Germany's midfield partnership of Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich is "one of the best duos in the world", according to Hansi Flick.

The Bayern Munich pair have started together in each of their country's last three matches and are likely to anchor the midfield in the World Cup Qualifying Group J clash against North Macedonia on Monday.

Goretzka and Kimmich have also partnered each other in all seven of Bayern's Bundesliga outings this season, helping Julian Nagelsmann's side to the top of the table in the process.

Ahead of Germany's trip to North Macedonia, where victory could see Die Mannschaft secure their place in Qatar with two matches to spare, Flick lauded Kimmich and Goretzka, who also formed a key part of his dominant Bayern team.

"Everyone knows they get along well off the pitch," he told a news conference. "They complement each other and are top professionals. 

"We need them to dictate our game. They harmonise well in midfield and we're glad we have them. 

"It's one of the best midfield duos in the world."

Manuel Neuer could return in goal for Germany, having missed Friday’s win over Romania with an adductor injury. Flick also revealed that defender Antonio Rudiger is a doubt after missing training on Sunday.

Meanwhile, winger Serge Gnabry has defended team-mate Timo Werner, who received criticism after a subdued performance against Romania.

Although involved in an early penalty incident, the Chelsea striker was substituted in the 67th minute having amassed just 24 touches and 19 passes – the lowest tallies recorded by any of Germany's starting outfield players – while also seeing both of his shots go off target.

Nevertheless, Gnabry was full of praise Werner's work rate and determination, insisting the former RB Leipzig star was simply unfortunate.

"We know there are periods when a striker doesn't always score," Gnabry said. "Then, there's criticism, but we stand behind Timo. 

"He did a good job in the last game; he missed a little bit of luck, but he's giving everything, and that's the most important thing.

"Timo is not [Robert] Lewandowski and not a classical striker, but he also has his qualities; he's quick and can also score goals."

Joshua Kimmich warned "hungry" Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich still have room for improvement after they beat Greuther Furth 3-1 despite Benjamin Pavard's red card.

Robert Lewandowski's long goalscoring streak ended at 15 consecutive Bundesliga games - one short of Gerd Muller's record - but the champions moved three points clear of Wolfsburg.

That is now 40 goals in their past eight matches for ruthless Bayern, who led 2-0 courtesy of great finishes from Thomas Muller and Kimmich at half-time.

Pavard was given his marching orders for a professional foul on Jeremy Dudziak early in the second half, but a Sebastian Griesbeck own goal extended their lead.

Cedric Itten's header in the closing stages was too little, too late for bottom side Furth in the Bavarian derby at Sportpark Ronhof on Friday.

Bayern have won eight consecutive matches in a great start to Julian Nagelsmann's reign and midfielder Kimmich says there is more to come.

 

The Germany international told DAZN: "The character of the team is great. We have players who want to develop, who are hungry.

"We want to win every game. We're in good form at the moment, but we haven't been able to manage all of the games this season with confidence. There's room for improvement."

Kimmich, who delivered the free-kick that was turned into his own net by Griesbeck, added: "It wasn't exactly a brilliant performance on our part, but we had the game under control even when we played with 10.

"We made mistakes in the first half, and we kept inviting Furth via set-pieces."

Robert Lewandowski's scoring streak ended and Benjamin Pavard was sent off, but Bayern Munich still cruised to a 3-1 victory over Greuther Furth in the Bundesliga.

In a Bavarian derby battle between top and bottom on Friday, Bayern were in control at half-time following goals from Thomas Muller and Joshua Kimmich at Sportpark Ronhof.

There was hope for Furth when France full-back Pavard was shown a straight red card early in the second half for a professional foul on Jeremy Dudziak.

The champions remained a class apart from their newly-promoted opponents despite Pavard's dismissal and a Sebastian Griesbeck own goal increased their advantage, with a late Cedric Itten header no more than a consolation for the home side.

Lewandowski was unable to match Gerd Muller's record of scoring in 16 consecutive Bundesliga games, but Julian Nagelsmann's moved three points clear at the summit.

Bayern wasted no time in stamping their authority on the game, with Leon Goretzka's early long-range drive flashing just wide.

The champions were in front in the 10th minute, when Thomas Muller finished clinically with his left foot after Maximilian Bauer could only divert Alphonso Davies's cross into his path.

Furth were unable to live with Bayern and Kimmich doubled their lead just after the half-hour mark with a measured right-footed strike from 25 yards out after Leroy Sane laid the ball back to him.

Lewandowski flicked Kimmich's corner against the crossbar as Bayern dominated, but they were a man down when Pavard was given his marching orders for upending Dudziak three minutes into the second half.

Bayern continued to pose a major threat despite their numerical disadvantage, Sascha Burchert getting down to keep out Lewandowski's first-time shot.

Nagelsmann was shown a yellow card for dissent before Kimmich's free-kick was turned into his own net by Griesbeck, under pressure from Lewandowski.

Itten nodded in Timothy Tillman's inviting cross with a couple of minutes remaining, but the points were in the bag by then for Bayern.

Bayern Munich were disappointed only to beat Barcelona 3-0 at Camp Nou, again proving far too strong for their Champions League rivals.

The sides met for the first time since Bayern's sensational 8-2 success 13 months earlier, a victory in the quarter-finals that broke all manner of records.

The final scoreline was slightly more respectable for Barca this time, yet they were completely outclassed again by the Bundesliga champions on Tuesday.

Ronald Koeman's Barca did not muster a single shot on target for the first time in a Champions League match since Opta records began in 2003-04.

At the other end, Bayern were rampant, led by Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski.

Lewandowski scored twice after Muller's opener maintained his outstanding record against Barca, now standing at seven goals from six matches.

No player in Champions League history has more goals against Barca – Muller passed Ukraine great Andriy Shevchenko's five in the 8-2.

"We didn't allow much at the back, and up front we could have scored one or two more goals," Muller told Amazon.

"Playing here is just fun, the guys enjoyed it. If you win 3-0 here, that's a very important signal. We are very happy."

Muller was asked to explain why he scores so regularly against Barca, having netted once every 73 minutes in their Champions League meetings, converting seven of 16 shots.

"That's because Barcelona are a playful team, and as an attacking player, you get a little more space than against defensive blocks," he said. "But you can say that I like to score against Barca."

Muller was not alone in enjoying himself on Tuesday, however, as one of nine Bayern players to share 17 shots between them.

Bayern star Joshua Kimmich, who attempted one and created three, said: "We didn't get into the game that easily. The longer the game went on, the more we got control.

"We then happily make it 1-0 because it was a bit lucky. Nevertheless, we were already the better team in the first half. We could have won by even more.

"We let the ball run properly, although we still made a few simple mistakes. The bottom line is that we can be satisfied."

Joshua Kimmich is confident the best is yet to come for him at Bayern Munich, after the versatile Germany international signed a contract extension.

Bayern announced on Monday that Kimmich, who joined the Bundesliga champions from RB Leipzig in 2015, had agreed terms to keep him at the club until the end of the 2024-25 season.

Since breaking into Bayern's first team, Kimmich has established himself as one of Europe's top players, capable of playing in midfield or at full-back.

"It means a lot to me, both in a footballing and personal sense," Kimmich told a news conference.

"It's a decision that covers the next few years, and hopefully the best years are still to come.

"The feeling I get from the club and from our coach [Julian Nagelsmann], who has also signed a five-year deal, is one of security. Signing a coach on a five-year contract was also a sign. We are all looking forward to working together."

Using Opta data, Stats Perform has assessed just what Kimmich brings to Bayern, who are also looking to secure the future of another key player.

How important is Kimmich?

The heir to Philip Lahm's throne, Kimmich is perfectly adept playing either as a right-back or in central midfield.

With exceptional vision and a passing range to match, he ensured Bayern did not feel the absence of Thiago Alcantara following the Spaniard’s move to Liverpool, while his ability from distance has also helped him score 30 goals.

Since Kimmich's arrival from RB Leipzig in 2015, he has played in 175 Bundesliga matches – only David Alaba (176), Thomas Muller (188) and Robert Lewandowski (190) have played in more.

Kimmich's 10,672 successful passes are more than any team-mate at the club in the same time period, while he also ranks first out of outfield players for recoveries, having completed 970.

In all competitions, only Lewandowski (282) and Muller (279) have made more appearances than Kimmich (264), who has helped Bayern to 204 victories.

He trails only Muller (581) in terms of chances created. Kimmich has set up 499 goalscoring opportunities for team-mates in total, with 206 of these coming from set-piece situations.

Muller is again the only player to register more assists than Kimmich – 97 compared to 68.

Per 90 minutes, Kimmich plays 8.44 passes or crosses into the area, more than any player still with Bayern. Indeed, his total in that metric (1,936) is way clear of second-ranked Muller (1,058). In fact, since his Bundesliga debut for Bayern, Kimmich has played 2588 successful passes ending in the final third, more than any other player over that period

Defensively, Kimmich has made an impressive 282 interceptions, ranking him fourth for Bayern players since he made his debut in August 2015, while he has successfully completed 63.91 per cent of 363 attempted tackles.

 

One down, one to go?

With Kimmich's future secured, Bayern's attention might well now be on tying Leon Goretzka down to a similar long-term contract.

The former Schalke midfielder became a key cog under Hansi Flick and is arguably among the best box-to-box midfielders in world football.

However, his deal runs out at the end of the season, and Europe's biggest clubs would no doubt be circling for a player of such quality on a free transfer.

In 115 games for Bayern, Goretzka has racked up 25 goals and provided a further 20 assists, while his knack of making timely runs into the box has seen him be presented with 31 big chances – as defined by Opta as a situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score.

Only four players have had more big chances than Goretzka, though his conversion rate of 35.48 per cent demonstrates he still has work to do in that area.

Goretzka's work off the ball must also not be undervalued.

Of Bayern's current midfield options, only Kimmich has managed more recoveries than the 655 Goretzka has made since making his debut. Goretzka has also won 100 of 166 attempted tackles, registering an impressive success rate of 60.24 per cent.

Reports last week suggested a new deal for Goretzka had been agreed, so Bayern's number eight may well have his reward in the coming days.

Bayern Munich have tied down Joshua Kimmich until 2025.

Capable of playing in midfield or at full-back, Kimmich joined from RB Leipzig in 2015 and has gone on to win 17 trophies with Bayern, who are chasing a 10th successive Bundesliga title this season.

He had two years left to run on his previous deal, though talks had been ongoing over a long-term extension.

Last week, club president Herbert Hainer insisted Bayern would not bow to excessive demands, even to keep such talents as Kimmich and his midfield partner Leon Goretzka, whose deal runs out at the end of 2021-22.

"They will certainly not be kept at any cost," Hainer told Kicker. "The players know what they have at Bayern, they are paid very well here too, everyone gets their salary.

"And they can win titles with us now, and also in the future."

It appears any impasse in negotiations with Kimmich was swiftly resolved, however, with the 26-year-old agreeing terms on a two-year extension.

"The most important reason for my contract extension is that I can pursue my passion with joy every day here at FC Bayern," Kimmich said.

"I have a team where I can achieve everything, and a lot of team-mates have become real friends. That’s why I started playing football in the first place, because it should be fun.

"I still don't think I'm at the end of my development and I'm convinced there's a lot possible at FC Bayern in the next years.

"On top of that, my family feels at home here. Munich has become a second home. The combination we have here isn’t found all over the world."

Bayern sporting director and board member Hasan Salihamidzic, meanwhile, believes securing Kimmich on fresh terms is a clear message of intent.

"With this contract extension, Bayern is sending a clear signal, both internally and externally," he said.

"We want to sign our best players over the long term. Joshua will develop his great quality as a leading player at Bayern in the next few years and make history."

Bayern Munich president Herbert Hainer has explained that the club cannot afford to keep Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich "at any cost".

Goretzka has just 11 months left on his contract with the Bundesliga champions, while Kimmich has two years left on his deal at the Allianz Arena.

Bayern are intent on renewing the duo's contracts with long-term offers, but Hainer was adamant his club will not succumb to excessive wage demands as they attempt to maintain financial stability post-COVID-19 pandemic.

"They will certainly not be kept at any cost," Hainer told Kicker. "The players know what they have at Bayern, they are paid very well here too, everyone gets their salary.

"And they can win titles with us now, and also in the future."

Kimmich joined Bayern in 2015 and has won 16 trophies with the Bavarian giants – 10 of those with midfield partner Goretzka.

Since Kimmich's arrival, only David Alaba (176), Thomas Muller (187) and Robert Lewandowski (189) have played more Bundesliga games than the midfielder (174).

The 26-year-old's 10,620 successful passes are more than any team-mate at the club in the same time period, while he also ranks first for recoveries, having completed 961.

Goretzka, who signed three years after Kimmich, netted five times and provided the same number of Bundesliga assists last term, leading to speculation of a move to Manchester United.

 

Hainer's concerns stretch further than new deals for the midfield pairing.

He rubbished UEFA's reported plans to get rid of Financial Fair Play and introduce a "luxury tax", punishing clubs that exceed an agreed wage cap in Europe's major leagues.

"I'm not at all convinced by this luxury tax," Hainer added. "In the event of violations, a club pays 100 million euros in luxury tax, which is shared among the other clubs.

"This money does not help them decisively and does not really hurt the financial giants. We need valid regulations with clear consequences for fair competition.

"Strong attempts at sanctions have too often been revised or toned down in the past. It doesn't work that way."

Despite trying to balance financial constraints and securing new contracts for key first-team stars, Hainer hinted Bayern could still be active in the transfer window – having only spent money on Dayot Upamecano so far.

"We are monitoring the transfer market, which is open until the end of August, to see whether there are still one or two possibilities," Bayern's president continued.

"But we almost exclusively have national team players of the highest quality, so there is no urgent need to sign someone quickly."

What does the future hold for Kylian Mbappe?

The Paris Saint-Germain star is wanted in France and Spain.

France striker Mbappe is reportedly facing a decision over his future.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE HAS DECISION TO MAKE

Kylian Mbappe has a decision to make over his future as he enters the final year of his Paris Saint-Germain contract, according to the front pages of Wednesday's Marca and Diario AS.

Mbappe will become a free agent at the end of the 2021-22 season and the PSG star continues to be heavily linked with LaLiga giants Real Madrid.

L'Equipe, however, claims PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has taken over from sporting director Leonardo in contract negotiations and Mbappe is reportedly pleased with the club's early transfer business as Gianluigi Donnarumma prepares to join Georginio Wijnaldum in Paris.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano reports Cristiano Ronaldo's future at Juventus is uncertain. The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has been linked with PSG, Madrid and Manchester United. Contracted to Juve until 2022, Romano says Ronaldo is not negotiating a new deal as the Serie A giants wait for the superstar to decide whether he stays or leaves.

- Aston Villa are hopeful of keeping star captain Jack Grealish amid interest from Premier League champions Manchester City, per The Telegraph.

- Bild reports RB Leipzig are set to sign Eintracht Frankfurt forward Andre Silva. The Portugal international starred in 2020-21 and has been linked with Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Madrid, United and City.

- United are eyeing Bayern midfielder Leon Goretzka as a possible replacement for Paul Pogba, according to Sport Bild. Bayern and Goretzka have been discussing a new deal. It comes as Bayern also try to re-sign Kingsley Coman and Joshua Kimmich. Coman has been linked with United and Liverpool.

Atalanta are in advanced talks to sign Udinese goalkeeper Juan Musso, claims Sky Sport Italia. Musso has previously been linked with Serie A champions Inter, who are reportedly eyeing Ajax's Andre Onana.

- Le10 Sport claims negotiations between PSG and former Madrid captain Sergio Ramos have hit a snag due to the club's unwillingness to offer a two-year deal. Ramos has also been linked with United, City, Chelsea and Juventus on a free transfer.

- A resolution for Lionel Messi's contract renewal at Barcelona does not seem to be close as he is set to officially become a free agent at midnight on Wednesday, claims Marca. Barca are pushing to complete the new deal.

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.

Real Madrid would be a worthy next step for David Alaba to take when he leaves Bayern Munich, according to team-mate Joshua Kimmich.

Alaba announced in February that he will leave the Bavarian giants at the end of the season, bringing an end to a 13-year association with the club.

Reports in Germany suggest the 28-year-old has already reached an agreement to join Madrid on a deal that runs through until the end of 2025-26.

While official confirmation of a move has yet to be made, Kimmich has endorsed the proposed transfer.

"He has won everything here, even multiple times," Kimmich told Sky Sport. "Twice the triple, once even six titles in one year. Real is in any case a worthy club. 

"There aren't many steps you can take after playing for Bayern but Real Madrid isn't that bad as the next step."

Alaba has made 427 appearances for Bayern since making his senior debut in February 2010, scoring 33 goals and setting up another 45 in all competitions.

The Austria international is not the only high-profile figure set to leave the Allianz Arena at the end of the season, with fellow defender Jerome Boateng also on his way out.

Head coach Hansi Flick last week announced his desire to leave at the end of 2020-21, meanwhile, having been strongly linked with the soon-to-be-vacant Germany job.

Kimmich, capped 53 times by Die Mannschaft, would welcome to appointment of Flick as his national team boss.

"If things go as they seem, I hope he takes charge of the national team afterwards," he said.

Bayern are 10 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga with four games to go after beating Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 on Tuesday.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Joshua Kimmich gave Bayern Munich a 2-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen and put them on the brink of a ninth consecutive Bundesliga title.

RB Leipzig's shock 2-1 defeat at relegation-threatened Cologne earlier on Tuesday gave Hansi Flick's side the opportunity to go 10 points clear with four matches remaining.

They did so with the minimum of fuss after Choupo-Moting – again deputising for the injury Robert Lewandowski – opened the scoring in the seventh minute.

A superb second from Kimmich made a response from Leverkusen deeply unlikely, as their struggles during the second half of this season were again laid bare at the Allianz Arena. Hannes Wolf's side are seven points behind four-placed Wolfsburg having played a game more.

Former Schalke and Stoke City forward Choupo-Moting has been much maligned during his stints at Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern, but the striker now has four goals in his past five appearances and smashed home from close range via a deflection off Sven Bender after Thomas Muller's effort was saved.

Once again, Kimmich oozed class in midfield and Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky had no chance when the Germany international let fly form the edge of the box in the 13th minute.

Patrik Schick darted in behind Bayern's high line but could only entertain Manuel Neuer with a routine save, while Hradecky fumbled at the other end when Kimmich tried his luck again.

Leverkusen's number one sharply denied David Alaba before the break but Choupo-Moting rolled a clever finish past him in the 65th minute, only to be denied by a marginal offside call.

Leroy Sane, introduced from the bench with a point to prove, lashed over with 20 minutes remaining.

Another flying winger, Leon Bailey, almost helped to bring Leverkusen back into the contest when his cross was hit into the turf and against the crossbar by substitute Karim Bellarabi.

That prompted something approaching a rally from the visitors, although not one to sufficiently discomfort Bayern as they cantered towards the finish line and another domestic title.

Robert Lewandowski could have missed his chance to break Gerd Muller's record for goals in a single Bundesliga season, former Bayern Munich forward Roy Makaay says.

Poland striker Lewandowski suffered knee ligament damage in the 3-0 World Cup qualifying win over Andorra and is facing a month out of action.

The 32-year-old will miss both legs of the Champions League quarter-final with Paris Saint-Germain and most likely league matches against RB Leipzig, Union Berlin, Wolfsburg, Bayer Leverkusen and Mainz.

With 35 goals scored in the first 25 matchdays of the Bundesliga season, Lewandowski had looked almost certain to match Muller's famous landmark of 40, set back in 1971-72.

However, given the league leaders have only three matches remaining after they face Mainz on April 24, Makaay thinks the record could have slipped beyond Lewandowski's reach.

The former Netherlands international is also concerned about the options available to coach Hansi Flick when it comes to finding a replacement striker.

"For me, Lewandowski has been the best centre-forward in the world for years. What he does inside and outside the penalty area as a number nine is unbelievable," he told Spox.

"It certainly won't be easy [now] for Lewandowski to break the record. This absence is not good news for Bayern. As for his replacement, you'd have to make that [decision] dependent on the opposition. [Serge] Gnabry is more agile than [Eric Maxim] Choupo-Moting."

However, Makaay remains convinced Lewandowski has plenty yet to offer Bayern in seasons to come, suggesting there would be no pressing need to try to sign Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

"Anyone who scores so consistently at that age can only have a great future ahead of them," Makaay said of the Norway star. "But Lewandowski still has a few very good years ahead of him, I'm sure of that."

Makaay, twice a domestic double winner with Bayern, would have relished the chance to play alongside Lewandowski but also identified two other key players he feels would have made his life as a forward easier.

"Lewandowski and I would certainly have made a good partnership, but I'd also have liked to play with a guy like Thomas Muller," he said.

"The person I really like as a personality is Joshua Kimmich. You want a player like that behind you as a striker. In my time, we had Michael Ballack and later Schweini [Bastian Schweinsteiger] – they weren't too bad, either."

Germany head coach Joachim Low bemoaned his side's wastefulness in front of goal during their slender 1-0 World Cup qualifying win against Romania on Sunday.

Serge Gnabry scored the only goal of the game in the 16th minute, with the Bayern Munich forward, Leroy Sane and Timo Werner going on to squander opportunities to extend Die Mannschaft's advantage.

That almost came back to haunt Germany in the closing stages as the hosts went close through George Puscas and Nicolae Stanciu. 

Germany – the 2014 world champions – ultimately held on, though, to follow up Thursday's opening Group J win over Iceland with another three points. 

Low was largely pleased with Germany's display, but acknowledged they should have added to Gnabry's early goal.

"Romania were definitely the better team than Iceland in terms of football," he said. "We worked very well against the ball today and won some battles. 

"We could have made the game easier for ourselves if we had made it 2-0. If there's something to complain about, it's the big opportunities.

"The goalkeeper saved very well several times, but we could have been ice cold and more concentrated in front of goal.

"When the opponent has nothing more to lose, they throw everything forward. We had several chances in which we could have finished more cleanly, but we have three points."

Germany made just one substitution before stoppage time – Werner replacing Kai Havertz in the 77th minute – and Low said he stuck with his starting XI for so long as the game was under control. 

"It's important to get used to it," he added. "But I didn't switch because the game was under control for a long time. 

"We were doing well, the midfield did a good job. The opponent had no chances for a long time, so it wasn't absolutely necessary for a long time."

Joshua Kimmich, who struck the crossbar in the first half with a deflected half-volley, agreed with Low's assessment that Germany made life unnecessarily difficult for themselves. 

The Bayern Munich midfielder said: "We could have made it easier for ourselves. We were lucky that Romania didn't equalise in the 90th minute; that would've been karma for us not scoring again.

"We have to score earlier then we will have a quieter evening. I think we largely controlled the game, but still we didn't manage to decide it earlier."

Germany will be looking to make it three wins from three Group J games when they host North Macedonia on Wednesday. 

Germany's youthful side were in slick form against Iceland but outgoing head coach Joachim Low expects more from their next two World Cup qualifiers.

Iceland proved no match for Low's side on Thursday, with early goals from Leon Goretzka and Kai Havertz paving the way for a comfortable triumph before Ilkay Gundogan rounded out a 3-0 success.

Led by the imperious Joshua Kimmich, Germany dominated throughout.

They had 81.5 per cent possession, attempted 1,053 passes – at an accuracy of 92.3 per cent – and had 15 shots compared to Iceland's eight, with Manuel Neuer only called into action twice.

From his position at the base of midfield, versatile Bayern Munich star Kimmich controlled proceedings, tallying up 176 touches, 150 successful passes and a team-high three crosses, one of which should have resulted in a goal for Antonio Rudiger.

Only Gundogan (four) played more key passes than Kimmich, who was integral to Germany's first two goals, playing sublime balls into Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane as the hosts took a 2-0 lead by the seventh minute – the first time they have led by two goals that early in a competitive fixture since May 1969.

It marked a 17th successive win for Germany in World Cup qualifiers, a new team record.

But Low was not entirely pleased with Germany's display, telling RTL: "In the second half, we played too many passes backwards and missed some moments to trigger momentum and pick up speed.

"I see opportunities for improvement in our game. What made us strong in the first half – a lot of movement without the ball, a lot of deep runs – that wasn't quite the case in the second half.

"We have to see that we keep up the pace and can last for over 90 minutes. That will be important at the Euros."

Despite Low's concerns, Germany did much of their passing in Iceland's half.

Indeed, only Havertz (31), Gnabry and Lukas Klostermann (both 28) among the hosts' outfield starters attempted fewer passes in Iceland's half than Aron Gunnarsson – who led the distribution metrics for the visitors – managed in all areas of the field (33, only 22 of which were successful).

Low, who is departing after the Euros, has received criticism in some quarters following a difficult 2020, and for his decision to ostracise 2014 World Cup winners Thomas Muller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng.

The 61-year-old has hinted the door could be open for the trio to return at the rearranged tournament, though for now he is sticking with youth, handing Jamal Musiala – who would also have been eligible for England – his debut late on.

Aged 18 years and 27 days, the Bayern attacker is the youngest Germany player since Uwe Seeler in October 1954.

"For the most part, I'm satisfied," Low said.

"We started very energetically and dynamically, we wanted to set an example. The team has the right attitude right from the start."

Germany head coach Joachim Low has revealed he is planning to learn Spanish in the future but insisted he does not have a club job in LaLiga lined up.

Low will step down as Germany boss after this year's European Championships after the German Football Association (DFB) agreed to his request to leave the position early.

His contract originally ran to the 2022 World Cup but Low will instead depart after the rescheduled Euro 2020 tournament which starts in June this year.

The 61-year-old has been at the helm since 2006 when he replaced Jurgen Klinsmann and guided his country to World Cup success in 2014.

Speaking at a media conference on Wednesday ahead of World Cup qualifiers with Iceland, Romania and North Macedonia, Low quashed talk of a job in Spanish football.

"I was thinking about it a little while ago. But this hasn't anything to do with a club," Low said.

"You could use Spanish in the whole world. In South America, Europe and the USA you could always use it. After English, it is a very important language. 

"I like the language and wanted to learn it at some point. Maybe I will have the chance to deepen that in the future. But that hasn't anything to do with a Spanish club, it is a useful language to know, though."

Low has taken charge of 189 games for Germany and overseen 120 wins, 38 draws and 31 defeats with a win percentage of 63.49.

The build-up to the Thursday's clash with Iceland in Duisburg has been dominated by talk of who will succeed Low, but midfielder Emre Can insisted the players have not been distracted.

"I think for us players it's almost irrelevant. It's more a topic for the media," Can said.

"Football players are always under pressure when we play for the national team and participate at tournaments. It doesn't matter if there is debate around the coach or not. 

"The coach has made his decision and for sure he is highly motivated for the European Championships, obviously we want to play a successful European Championships for his farewell."

Hansi Flick, who won a remarkable sextuple in his first year as Bayern Munich's head coach, has been mooted as the DFB's preferred successor to Low.

The 56-year-old was Low's assistant coach for almost eight years, from August 2006 to July 2014, leaving his role after Germany's World Cup triumph.

Bayern have been the form side in Europe in Flick's time in charge, and despite a shock exit in the DFB-Pokal earlier this season, are still well in the hunt for a Bundesliga and Champions League double.

However, Bayern and Germany midfielder Joshua Kimmich does not expect his club boss to instead become his national team manager.

"Hansi Flick has a contract and we are incredibly successful here," Kimmich told Bild. "That's why I do not assume that he will."

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