A fighting performance from Stuttgart earned them a 2-2 draw against Bayern Munich, giving Pellegrino Matarazzo's team a chance of avoiding a relegation play-off with one round of matches remaining in the Bundesliga.

Goals from Tiago Tomas and Sasa Kalajdzic either side of strikes from Serge Gnabry and Thomas Muller secured a point at the Allianz Arena, while both teams missed other gilt-edged chances to seal a win in an exciting contest on Sunday.

Stuttgart still sit in 16th place, three points behind Hertha Berlin in 15th, but have a significantly superior goal difference, and so will be safe if they can beat Cologne at home next week and Hertha lose at Borussia Dortmund.

Already crowned champions Bayern – who had Kingsley Coman sent off late on – fielded a strong team and had plenty of opportunities, but some chaotic defending provided Stuttgart with enough chances to take a point.

 

Stuttgart took a surprise lead in the eighth minute when Kalajdzic flicked a header into the path of Omar Marmoush, whose low cross from the right was powerfully side-footed into the roof of the net from the edge of the box by Tomas.

Bayern were level in the 35th minute after the ball was worked out to Gnabry, who cut inside Borna Sosa before firing a shot across goal that appeared to be going in anyway before it was inadvertently sent over the line by Konstantinos Mavropanos.

Julian Nagelsmann's men were then ahead just before the break as Muller took a pass from Dayot Upamecano and turned beautifully before prodding the ball into the net low to the goalkeeper's left.

The relegation strugglers were level seven minutes into the second half after Kalajdzic rose above Tanguy Nianzou to thunder in a header off a dinked cross by Sosa, and Austria international should have put Stuttgart in front moments later when played in on goal, but he slid a tame effort into the hands of Neuer.

Substitute Philipp Forster also had an opportunity to be a hero just after coming on but he dragged his left-footed effort wide after getting on the end of a Kalajdzic flick, while Robert Lewandowski had his first real chance of the game with 14 minutes remaining, but saw his shot deflected onto the bar.

The hosts also lost Coman to a red card in stoppage time after the winger reacted to a Mavropanos challenge as the game ended all square.

Bayern Munich secured the Bundesliga title for a 10th consecutive season as they saw off rivals Borussia Dortmund 3-1 in Der Klassiker.

Dortmund needed a win on Saturday to halt Bayern's procession to a historic crown, but despite a steely second-half showing the visitors never looked likely to prolong the title race.

Indeed, they were run ragged in the first half as Bayern cruised into a 2-0 lead courtesy of Serge Gnabry and Robert Lewandowski.

Emre Can's 52nd-minute penalty made matters more interesting, though an eighth straight Klassiker victory was capped off by Jamal Musiala's goal late on.

Bayern's fans were in party mode after 15 minutes, with Gnabry slamming a wonderful strike beyond Marwin Hitz from the edge of the box after Dortmund failed to clear a corner.

With Erling Haaland skewing wide at the other end, Gnabry swept in a second just before the half-hour mark, yet it was disallowed by VAR for Kingsley Coman having strayed offside.

Nevertheless, it was 2-0 in the 34th minute – Lewandowski helping himself to a customary goal against his former club when Bayern pounced on Dan-Axel Zagadou's error.

Leon Goretzka and Lewandowski passed up chances to stretch Bayern's lead and the hosts were made to pay early in the second half when Can coolly converted from the spot after Joshua Kimmich's foul on Marco Reus.

Bayern were suddenly living dangerously, and first Manuel Neuer and then Lucas Hernandez had to make last-ditch interventions to deny Reus.

Lewandowski dragged wide and was then denied by Hitz as Bayern searched for a third, yet it came via substitute Musiala, who tucked in from close range in the 83rd minute to round off a decade of dominance.


What does it mean? History made by Bavarian giants

Bayern are the first team across Europe's top five leagues to win their respective top flight on 10 successive occasions – they had previously shared the record of nine with Juventus, who won Serie A each year from 2012 to 2020.

Fittingly, Bayern sealed the title against their great rivals, though it has been a rather one-sided rivalry in recent seasons. In fact, only against Hamburg (between 1982 and 1985) have Dortmund suffered as many consecutive defeats against an opponent as they have Bayern (eight).

Lewy hits another against his old side

It was only fair that Bayern's talismanic striker got in on the act as they clinched the title. Lewandowski has scored more goals against Dortmund, who he left in 2014, in all competitions than against any other club in his career (27).

Haaland frustrated

It may well have been Haaland's final Klassiker appearance, but it was not one to remember.

After that shot in the first half, the 21-year-old – who might well be bound for Manchester City – had to wait until the 80th minute for his next attempt, which was blocked. Another half-chance fell his way a moment later, but the Norway international blazed over from the centre of the area. He was taken off before the game was up, having failed to get any of his three efforts on target.

What's next?

Bayern travel to Mainz in their next outing, while Dortmund host Bochum.

In this footballing climate, what are Bayern Munich and where do they sit in its pecking order?

From Barcelona, to Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus in recent years, the financial and footballing disparity between Europe's elite and the rest has warped perception. Lifting the league trophy at the end of the season no longer provides safety for a head coach.

Even then, Bayern are an extreme example. In the six years since Pep Guardiola left for Manchester City, they have gone through six head coaches, despite winning the Bundesliga in every season over that same period.

Bayern have been global standard-bearers for nearly four decades. Where other clubs and leagues have had lull periods away from the very highest levels of European football, they have consistently been in contention for silverware, even in relatively weak periods.

Just as importantly, though, the superiority clubs like Bayern now enjoy almost automatically dictates they will dominate possession in many games, irrespective of the ideology of the coach in charge and whether their teams can function with the ball as a consequence.

Niko Kovac's first season in 2018-19 was a good example of this. Bayern came nowhere near functioning in possession relative to the array of talent they had and still – along with some aid from Borussia Dortmund's regression to the mean after initial xG over-performance under Lucien Favre – managed an 11-point turnaround from third place in February to win the Bundesliga.

Meanwhile, they were comprehensively beaten by Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League with the majority of possession. Things declined even further under Kovac in his second season, before Hansi Flick took over the head coaching role, conquered Europe and subsequently replaced Joachim Low as the German national team coach at the end of the 2020-21 season.

This is the wider context that must be considered for Julian Nagelsmann's first season and what follows, because both club and international football ultimately acts within a continuum. Ahead of this weekend's Klassiker, much like that first season under Kovac, there's a dissonance that will accompany Bayern's title win.

Ultimately, a 10th consecutive Bundesliga title will not wash away the taste of Bayern's meek elimination at the hands of Villarreal in the Champions League quarter-finals. Those two legs were a microcosm of numerous aspects concerning this Bayern season – their true capacity in possession relative to the level of opposition, Nagelsmann's continual switching between 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-3 formations, and finally from a standpoint of net gain, whether he's really getting the most out of the extraordinary creative forces that are Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski.

It is hard to overstate how Muller and Lewandowski provided more than goals and assists for Bayern under Flick. The utilisation of that duo was integral to the team's very functioning in possession, especially with Thiago Alcantara missing significant portions of that post-lockdown run late in the 2019-20 season. Kingsley Coman's decisive goal in the 2020 Champions League final against PSG was a perfect picture of the team when all three of Lewandowski, Muller and Thiago played – having initially tried to cover Muller, Leandro Paredes had to scramble, but it was too late, as Thiago fired his pass into Joshua Kimmich and Bayern got up the pitch.

Their combined touches in open play per 90 minutes under respective coaches makes for a good starting point. Under Kovac, Lewandowski and Muller held a combined 98.19 touches and 3.35 chances created from open play per 90 in all competitions. Flick's arrival leads to a dramatic spike for the two in both categories, with 107.6 touches in open play and 4.53 chances created in open play per 90.

 

 

Father Time will dictate an inevitable decline for the two as they approach 35, but more pertinently, Nagelsmann's approach has led to a return to their numbers under Kovac, with 98.59 touches per match and 3.85 chances created from open play between the two in all competitions this season. Then there's the discrepancy in eventual shot location.

The difference lies in involvement. Under Flick, Muller and Lewandowski effectively played as two strikers in a 4-4-2, while the wingers kept the defensive line pinned back, allowing the two with sufficient space to retreat and operate between the lines. Especially with midfielders like Kimmich and Leon Goretzka who do not like receiving the ball in tight areas, it was a critical component of Bayern's play and enabled them to open up the pitch.

Kimmich's increase in chance creation – his 2.83 per 90 this season is his highest out of the last four seasons in all competitions – is arguably born of the fact he is now Bayern's set-piece taker. His chance creation in open play has actually gone down from last season's 1.68 to 1.44, despite an increase in touches from 100.8 to 105.85.

 

 

Lewandowski and Muller's comparatively higher positioning and primary objective of threat behind the defensive line under Nagelsmann frankly makes the switching between 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-3 irrelevant, because the 34-year-old has taken away the very thing that made Bayern function to begin with – the pair's ability to incorporate as well as get on the end of moves. Jamal Musiala's deployment in a 3-4-3 in the second leg against Villarreal only managed to clog the middle of the pitch up even further.

The player who has suffered the most with this change, however, is Serge Gnabry. His combined xG+xA figure of 0.92 in 2019-20 has dramatically decreased to 0.69 this year, while the middle of the pitch has been completely closed off to him, something evident in his dribble progression.

 

 

It all relates to the eventuality of Bayern's shot location and quality. Shot volume in Nagelsmann's first season has gone up to 20.13 in comparison to the 18.08 of that treble season under Flick, but they are shooting from further away, and with no increase in xG per shot. Against better defences, teams that hold high volumes of possession but ultimately struggle to play through the middle of the pitch are eventually found out. That has been the case this year, in Europe and particular in domestic losses to Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Monchengladbach.

This all exists amid the backdrop of Bayern Munich's waning financial power and status as a destination in relation to the rest of Europe's elite. Bayern centre-back Niklas Sule is set to leave for arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund. Emerging stars from within the Bundesliga who traditionally would have been guaranteed to end up at Sabener Strasse such as Dortmund's Erling Haaland, or RB Leipzig's Cristopher Nkunku and Josko Gvardiol, appear destined for elsewhere.

In the meantime, Bayern are reportedly haggling with Ajax over the release of Ryan Gravenberch who, despite the hype, arguably will not transform their midfield – much like Corentin Tolisso and Marc Roca.

There is also the small matter of Lewandowski's contract not being renewed and running the risk of expiring at the end of next season.

Sustained success can run the risk of providing diminishing returns, much like Juventus discovered in Italy. The question for Bayern is how to avoid it both as a club and under Nagelsmann, but can they?

One of world football's hottest commodities, Erling Haaland, is reportedly set to join Manchester City in the next transfer window after agreeing to personal terms.

It has long been understood that Haaland would likely not return to Borussia Dortmund for another season, with the Bundesliga club entertaining offers from the world's biggest clubs.

Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain were considered Manchester City's biggest competition for the Norway forward's signature, but a massive contract, recent success and close personal ties to his father seem to have been the deciding factors.

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND CHOOSES MANCHESTER CITY

The Daily Mail is reporting Haaland has agreed to a deal with Manchester City that will make him the highest-paid player in the Premier League at £500,000 per week.

With terms agreed, City are expected to trigger Haaland's £62.2million (€75m) release clause and sign him to a five-year deal, which could be announced in the next week.

His father, Alf-Inge Haaland, played at Manchester City from 2000-2003 and is said to have been "heavily involved in the negotiations".

 

ROUND-UP

– According to Goal, Real Madrid did not want to unsettle their dressing room by signing Haaland and making him the highest-paid player.

– Fichajes is reporting Real Madrid's attention will turn to Manchester United's Edinson Cavani now Haaland is out of the picture, while The Mirror claims Madrid have strong interest in Chelsea right-back Reece James.

Liverpool target Serge Gnabry is discussing a contract extension with Bayern Munich, according to Goal.

West Ham are hoping to add Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope, with the England international likely to leave the club if they are relegated, per the Daily Mail.

Arsenal are in the box seat to land Marco Asensio from Real Madrid after Milan rejected his wage demands, reports CalcioMercato.

Julian Nagelsmann is relishing a "match point" game with Borussia Dortmund after Bayern Munich moved on the brink of another Bundesliga title with a 3-0 win at Arminia Bielefeld.

Bayern bounced back from the disappointment of their Champions League exit at the hands of Villarreal in routine fashion, goals from Robert Lewandowski, Serge Gnabry and Jamal Musiala securing all three points against their relegation-threatened opponents.

It means Bayern have a nine-point lead over Dortmund with four games remaining and can clinch the title with victory over their arch-rivals at the Allianz Arena next Saturday.

"It was a deserved win and it's important for us to have this match point game at home against Dortmund," Nagelsmann said in quotes reported by Bayern's official website. 

"It's a coincidence that doesn't happen very often. We're looking forward to that."

Bayern's Joshua Kimmich added: "The first half was pretty good, but in the second half we slowed down a bit. 

"We kept allowing counter-attacks with long balls. It was a deserved win. 

"We definitely want to win the title next week against Dortmund at home. This is a special game for us and for the whole Bundesliga. Because to get the championship trophy, that's clearly the ultimate goal."

Gnabry, who also created four chances, conceded there was an element of frustration from the aggregate defeat to Villarreal that was taken out on struggling Arminia.

"It was a bit of a reduction in frustration today after being eliminated from the Champions League, in which we had planned to progress," he said.

"But in the end, football just keeps going. Today was a new game. We wanted to win and we did. We played well with the ball, created a lot of space, let our opponents run and lost the ball a few times. 

"We had a lot of chances and maybe we could have scored earlier. But we can be satisfied." 

Antonio Rudiger's future at Chelsea has been the topic of plenty of speculation.

The 29-year-old centre-back has been with the Blues since 2017 when he joined on a five-year deal.

Rudiger is yet to extend his contract with Chelsea, with plenty of interest in the Germany international.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE AND MAN UTD IN FOR RUDIGER

Newcastle United are ready to compete in the race to sign Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger, claims the Telegraph.

The Germany international has drawn interest from Real Madrid while the Express reports that Manchester United are also considering a move for the defender.

Rudiger's contract with Chelsea expires at the end of this season, although he has not ruled out staying at Stamford Bridge.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Express claims Harry Kane has informed his Tottenham team-mates that he will remain with the club should they clinch a top-four spot and Champions League football.

Arsenal may move to re-sign Serge Gnabry from Bayern Munich, who previously spent four years with the Gunners, according to Football.London. Gnabry is valued at €75million (£63m).

Arsenal, along with Leicester City, have sent scouts to track Sassuolo forward Domenico Berardi, according to Nicolo Schira. The Italians are asking for €30m for their club captain, with interest from Napoli and Milan also.

- FootMercato claims Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea are considering moves for Manchester City's Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez.

Julian Nagelsmann called for improvements from Bayern Munich and insisted his side must not become disenchanted after two disappointing performances.

The reigning Bundesliga champions are six points clear of second-placed Borussia Dortmund at the summit, despite falling to a 4-2 loss at Bochum last Saturday.

Nagelsmann's side followed up that disappointing defeat with another unspectacular performance in Salzburg on Wednesday, where they required a late Kingsley Coman strike to secure a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash.

The former RB Leipzig head coach expressed his frustrations with the recent outings but expects his team to bounce back when they travel to Furth on Sunday.

"We want to remain critical and have a certain claim in terms of success," Nagelsmann told reporters at Friday's pre-match news conference.

"We have to back that up, but we mustn't tear ourselves apart either. The tide can turn quickly, there is a lot of evaluation.

"The mood is appropriate for the fact that we have not won twice. Tomorrow's winner learns from today's defeat.

"We had detailed discussions after the game against Bochum. We didn't score an early goal in the second half, it was similar in Salzburg. But the will was obvious there. I was totally satisfied, I'm convinced that as a Bayern player you have the right to be successful.

"And that should also arouse greed. We saw that we lost clearly against a team that isn't aspiring to the Champions League. That should be warning enough. No one walks around with the handbrake on purpose."

 

The Bochum loss was Bayern's first to a newly promoted side in 16 games, but the Bavarians may take confidence from the fact they have not lost two consecutive Bundesliga games against promoted teams since 1997. Furth joined Bochum in climbing out of the second tier last season.

However, Bayern have experienced their worst start to the second half of a top-flight season in 10 years, with only nine points accrued from their first five games of 2022, winning three games and losing twice.

The last time they lost two or more matches in the first five matchdays of the second half of the season was in 2008-09 under Jurgen Klinsmann (three), and Nagelsmann's task could be made more difficult as he revealed doubts over the fitness of Coman and Serge Gnabry.

Nevertheless, Nagelsmann remained balanced in his views as he prepares Bayern for just their sixth meeting in professional football with Furth.

"Football is a head game," he added. "We didn't intentionally play a bad first half in Bochum. You can't shake off the cup game that easily either.

"There's often a black-and-white mindset. We have three points more than last year. We need a little more self-image and sovereignty. The head is an important part of the body.

"It's often the case that you have more to do psychologically than in terms of football. I train a world-class team here.

"You have to recognise the moment when a structure doesn't fit perfectly. In the last three games we haven't been completely in the flow. In the end it's about delivering and not about taking long-term steps."

Sweden striker Alexander Isak's reputation continues to grow at Real Sociedad.

The 22-year-old has netted eight goals in all competitions this season after 17 strikes in LaLiga last term.

Isak is contracted with Sociedad until 2026, meaning they are under no pressure to cash him in.

However, there appears to be plenty of interest among clubs who want to test La Real's resolve to keep him.

TOP STORY – BLUES AND RED DEVILS ENTER ISAK RACE

Chelsea and Manchester United have both joined the race to sign Real Sociedad forward Alexander Isak, according to The Mirror.

Arsenal have been keen on the 22-year-old Sweden international, who has a £75million buyout clause in his contract.

United are said to view Isak as an ideal replacement for veteran forward Cristiano Ronaldo whose future at Old Trafford is unclear.

 

ROUND-UP

Juventus are bullish that they can beat Tottenham in the race to sign Roma's Nicolo Zaniolo, claims La Gazzetta dello Sport. The Bianconeri view Zaniolo as a replacement for Paulo Dybala, whose contract is running down.

Manchester United and Liverpool have joined Real Madrid and Barcelona in keeping tabs on Serge Gnabry's contract situation at Bayern Munich, reports The Mirror. According to Sky Germany, Bayern and Gnabry are having a stand-off in discussions over an extension.

Liverpool's deal to land Fulham's Fabio Carvalho is not dead, says Football Insider, with the two parties set for new talks with a view to an off-season switch. Calciomercato claims that Milan have also reached out to Carvalho's representatives.

- The Sun reports that Premier League giants Manchester United and Chelsea are monitoring 16-year-old Blackburn Rovers defender Ashley Phillips, with Everton and Tottenham also keeping tabs on the teenager.

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.

Serge Gnabry and Jamal Musiala will be back in the Bayern Munich squad to face Arminia Bielefeld on Saturday but Marcel Sabitzer is facing a spell on the sidelines.

Bayern have been hard hit by coronavirus, but Julian Nagelsmann revealed Gnabry, Musiala and Michael Cuisance will come out of quarantine on Friday.

The trio have been cleared to return after testing negative, but will not be considered to start.

Niklas Sule and Josip Stanisic have stepped up their recovery from COVID-19 in training this week, but neither will start the Bundesliga encounter this weekend.

Joshua Kimmich and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting remain in isolation after they contracted the virus.

Kimmich has come in for criticism for not taking the vaccine, but Nagelsmann has sympathy for the Germany midfielder.

Nagelsmann said in a press conference on Friday: "I have a lot of contact with him. He is extremely ambitious. It is a burden for him that he cannot play."

The Bayern boss revealed Sabitzer will be out for "a few weeks" due to a calf injury, while Tanguy Nianzou misses Bielefeld's visit to the Allianz Arena due to a torn ligament in his shoulder.

Leaders Bayern suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to Augsburg last Friday before beating Dinamo Kiev by the same scoreline in the Champions League.

Bielefeld are second-bottom of the table with only one win this season, but Nagelsmann says they must not be taken lightly. 

"Bielefeld have shown a clear improvement to last year. Masaya Okugawa is playing very well, has a lot of confidence on the ball and is versatile. They have a strong shape and always look to play deep.

"I know their coach [Frank Kramer]. Arminia have grown in terms of their physicality and the way in which they play. There are some parallels that can be drawn with Augsburg. It's a very important game for us."

Bayern Munich helped themselves to five first-half goals as they thumped Bayer Leverkusen 5-1 on Sunday to return to the top of the Bundesliga.

The reigning champions suffered their first defeat of Julian Nagelsmann's tenure last time out, but they responded in the best way imaginable at BayArena.

Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry helped themselves to a couple of goals each in a one-way first half, with Thomas Muller registering in between those doubles.

Leverkusen were level on points with Bayern before kick-off and pulled one back through Patrik Schick, but Nagelsmann's side were able to cruise through the rest of the match to overtake Borussia Dortmund at the summit.

The hosts had won their previous five matches in all competitions, keeping a clean sheet in the last three of those, but it took Lewandowski just three minutes to backheel Dayot Upamecano's centre past Lukas Hradecky.

Bayern went on to lose after opening the scoring against Frankfurt, but there was no sign of that happening against Leverkusen. Shortly after Leroy Sane sent a shot against the right post, Lewandowski lashed home a second of the game on the half-hour.

That was the first of four goals in seven minutes, with Muller in the right place to deflect in a Niklas Sule shot before setting up Gnabry to score. Gnabry then joined Lewandowski in bagging a brace with a shot into the bottom-left corner.

The visitors had kept a clean sheet in only one of their last nine league games, however, and that poor defensive record was extended when Schick latched onto Florian Wirtz's throughball and arrowed a shot past Manuel Neuer in the 55th minute.

Sane squandered a couple of good opportunities to get in on the act, including a header over the bar from close range, while a disallowed Lucas Alario goal for offside was the closest Leverkusen went to further reducing the deficit.

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."

Julian Nagelsmann hailed Serge Gnabry's unique ability as Bayern Munich prepare to face Dynamo Kiev in Wednesday's Champions League clash.

Bayern crushed Barcelona 3-0 in their Group E opener and have won the most games (20), while scoring the most goals (73) across the last three Champions League campaigns.

Robert Lewandowski has been directly involved in 27 goals in his last 17 appearances in the competition and has ended on the winning side in all 17 games, the joint-longest run of wins by a player in the tournament's history.

However, Nagelsmann preferred to focus on Gnabry, who has scored three and assisted twice this term, ahead of the visit of Dynamo.

"I didn't do anything with [Gnabry] consciously and didn't have that many conversations," Nagelsmann told reporters on Tuesday when asked about Gnabry's form.

"I've known him for a long time, if not as long as Niki [Niklas Sule]. We already had a good connection in Hoffenheim and it works properly.

"For me, he is very important as a type, he brings in a good mood. In terms of play, he is of course also important, he has a good degree, a good feeling and good ideas.

"The player with quality in connection with the character, I look forward to seeing him every day.

"I see it that he has to be free and not think too much about what he is doing. He does a lot about instinct and has the street footballer gene."

Gnabry ranks fourth for chances created (12) across all competitions for Bayern this term, while also placing fourth for dribbles completed (16) as he continues to fight for his place alongside Leroy Sane, Jamal Musiala and the absent Kingsley Coman.

Whichever wingers Nagelsmann utilises, the head coach also appreciates the different challenge that the reigning champions of Ukraine – who have never won away at Allianz Arena in Europe – will propose as he looks to assert his dominance on the Champions League.

"They are always favourites in the league and play that way," he continued. "They are often very low in games in the Champions League. Benfica failed to score, it will be our main task to play around the block.

"We want to get three points and stay ahead in the table. Otherwise, the plan is more tactical. We want to put a lot of pressure on possession. We also have to avoid counter-attacks.

"It's about making it clear that we are one of the favourites. In the end, the team that lifts the trophy has to be the one that has won the most games. We want to be that team."

Bayern Munich head coach Julian Nagelsmann admits Tuesday's Champions League opponent Barcelona will miss Lionel Messi's "extravagance" but believes they are not much weaker without him.

Messi left Barcelona in the off-season to join Paris Saint-Germain after a glittering career at Camp Nou.

The Catalans have started life domestically without Messi with seven points from three games in LaLiga, while they will commence their Champions League campaign on Tuesday against Nagelsmann's Bayern in Barcelona.

"Barcelona definitely don't have the extravagance of a Messi any more. But they also have other players who can play a very important role if you take Frenkie de Jong and Pedri for example," Nagelsmann said at the pre-game news conference.

"We are ready for anything. I don't believe they are much weaker. The future will show if they are any better. But we definitely want to take three points."

Barcelona have a variety of selection issues with injuries to Ousmane Dembele, Ansu Fati, Martin Braithwaite and Sergio Aguero, while Nagelsmann was coy on Serge Gnabry's availability.

Gnabry was substituted with a back problem in Saturday's 4-1 Bundesliga win over RB Leipzig, along with Robert Lewandowski for "precautionary" reasons with a groin complaint.

"We'll have to make a late decision on that one," Nagelsmann said about Gnabry.

"Gnabry will travel. [Corentin] Tolisso will not. [Kingsley] Coman is in the squad but not an option to start. It's looking good for Lewandowski again though."

Bayern thrashed Barcelona 8-2 in the 2020 Champions League quarter-final played as a one-off in Lisbon, adding further spice to their opening Group E fixture.

"Being the favourites or not the favourites is always more of a subject for the media," he said. "Two world-class clubs face each other."

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