Football: Bayern unsettled but Bundesliga rivals wary of their ability to ‘destroy’ opponents

Football: Bayern unsettled but Bundesliga rivals wary of their ability to ‘destroy’ opponents

MUNICH (AFP) – European champions Bayern Munich begin the hunt for a ninth straight Bundesliga title on Friday (Sept 18), but while their rivals ponder how to break their iron grip on the German league, the Bavarian giants have pressing issues to resolve.

Bayern host Schalke at the Allianz Arena to kick off the Bundesliga season just 26 days after winning the Champions League in Lisbon to complete the treble.

They stand to play 57 games in a 2020-21 fixture list condensed by the knock-on effects of the coronavirus pandemic. However, they have already lost three of the Champions League-winning squad.

Ivan Perisic, Philippe Coutinho and Alvaro Odriozola have returned to Inter Milan, Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively after their loan deals expired.

“We have to make up for it,” head coach Hansi Flick admitted, with Bayern facing Sevilla in the Uefa Super Cup and Borussia Dortmund for the German Super Cup in the coming fortnight.

Bayern want to sign a new winger with Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi again on their radar. They also want a defender.

Flick’s star-studded squad finished last season on an all-conquering 21-game winning run, including the 8-2 thrashing of Barcelona in the Champions League last eight.

Their last loss was at the hands of Monchengladbach in December.

“The current team of Hansi Flick is perhaps the best Bayern team ever,” Hans-Joachim Watzke, chief executive of arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund, declared last month.

“They no longer beat their opponents – they destroy them.”

The message was similarly bleak from Champions League semi-finalists RB Leipzig, who finished third in the Bundesliga behind Bayern and runners-up Dortmund.

“We need two years of training and playing at international level to develop our players to the max, but Bayern would still be hard to catch,” Leipzig’s head coach Julian Nagelsmann said on Wednesday.

Bayern’s impressive run is down to the form of stars like Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski.

Muller managed a league-record 21 assists. Lewandowski netted 55 goals in 47 games last season, leaving him as the top scorer in both the Bundesliga, where he hit 34 goals, and the Champions League, where he scored 15 times in 10 games.

However, Bayern must also quickly resolve the future of defender David Alaba, who is stalling over signing a contract extension and is said to want a big pay rise. Midfielder Thiago Alcantara, meanwhile, is set to leave for Liverpool.

“I don’t know who is going to leave us and who is going to arrive again. It’s not the best way to prepare,” Flick admitted.

On Tuesday, midfielder Leon Goretzka called for fresh signings alongside winger Leroy Sane, goalkeeper Alexander Nubel and defender Tanguy Nianzou.

“I do believe that at least every position should be filled twice,” he said.