesliga and haven't fired blanks in any of their previous 61 matches across all competitions, equalling a club record. Coincidentally, Leipzig were the last team to shut them out in February last year.

Despite such a remarkable run, Bayern have not been immune to criticism and the fact they aren't yet cruising at the top has led to suggestions of the champions being a shadow of their former selves, and losing Lewandowski for a month won't help.

But Krosche is adamant talk of a Bayern with "weaknesses" has been over the top, instead surmising the chasing pack has improved, with Leipzig boasting the best defence in the league (21 conceded). He said: "Bayern have not played a bad season. People say that they have some weaknesses this season but that's not the case.

"I think it's basically the case that we are doing very well. We have a very good balance between offence and defence. That's what makes us strong this season, and that's the reason why we are so close to Bayern right now.

 

"What will be decisive on Saturday is how we can find the balance. This is our plan and we'll try to do it. I don't want to reduce it to 'Bayern are having weaknesses' but rather say that we are consistent this year and that we have a good opportunity to move even closer when we beat them."

Beyond the potential impact on the title race, Saturday will be a particularly intriguing contest for Dayot Upamecano, who has already agreed to join Bayern at the end of the season. Krosche hopes he can succeed in Munich but was non-committal on projecting the Frenchman's future at the Allianz Arena.

"Upa is a player that has everything you need. He is a young guy who already has a lot of international experience," he continued. "As I said, he's got everything. He is an important player for us. He has a bright future ahead.

"I don't know what will happen at Bayern next season. He has a lot of potential for further development, but we will see. We are happy that he is still with us and we hope that we can be successful this season with him. Then we will see how he performs at Bayern."

One thing's for certain, Upamecano will be relieved to know the next time he has to come up against Lewandowski will only be a training session.

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