Kylian Mbappe and Robert Lewandowski have expressed concerns about the lack of rest players will get if plans for a biennial World Cup come to fruition.

FIFA's proposal to host the tournament every two years instead of four has largely been met with scepticism.

Both Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe and Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski are not in favour of the change, with the former suggesting that the quality of the spectacle would suffer if the health of players is not taken into account. 

"We like to play but it's too much," Mbappe said in Dubai, where he was named men's player of the year at the Globe Soccer Awards. "If people want to see quality, we have to take a break.

"Playing the World Cup every two years would make this competition 'normal' and that shouldn't be the case. The World Cup, the Nations League... we love to play but it's too much.

"If people want to see quality, I think we have to take a break."

Lewandowski echoed the France international's sentiments, stating that the schedule is already congested even without the added burden of an increased number of World Cups.

"We have a lot of games in the year, very dense weeks," Lewandowski said at the same event. "If you want to give the fans something different, you need a break.

"We have to look into the future, if we want to play a World Cup every two years, the level will drop. It's impossible for the body and the mind to perform at the same level."

Matthijs de Ligt's future at Juventus is unclear following comments from his agent Mino Raiola.

The Netherlands international has been with the Bianconeri since July 2019 but could be set to move on.

Juventus are off the pace in the Serie A title race this season and Raiola said his client was "ready for a new step".

 

TOP STORY – BARCA CONSIDER DE LIGT MOVE

Barcelona are considering making a move for Juventus defender De Ligt, reports Gerard Romero.

The Blaugrana would need to offload the salaries of Samuel Umtiti and Philippe Coutinho to enable the transfer.

De Ligt has been linked with a switch away from Juventus, with Chelsea also interested.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tottenham and Manchester United will rival Newcastle United in pursuit of Atletico Madrid's Kieran Trippier, claims 90min. Trippier is keen to return to England after two and a half years in Spain.

- Real Madrid are interested in Lille forward Jonathan David at the end of this season, claims Marca. Arsenal and West Ham are also monitoring the Canadian.

- Gerard Romero is reporting that Bayern Munich are considering a move for Barcelona's USA international full-back Sergino Dest.

- ESPN claims Arsenal are ready to listen to offers for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after he was stripped of the Gunners captaincy last week.

Julian Nagelsmann expressed his satisfaction with Bayern Munich as the Bavarians head into the mid-season Bundesliga break top of the table.

Bayern cruised to a 4-0 victory on Friday over Wolfsburg, with Thomas Muller – who was making his 400th league appearance for the reigning champions – scoring the first and assisting Dayot Upamecano's second.

Leroy Sane soon added a curling third before Robert Lewandowski sealed victory as the Poland striker netted his 43rd top-flight goal of 2021, surpassing Gerd Muller's long-standing calendar-year record for Bundesliga goals, set in 1972 (42).

Bayern boast a nine-point lead over second-placed Borussia Dortmund, who play their game in hand against Hertha Berlin on Saturday, and former RB Leipzig head coach Nagelsmann has been pleased with his side's efforts to date.

In the three points-for-a-win era, Bayern have won the title in 14 of the 15 seasons they have topped the league at the halfway point.

"I'm very satisfied with our first half of the season," Nagelsmann told reporters. "It's not simple to score this many goals against such a compact defence. 

"We had very good control and pressed even better in the second half. The key was counter-pressing: we won the ball high and closed all gaps.

"I'm very happy with the performance. We played a lot of games recently; the first half was more difficult. The initial phase was good, then we slowed down a bit. Then [Wout] Weghorst had a chance, we were lucky, or we had a good goalkeeper, maybe a mixture of both.

"The way we played in the second half was great. The goals were outstanding."

On Lewandowski's landmark strike, Nagelsmann added: "I was very happy that he scored. It was a wonderful goal – Lewy played a great game."

Nagelsmann also reserved praise for Upamecano, who made a staggering 103 passes in Wolfsburg's half – a game-leading figure – while also leading Bayern for tackles made (five) and possession won (14 times).

"He scored a goal, which is great," the Bayern head coach continued. "We know how important it is to have goalscoring defenders when the opponent sits very deep. 

"He was very focused today. Overall, he's having a good season, except for a couple of games. We shouldn't forget he's young, he isn't 28."

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski surpassed Gerd Muller's long-standing Bundesliga calendar-year scoring record with his second-half finish against Wolfsburg.

Muller found the net 42 times in the German top flight in 1972, but Lewandowski set a new record with his 43rd league goal of 2021.

Thomas Muller opened the scoring for Bayern after just seven minutes on Friday, while Lewandowski volleyed over as he searched for the landmark goal.

Dayot Upamecano and Leroy Sane netted the second and third goals for Julian Nagelsmann’s side, before Lewandowski’s milestone strike eventually arrived in the 87th minute when he smashed into the roof of the net following Jamal Musiala's header.

The Poland international has now scored 24 goals in 21 Bundesliga games against Wolfsburg, including a five-goal haul against them back in September 2015 in a 5-1 victory for the Bavarians.

Yet another landmark for Lewandowski caps a fantastic year in which the former Borussia Dortmund star won France Football's inaugural Striker of the Year award, after finishing second to Lionel Messi in the 2021 Ballon d'Or reckoning.

Lewandowski may have felt hard done by, given he has managed 58 goals in 2021 across all competitions – 15 more than any other player across Europe's top-five leagues, with Dortmund's Erling Haaland occupying second (43).

The Bayern talisman also leads the scoring charts across Europe this campaign, with 30 goals to his name in all competitions. Liverpool's Mohamed Salah is the next best with 22.

Worryingly for Wolfsburg, the 33-year-old may now eye another record for most goals against a single opponent in the Bundesliga, also held by Muller, who netted 27 times against Hamburg.

Julian Nagelsmann's side boast a healthy advantage over Dortmund at the top of the table heading into the mid-season break.

Thomas Muller starred on a milestone appearance and Robert Lewandowski broke a long-standing Gerd Muller record as Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich cruised to a 4-0 victory over Wolfsburg on Friday.

Muller marked his 400th top-flight outing for Bayern with the opening goal after seven minutes at the Allianz Arena, before the Germany international teed up Dayot Upamecano for a second after the interval.

Leroy Sane added a third for Julian Nagelsmann's side and Lewandowski was able to find a record 43rd league goal in 2021 to surpass Bayern legend's Gerd Muller's long-standing Bundesliga calendar-year scoring record as the hosts cruised to victory.
 
Leaders Bayern hold a nine-point advantage at the summit, with Dortmund – who play Hertha Berlin on Saturday – sat in second heading into the mid-season break.

Bayern were soon ahead when Muller poked home from close range after Koen Casteels had parried Serge Gnabry's strike, before Manuel Neuer thwarted Wout Weghorst at the other end.

Jamal Musiala almost doubled Bayern's lead but dragged wide, while Casteels denied Lewandowski's header from point-blank range.

Muller delicately chipped for Upamecano to head into the bottom-left corner after the interval, with Sane expertly curling in via the left post just two minutes later.

Lewandowski then had two opportunities to break Gerd Muller's benchmark, but wastefully prodded over with the first before an excellent Casteels save denied him from the second.

The Poland striker eventually managed his landmark finish when Musiala selflessly headed across goal for the Poland striker to volley in as Bayern eased to victory.


What does it mean? Bayern title favourites again heading into mid-season break

Bayern, who have not lost any of their last 25 home league matches against Wolfsburg, once again head into the mid-season break top of the Bundesliga – this time leading by at least six points, with Dortmund set to play their game in hand against Hertha Berlin on Saturday.

In the three points-per-win era, the Bavarians have won the title in 14 of the 15 seasons when they have been at the summit at the halfway point. By contrast, Wolfsburg have now lost seven consecutive competitive matches.

Gnabry the Great

Muller and Lewandowski seemingly steal the plaudits most weeks, but Gnabry's dominant performance should not go under the radar.

The Germany winger not only provided an assist but also laid on a team-leading three chances – along with full-back Alphonso Davies and Musiala – as he ensured a torrid game for Yannick Gerhardt at left wing-back.

Woeful Weghorst

Weghorst wasted a glorious opportunity to equalise immediately after Muller's opener and that set the tone for a frustrating performance from the striker.

The Netherlands international cut an isolated figure up top, winning just over a third of his 14 duels, while relinquishing possession a team-high 18 times.

What's next?

The Bundesliga now takes a break until 2022. Bayern return to action at home to Borussia Monchengladbach on January 7, while Wolfsburg visit Bochum two days later. 

Edinson Cavani re-signed with Manchester United at the start of the season but Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Old Trafford has hampered the Uruguayan.

And following Sergio Aguero's shock retirement, the door has opened for Cavani at Camp Nou.

Cavani is believed to be on the verge of swapping Manchester for Barcelona.

 

TOP STORY – CAVANI TO CAMP NOU

Edinson Cavani will join embattled LaLiga giants Barcelona in January to replace Sergio Aguero, according to TyC Sports.

Aguero announced his retirement from football this week due to a heart problem and Barca are on the lookout for a replacement.

Manchester United forward Cavani has emerged as a target, with the Uruguay international reportedly rejecting an offer from Boca Juniors to move to Camp Nou.

 

ROUND-UP

- The front page of Friday's Gazzetta dello Sport claims Antony Martial is eager to leave United for Serie A giants Juventus. He has also been linked with Atletico MadridCavani, Paris Saint-Germain's Mauro Icardi and former Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are believed to be among Juve's targets.

- Barca have held talks regarding a move for Juve winger Federico Bernardeschi, claims Sport. The Italy international is out of contract at the end of the season.

- Neither United nor PSG have opened talks with Barca midfielder Frenkie de Jong, reports Fabrizio Romano. Bayern Munich and Liverpool are also believed to be interested.

Newcastle United have offered £88million (€100m) for Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic, according to Calciomercato. Vlahovic is wanted by Manchester United, Manchester City, Bayern, Tottenham, Arsenal, Inter, Juve and Atletico.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin is urging footballers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible.

In recent months, it has become increasingly clear that vaccine take-up is not as high among elite footballers as within the rest of society.

A story in British tabloid The Sun last week said Premier League clubs feared the government would ban unvaccinated players, suggesting there remains a reasonable proportion holding out.

The Premier League last released vaccination data in mid-October, at which point it was said only 68 per cent of players were fully vaccinated – in terms of wider society, over 80 per cent of adults aged 16 or older in England reported having been double-jabbed as early as July.

Vaccination has become an especially hot topic in the United Kingdom over the past few weeks amid the increase in football match postponements due to COVID-19 outbreaks, and UEFA is beginning a drive to promote the vaccine over the coming months.

"We've just launched a video promoting vaccination, it will go out tomorrow, I think," Ceferin told a news conference on Thursday.

"We should promote the vaccine and we will. We don't have the power to force anyone to be vaccinated, but the promotion starts today and in my humble opinion the video is good because only doctors talk in it.

"They explain why the vaccine is so important. They are experts saying the vaccine is good because of this, this and this, and that side effects are very rare. We will start promoting the vaccine now."

Bayern Munich were reported to have taken a particularly strong stance against unvaccinated players, with claims they would dock wages of anyone forced to into quarantine if they had not been jabbed.

As many as five Bayern players – including Joshua Kimmich – were said to have delayed getting the vaccine, while it emerged in October that several members of the England squad were still unvaccinated.

However, Ceferin remains hopeful that such situations will soon be a rarity.

"For me, I believe in science," he said. "I got vaccinated, and I think [the players] should get vaccinated] as soon as possible, but I still believe for now it's a personal choice.

"People aren't stupid. If you explain in a nice way, not judging them, explain why it's good.

"All figures show vaccinated people are less likely to get infected and all vaccinated people are less likely to have strong effects of COVID if they are infected.

"Sooner or later, if not all, the vast majority will understand it."

Ceferin was also asked to address the challenges of matches not being able to go ahead because of outbreaks, with particular focus on Tottenham.

Their Europa Conference League match with Rennes was unable to go ahead last week and UEFA ruled it could not find a "viable solution in order to reschedule the match".

Spurs are reportedly still attempting to find a workaround, including the possibility of playing the game in France rather than London, but they remain in a tricky situation after their clash with Leicester City was also postponed.

UEFA referred the case to their disciplinary arm and as such Spurs may have to forfeit the game with a 3-0 defeat – Ceferin accepts it may feel unjust but insisted these regulations ensure football's integrity.

"We have our regulations that are clear," he said. "Maybe they're sometimes hard to understand, but without them I don't think we could finish last season without stopping it.

"I know it sometimes looks unfair that a team has to play a certain match in a certain timeframe or the result is 3-0 for the other team, but if we didn't have clear rules then we wouldn't be able to finish the season.

"I sincerely hope we won't need those regulations soon."

Julian Nagelsmann declared he is "incredibly satisfied" with life as Bayern Munich head coach and urged his team to go into the winter break on a high.

Nagelsmann replaced Hansi Flick at the Bavarian club in July and has led them to the top of the Bundesliga with 13 victories from their first 16 games, as well as winning each of their six Champions League group stage fixtures.

The low point of the 34-year-old's tenure at the club came on October 27, when Bayern suffered a shock 5-0 defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach in the DFB-Pokal.

However, Bayern bounced back to win nine of their subsequent 10 games in all competitions, opening up a six-point lead over Borussia Dortmund in the process, and Nagelsmann is pleased with his side at this stage.

Bayern host 11th-placed Wolfsburg on Friday, with the visitors on a run of six straight defeats in all competitions. It is the final game for Bayern before their mid-season break.

"We played a very good first half of the season, I want to go into tomorrow's game highly concentrated in order to keep the distance [at the top of the table]," Nagelsmann said.

"Of course, we had a very big damper, but it also triggered a certain process in us that no team in the world is infallible. That was a little damper for the first half of the season, which put a little shadow over it, but not in such a way that there is no light."

Bayern have scored 52 goals in their first 16 games of the Bundesliga – a record for such an opening stretch. They have also never lost a home Bundesliga clash with Wolfsburg in 24 past such meetings, winning 22 of those. No other team in Bundesliga history has faced an opponent as often at home without ever losing, Opta said.

Star striker Robert Lewandowski has scored 42 Bundesliga goals in 2021 and would break Gerd Muller's calendar year record (also 42 goals) from 1972 if he scores against Wolfsburg. Worryingly for Wolfsburg, Lewandowski has scored 23 goals in 20 Bundesliga games against them – including his only five-goal haul in the top flight.

In Bundesliga history, only Gerd Muller scored more goals against a single opponent – 27 goals against Hamburg.

Lewandowski's prowess has been one of many aspects that have added up to a successful year for Bayern, and a lively start for Nagelsmann.

"There were many high victories, many emotional moments," said the former RB Leipzig boss. "I am incredibly satisfied, as I am in the club and with the fans, I took on a great team, took on a great staff.

"I love this job at Bayern Munich, I love the city, I enjoy being on the site every day."

The race for Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland is on.

Haaland is reportedly being chased by several top clubs, including Real Madrid, Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Barcelona.

Each club will be looking for an edge in the race for the Norwegian.


TOP STORY – BARCELONA NOT KEEN ON POGBA-HAALAND PACKAGE

Barcelona are unlikely to bring in both Haaland and Paul Pogba, reports SPORT.

Agent Mino Raiola, who represents both players, is reported to have recently met with Barca president Joan Laporta.

Young striker Haaland is unmistakably an appealing player to Barcelona, but they would need to find the funds to buy him from Borussia Dortmund. Barcelona, who have major financial issues, are said to be wary of taking on Manchester United star Pogba's wages, and he may not be an ideal technical fit for coach Xavi. Pogba's United contract is due to expire at the end of this season.

Manchester City are also readying themselves to chase Haaland but will not over-spend, reports the Manchester Evening News.

ROUND-UP

- Cashed-up Newcastle United are bullish about their prospects of signing Atletico Madrid's England defender Kieran Trippier in January, according to Football Insider. Talks between the Magpies and Trippier are reportedly already under way.

- Premier League trio Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United could be all set to make a move to sign Fiorentina's Dusan Vlahovic after he rejected a bumper extension offer, reports Talksport.

- Paris Saint-Germain have joined the queue of clubs hoping to sign out-of-favour Juventus midfielder Arthur Melo, reports Calciomercato. Arthur has also been linked with Lazio.

- Fenerbahce are set to swoop for Luuk de Jong, who is on loan at Barcelona from Sevilla, claims Mundo Deportivo. Barca are eager to let him leave from his loan.

- Barcelona have set an asking price of €90million (£77m) for Frenkie de Jong according to Fichajes, amid interest from Bayern Munich and Liverpool.

Julian Nagelsmann hailed the "outstanding" Serge Gnabry after he scored a hat-trick in Bayern Munich's 5-0 thrashing of Stuttgart.

Gnabry marked his first start for almost a month with a superb display, helping himself to a treble and laying on the other two goals for Robert Lewandowski in the city where he was born.

The Germany forward gave Bayern a 1-0 half-time lead and they ran riot after the break, scoring three times in the space of five minutes behind closed doors at Mercedes-Benz Arena on Tuesday.

Gnabry was directly involved in five goals in a competitive match for only the second time in his career, with the only previous instance coming in the 7-2 win at Tottenham in October 2019 - when he scored four and provided one assist

Victory in Julian Nagelsmann's 200th Bundesliga match as a head coach put the champions nine points clear at the top of the table.

Nagelsmann lauded Gnabry, who has had to bide his time to force his way back into the team after a spell in quarantine and has also been hampered by an injury.

The Bayern head coach said: "He is an outstanding player who is currently struggling with his back and therefore maybe gets a tad less minutes than he deserves.

"He did very, very well today."

It was another devastating performance from the Bavarian giants, but there was concern when they lost Kingsley Coman to an injury in the first half

Nagelsmann said of the France winger: "We don't have an exact diagnosis for him yet. It's a muscular issue. We're hoping that it's nothing serious."

Lewandowski's double took him level with the great Gerd Muller on a record 41 goals in a calendar year in the German top flight.

Serge Gnabry scored a hat-trick and laid on a double for Robert Lewandowski as Bayern Munich moved nine points clear at the top of the Bundesliga with a 5-0 thrashing of Stuttgart.

Gnabry, making his first start for almost a month, opened the scoring in the first half and clinically doubled the champions lead after the break behind closed doors at Mercedes-Benz Arena on Tuesday.

The outstanding Gnabry then set Lewandowski up twice and completed his treble as the leaders ran riot in Julian Nagelsmann's 200th Bundesliga match as coach, scoring three times in the space of five second-half minutes.

Bayern lost Kingsley Coman to an apparent hamstring injury, but cruised to a sixth consecutive victory in all competitions.

Gnabry was a livewire from the start and he flashed an early shot across the face of the Stuttgart goal before Lewandowski fired straight at goalkeeper Florian Muller.

Omar Marmoush dragged a tame strike wide against the run of play before Gnabry put the champions in front, finding the back of the net with a classy first-time right-foot finish after Leroy Sane - on for the injured Coman - set him up five minutes before the break.

Stuttgart showed plenty of endeavour following the interval but Gnabry struck again in the 53rd minute, taking a pass from Thomas Muller and beating Marc Oliver Kempf before calmly slotting home with his left foot.

Gnabry then turned provider, picking out Lewandowski with a superb pass which the striker controlled on his chest and raced into the box before nonchalantly lifting the ball over the advancing Stuttgart keeper and into the net.

The same pair combined again as Lewandowski was on hand to slot home inside the six-yard box from a Gnabry cross.

Gnabry then capped a brilliant performance by tucking in from close range after the busy Muller could only palm into his path with 16 minutes to go.

Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain each have four nominees in the 23-man shortlist for the FIFA FIFPRO Men's World 11 for 2021.

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson and full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold are also included, although there is no place for Mohamed Salah.

PSG's attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are among the forwards, as is Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo.

Veteran Dani Alves also won enough votes to make the list, even though the 38-year-old, who recently rejoined Barcelona, only played 16 times in domestic competition in Brazil this year.

Professional footballers across the world were asked to vote for the three players they considered to have the best seasons during the 2020-21 season among goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and forwards.

FIFPRO said: "For the first time in 17 years, FIFPRO is updating the announcement about the most-voted players, reducing the shortlist from 55 to 23. This has been done to resemble a real-life 'squad' which, usually for international competitions, is the number of players involved. 

"The three goalkeepers, six defenders, six midfielders and six forwards with the most votes earned a place in the 23-men World 11 'squad'. To complete this elite selection, the two remaining outfield players with the most votes were added."

The keeper, three defenders, three midfielders and three forwards with the most votes will be chosen for the World 11, with the remaining spot assigned to the outfield player with the next highest number of votes.

The final 11 will be announced at The Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony on January 17.

 

FIFA FIFPRO MEN'S WORLD 11 23-PLAYER SHORTLIST:

Goalkeepers:
Alisson (Liverpool, Brazil)
Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan/Paris Saint-Germain, Italy)
Edouard Mendy (Chelsea, Senegal)

Defenders:
David Alaba (Bayern Munich/Real Madrid, Austria)
Jordi Alba (Barcelona, Spain)
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool, England)
Dani Alves (Sao Paulo/Barcelona, Brazil)
Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus, Italy)
Ruben Dias (Manchester City, Portugal)

Midfielders:
Sergio Busquets (Barcelona, Spain)
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City, Belgium)
Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United, Portugal)
Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona, The Netherlands)
Jorginho (Chelsea, Italy)
N'Golo Kante (Chelsea, France)

Forwards:
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid, France)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus/Manchester United, Portugal)
Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund, Norway)
Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich, Poland)
Romelu Lukaku (Inter/Chelsea, Belgium)
Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain, France)
Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Paris Saint-Germain, Argentina)
Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain, Brazil)

Bayern Munich head coach Julian Nagelsmann is hopeful Joshua Kimmich's declaration that he is ready to take a COVID-19 vaccine will draw a line under the matter.

Kimmich made headlines in October when he explained he was not willing to receive his first dose due to what he perceived as a lack of research into possible long-term effects.

The 26-year-old has not featured for Bayern since November 6 after twice being forced to isolate due to being a close contact of someone who tested positive for coronavirus.

He was then infected with COVID-19 himself and was last week ruled out until 2022 due to an issue with his lungs.

Kimmich confirmed in an interview with ZDF on Sunday that he is now in a position where he feels ready to get vaccinated.

Nagelsmann, who was himself struck down by the illness, is pleased with Kimmich's announcement but insisted he did not sway the midfielder's decision.

"I think it's good that he faced the media. A lot has been reported about him in the last few weeks," Nagelsmann said on Monday. 

"I gave him my opinion, but in the end his conviction was a result of talks with other people at the club. I rather try to work on the pitch."

Nagelsmann, who has been regularly questioned on the topic over the past two months, added: "I think it's funny I'm still being asked! 

"When the year 2021 comes to an end, I hope that we will be able to deal with the pandemic subject more briefly because we can master the situation."

 

Bayern will be without Kimmich for their final two Bundesliga games of the year, while Jamal Musiala is also doubtful to face Stuttgart on Tuesday and Wolfsburg next weekend.

Musiala has scored in Bayern's last two games, including the decisive strike to see off Mainz 2-1 on Saturday, but a broken hand could keep him out of action until 2022.

"That depends on the pain," Nagelsmann said ahead of the trip to Stuttgart. "He has a splint and could theoretically play, but it's a pain issue. 

"We'll see how he moves today. We'll have to wait a few days and take another X-ray to see how to proceed with the treatment, whether it will be surgical or conservative."

Nagelsmann confirmed Leon Goretzka and Corentin Tolisso are also fitness doubts for Tuesday, but Marcel Sabitzer has returned to training and may be part of the squad.

Bayern have won 66 of their 104 Bundesliga matches against Stuttgart – no other team in Bundesliga history has won so often against a single opponent.  

The Bavarian giants have won 17 of their last 18 league meetings with Stuttgart, with the only exception being a 4-1 loss in May 2018.

Pellegrino Matarazzo's side have taken seven points from their last three games, however, and Nagelsmann is not anticipating an easy game in midweek.

"In terms of the table, they are not quite as good as they were last year," he said. "But it is incredibly difficult to prepare to face them.

"Their coach, who I know well, is a mathematician and that's how he approaches games. You cannot prepare for the way they will set up."

A draw for Bayern at Mercedes-Benz-Arena will ensure they sit top of the Bundesliga at the halfway point for the 15th time in the 16 seasons since the introduction of three points for a win.

Joshua Kimmich expressed regret at not jumping at the chance to be vaccinated against COVID-19 – but took a swipe at those who criticised his hesitancy.

The Bayern Munich and Germany midfielder has confirmed he is now ready to take a vaccine after months of delaying his decision, and after experiencing unpleasant effects of having the virus himself.

The 26-year-old caused a major stir in October when he explained he was not willing to receive his first dose due to what he perceived as a lack of research into possible long-term effects.

"Generally, it was just difficult for me to deal with my fears and concerns, which is why I was undecided for so long," Kimmich said, speaking to German broadcaster ZDF.

"Maybe I had to go through what I have now gone through first. Of course, looking back, I would like to make the vaccination decision earlier, but at the time it wasn't possible for me."

Kimmich has not featured for Bayern since November 6 after twice being forced to isolate due to being a close contact of someone who tested positive for coronavirus.

He was then infected with COVID-19 and was this week ruled out until 2022 due to an issue with his lungs. He told ZDF that to return to full training now would create the risk of that problem extending to his heart and "longer consequences".

Kimmich has been dismayed by some reaction to his reluctance to be jabbed, saying: "I have to say personally that some of the limits have been exceeded.

"I also had the feeling that there was one or another who tried to make a name for themselves through this situation. It wasn't always just objective criticism.

"We always talk about respect, tolerance, openness – and these are precisely the values ​​that I particularly missed in my discussion."

 

Kimmich has played 18 times for Bayern across all competitions this campaign.

Bayern, who are playing their home games behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions imposed in Bavaria, sit six points clear at the top of the Bundesliga after beating Mainz 2-1 on Saturday.

Bayern Munich and Germany midfielder Joshua Kimmich is ready to take a COVID-19 vaccine after months of delaying his decision.

The 26-year-old made headlines in October when he explained he was not willing to receive his first dose due to what he perceived as a lack of research into possible long-term effects.

Kimmich has not featured for Bayern since November 6 after twice being forced to isolate due to being a close contact of someone who tested positive for coronavirus.

He was then infected with COVID-19 himself and was this week ruled out until 2022 due to an issue with his lungs.

In an interview with ZDF to be broadcast in full later on Sunday, Kimmich revealed he is now in a position where he feels ready to get vaccinated.

"Generally, it was just difficult for me to deal with my fears and concerns, which is why I was undecided for so long," Kimmich said.

Despite being absent for the past month, Kimmich has featured 18 times for Bayern across all competitions this campaign.

Bayern, who are playing their home games behind closed doors due to coronavirus restrictions imposed in Bavaria, beat Mainz 2-1 on Saturday in Kimmich's absence.

Julian Nagelsmann's men are now six points clear at the top of Bundesliga and face Stuttgart on Tuesday in their penultimate game of the year.

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