Stuttgart coach Pellegrino Matarazzo described his feelings of "ecstasy" after his side's Bundesliga survival was secured with a last-gasp 2-1 final-day win over Cologne.

VfB were destined for a relegation play-off entering injury time on Saturday with the scoreline locked at 1-1, despite rivals Hertha Berlin trailing at Borussia Dortmund.

Stuttgart needed only one goal to be sure of Bundesliga safety and, with goalkeeper Florian Muller – whose error had put them in such peril – up for a corner, it belatedly arrived.

Wataru Endo headed the 92nd-minute winner that sparked scenes of mass celebration and condemned Hertha to the play-off – not that Matarazzo knew the identity of his hero amid the carnage.

The coach raced onto the pitch along with his substitutes – and Stuttgart mascot Fritzle, a giant, fluffy crocodile.

"I don't even remember who scored the goal," Matarazzo told Sky Sport. "I don't remember what happened.

"Suddenly, I only see that Fritzle is lying on me. It was a nice moment for all players, for all the fans and everyone part of the club."

Stuttgart were grateful to Dortmund for their role in the escape, with Hertha having led until past the hour mark at the Westfalenstadion, when the departing Erling Haaland equalised.

"The boys certainly noticed the result," Matarazzo said. "With every goal Dortmund scored, the players had more courage.

"It was an absolute goal of will at the end. I'm very happy for the boys."

He added: "I’ve got a headache after all that shouting and cheering. That was ecstasy, a great moment, outstanding. I'm so happy for the lads. You never forget a moment like today."

Robert Lewandowski hit a hat-trick as Bayern Munich set a Bundesliga record in Saturday's 4-0 away win over Cologne.

The Poland striker's ninth-minute opener meant the champions scored in a record 66 consecutive league games, a feat never before achieved in Germany's top tier.

Corentin Tolisso scored a fine second before two more Lewandowski goals in the second half secured a ninth league win in a row over Steffen Baumgart's side.

Fittingly, it was Lewandowski who set Bayern's latest goalscoring record, the striker side-footing past Marvin Schwabe from Thomas Muller's pass and a VAR check overruling the offside call.

The visitors doubled their lead in spectacular fashion, Tolisso controlling Muller's lay-off before rifling left-footed into the top-right corner from the edge of the box.

Cologne thought they had pulled a goal back through Mark Uth, but another VAR check showed an offside, and the hosts finished the half without another shot on target.

Marcel Sabitzer had an effort saved and Jamal Musiala's turn and shot clipped the outside of the post as Bayern stepped up their pressure after the interval.

Cologne offered a slight threat of a comeback with a good period of pressure, but it was promptly Lewandowski quelled 62 minutes in, Lewandowski drilling home his 22nd Bundesliga goal of the season after being played through by Leroy Sane.

The pair combined again for Bayern's fourth, Muller releasing Sane on a zig-zagging run before he prodded through for Lewandowski to finish with aplomb.

 

What does it mean? Bayern respond to Dortmund pressure

You have to go back to February 9, 2020, and a goalless draw with RB Leipzig, to find the last occasion in which Bayern played a league game without scoring a goal.

Their latest two helped them to a comfortable win that stretched their lead at the top back to six points, Borussia Dortmund having closed the gap with a 5-1 thumping of Freiburg on Friday.

Cologne sit eighth in the table, but just two points off the top four.

 

Magnificent Muller

Lewandowski's goalscoring exploits can often overshadow Muller, but two assists and four chances created here were a reminder of his importance to Bayern.

The Germany star has now directly set up 150 Bundesliga goals since his debut back in August 2008. In that time, only Lionel Messi (180) has made more assists in Europe's top five leagues.

No sniff of a Cologne goal

Cologne managed only one shot on target throughout and starting strikers Uth and Anthony Modeste were substituted even before Lewandowski netted Bayern's fourth.

They had promising moments in the final third but this was a surprisingly toothless performance from a side whose 28 points from their first 18 games was their second-best return this century.

What's next?

Bayern are back in action next Sunday away to Hertha Berlin. Cologne host Hamburg in the DFB-Pokal on Tuesday before resuming league duties at Bochum four days later.

Julian Nagelsmann insists Bayern Munich have a lot of room for improvement after narrowly defeating Cologne 3-2 on Sunday.

Serge Gnabry's brace, coupled with Robert Lewandowski's opener, ensured Bayern's new head coach his first Bundesliga win at the second time of asking.

The reigning German champions failed to win in their opener for the first time in 10 years, having drawn 1-1 with Borussia Monchengladbach, and Nagelsmann compared the two opening fixtures.

"The result is good," the 34-year-old told reporters. "It was a wild game that had parallels to the game against Gladbach.

"We still have a lot to do and improve. We lost the ball too often and we could have done better.

"Football is a sport of results, and in the end the result was good from our point of view today."

Gnabry's double was his fourth multiple-goal return against Cologne, while Lewandowski equalled his own record 12-game Bundesliga scoring run with a close-range finish.

However, Leroy Sane was hauled off at half-time amid first-half jeers from the crowd.

"We didn't play a good game in the first half as a whole team," Nagelsmann continued.

"I heard the whistles [from the crowd towards Sane]. The fans should support their own players – anything else does not help."

Sane's half-time replacement, Jamal Musiala impressed to create Lewandowski's tap-in and Nagelsmann hailed the Germany international's "outstanding game offensively" and lauded his one-on-one abilities to attack.

Asked whether Bayern would be active in the transfer window, having only spent money on Dayot Upamecano, Nagelsmann responded: "Transfers? We'll see what's possible. If there's something, then we will announce it. If not, then we will work with what we have."

Julian Nagelsmann picked up his first Bundesliga win with Bayern Munich on Sunday as they edged past Cologne 3-2 courtesy of a Serge Gnabry brace.

Robert Lewandowski broke the deadlock in the 50th minute, scoring in his 12th consecutive Bundesliga appearance, and Gnabry inflicted further damage eight minutes later.

Cologne refused to surrender, though, Anthony Modeste heading home before Mark Uth equalised to cap off three goals in four chaotic second-half minutes.

Gnabry, however, netted his second to restore Bayern's advantage, arrowing into the roof of the net and sealing three points for the hosts.

Thomas Muller spurned the first chance of the game, poking a sliding finish wide after a driving run by Lewandowski down the right.

Niklas Sule then enjoyed a rare foray forward, twisting and turning inwards before firing towards goal, where Timo Horn reacted acrobatically to tip over.

The hosts failed to make their 62 per cent of first-half possession pay but a double half-time change proved vital, Jamal Musiala – introduced for Leroy Sane – creating the opener.

The substitute roamed forwards before pulling back for Lewandowski to tap-in, the finish equalling his personal record of 12 consecutive Bundesliga appearances with a goal, previously achieved with Borussia Dortmund in 2012-13.

Gnabry made matters worse for the visitors, collecting his 10th goal in eight appearances against Sunday's opponents by arriving at the back post to convert Josip Stanisic's low cross.

However, Cologne pulled a goal back with their first shot on target, Modeste redirecting a header past Manuel Neuer from Jonas Hector's delivery.

Uth shocked the home crowd with his 62nd-minute equaliser, diving to prod low past Neuer after Kingsley Ehizibue's curler from the right.

The visitors remained level for only eight minutes, though, Gnabry firing powerfully past Horn before Lewandowski almost added a fourth, only to be denied by the crossbar.

What does it mean? Nagelsmann on the board as control over Cologne continues

Nagelsmann became the first Bayern boss in 10 years not to win on the opening day of a new Bundesliga season with a 1-1 draw against Borussia Monchengladbach.

However, the former RB Leipzig coach picked up the DFL-Supercup with a 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund in midweek and now has his first Bundesliga win with his new side.

The hosts have now won each of their past eight games against Cologne and are undefeated in 15 such Bundesliga fixtures, too – their longest winning streak and the longest unbeaten run against any current team in the top flight.

Lewandowski marches on

Lewandowski's opener means he has now scored a goal in every one of his past 12 Bundesliga games.

However, the Poland forward's link-up play was also excellent – making a game-high two key passes and competing for the joint-most duels (17) as he embroiled himself in a battle with Jorge Mere and Rafael Czichos.

Nagelsmann's star attacker now has four goals across all competitions for the season and he will be hoping he can fire his team to their 10th straight Bundesliga title.

Lost Ljubicic

Dejan Ljubicic set the tone for a poor performance with a needless booking in the first half for not retreating to block Bayern's quick free-kick.

The midfielder completed just 61.5 per cent of his 26 attempted passes, while also touching the ball just 37 times as he struggled against Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka in the middle of the park.

What's next?

Bayern travel to Bremer on Wednesday in the DFB-Pokal before hosting Hertha Berlin on Saturday. Meanwhile, Cologne return to RheinEnergieSTADION to face Bochum on the same day.

Julian Nagelsmann is not at all concerned about transfer speculation surrounding Robert Lewandowski, believing it is "completely normal" that other clubs would be interested in the Bayern Munich superstar.

Reports emerged this week of Lewandowski wanting to leave Bayern, where he has been the main man since signing from Borussia Dortmund in 2014.

But a big fee is said to deter potential suitors, while Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola – Lewandowski's former Bayern coach – completely dismissed the idea of signing the forward on Friday.

In the meantime, Lewandowski continues to perform for the Bundesliga champions.

Having last term scored 41 times in the league – breaking Gerd Muller's single-season record – the 32-year-old, who turns 33 on Saturday, has maintained his lofty standards in the opening weeks of the new campaign.

With a brace against Dortmund in the DFL-Supercup in midweek, Lewandowski now has a record seven goals in that match and has netted in 14 successive games in all competitions – two shy of another Muller record.

Nagelsmann took that display as evidence of Lewandowski's continued happiness in Bavaria.

Asked about the rumours ahead of Bayern's game against Cologne, the coach said: "That doesn't bother me at all, if I'm being honest. That is part of the business.

 

"If I were not coach at Bayern but at another big club, I would always ask about that name and hope that something would work. It's because he scores a lot and is the most dangerous striker out there. This is completely normal. 

"The only thing that matters to me is how the player reacts – and Lewy is in top shape. He talks a lot to me and the players in training. He is not a satellite that isolates himself and hopes that he will go away. 

"He feels good, which was also shown by his performance against Dortmund, even in training. A player who wants to leave would not do that. 

"It is part of life that there are rumours. Live and let live – both journalists and players. When the player is in a good mood, and that's the case, we're all happy."

Before equalling Muller's streak, Lewandowski can first match his own best stretch. With a goal against Cologne, he would net in 12 league games in a row – only previously doing so for Dortmund in 2012-13.

For the first time in his career, Lionel Messi is looking for a new club.

Barcelona announced on Thursday contract talks had been unsuccessful due to the "economic and structural obstacles" of LaLiga's salary restrictions.

Messi's next step is far from obvious, but what if we imagine money is no object and he could play for anyone he chooses? What if the thrill of the game were more important to him than winning a fifth Champions League? What if he threw caution to the wind and went somewhere just for fun?

We've has imagined such a scenario, and these are the teams we'd love to see him play for...

 

AJAX

The link between Ajax and Barca goes beyond the basics of football: it's a shared ideology, a philosophical connection, a spiritual understanding.

From Johan Cruyff to Ronald Koeman, plenty of players and coaches have shared the love of both clubs, but Messi moving to Amsterdam would turn the romance up to 11.

Messi as the focal point of an Ajax side – who are beautiful to watch as it is – is a wonderful idea. He will certainly know all about the club from former player and close friend Luis Suarez.

Given the players Barca have signed from Ajax in the past – Frenkie de Jong the latest – it would be nice to see a player going in the opposite direction.

ATALANTA

Gian Piero Gasperini's side have captured the hearts of the football world in recent seasons, threatening title challenges in Serie A and coming close to reaching the Champions League semi-finals in 2019-20.

They have done all this on a modest budget, playing vibrant, attacking football, and all during a global pandemic that struck Bergamo and the Lombardy region particularly hard.

The way Argentine Alejandro Gomez pulled the strings for Atalanta in the past was a joy to watch, but imagine if compatriot Messi were in that role. Imagine him again facing Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus. Imagine Marten de Roon's Twitter feed.

Glorious, isn't it?

COLOGNE

The GOAT and the Billy Goats – what could be better?

Cologne have gone through some tricky times but will hope to be on the up again in the Bundesliga after surviving a relegation play-off last term.

They might not have won the title since 1978, but they are among Germany's most esteemed clubs, with an ardent fan base and a beautiful home city. If Messi could lead them to challenge the might of Bayern Munich, it would be an unforgettable story.

If not... well, they have a goat as a mascot, for goodness' sake. It's too perfect.

LEEDS UNITED

It might be too early for Messi to return to Newell's Old Boys, but what if he joined up with Rosario's other most famous footballing export in Yorkshire?

Leeds United returned to the Premier League with a bang last season, continuing their progress under the stewardship of Marcelo Bielsa and his big blue bucket.

The chance to truly awaken a sleeping giant of the English game and take Leeds to the next level while playing for the man who inspired Pep Guardiola sounds like an opportunity that's too good to miss.

Plus, if he wanted to visit Pep, Manchester is less than an hour away by train.

Europe's top five leagues all conclude this week and there are still plenty of matters to be resolved – not least who will be crowned champions in Spain and France.

Every division has something riding on the final days of the season, whether it be top spot, European qualification, or relegation.

Ahead of what is set to be a dramatic conclusion to the Premier League, LaLiga, Ligue 1, Serie A and the Bundesliga campaigns, we look at the state of play in each league.

 

PREMIER LEAGUE

Manchester City wrapped up the Premier League title with three games to spare, making them the first team in the competition's history to win the title despite being as low as eighth on Christmas Day.

All three relegation places were also decided with three games remaining – a Premier League record – with Fulham joining Sheffield United and West Brom in dropping down a division.

That leaves just the European spots to fight for, and it is shaping up to be an entertaining end to the English top-flight season in that regard. Manchester United are guaranteed a top-four finish, but five other teams – Leicester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and West Ham – are in the mix for the two other Champions League berths with two rounds of games to go.

There is also the small matter of the Europa League places for the teams finishing in fifth and sixth, as well as a spot in the inaugural Europa Conference League, which goes to the team in seventh, meaning everyone from 10th-placed Leeds United to Leicester in third have something to play for. That includes Arsenal, who have not missed out on European football of some sort in 25 years.

LALIGA 

The Spanish title race appeared to take a dramatic twist on Sunday as Real Madrid leapfrogged Atletico Madrid at the summit for around 20 minutes. However, Atleti scored two late goals to beat Osasuna, meaning they are two points ahead of their city rivals heading into the final round of games.

Atleti, who have led the way at the top for 29 matchdays, now need to match Madrid's result against Villarreal when they travel to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid on the final day of the season. It is worth noting that Los Blancos have the superior head-to-head record, so a draw would not be enough for Atleti if Madrid win.

Barcelona are officially out of the title race, meanwhile, but they are assured of a top-four finish along with Sevilla. Real Sociedad and Real Betis occupy the Europa League spots, while Villarreal are in a Europa Conference League berth, though just one point separates the three teams so that could all yet change.

To complicate matters, Villarreal could still qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League final against Manchester United.

At the bottom end of the division, Eibar are already relegated and they will be joined by two of Valladolid, Elche or Huesca. Valladolid must beat Atletico in their final game to have a chance of staying up, while the onus is on Elche to better Huesca's result as they are level on points but have an inferior head-to-head record.

LIGUE 1

The Ligue 1 title battle is also going right down to the wire in a three-way dogfight. After a thrilling race that has lasted the course of the season, underdogs Lille lead heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain by one point with one matchday left.

Monaco have won seven of their previous eight games and are three points off leaders Lille, though they require both Les Dogues and PSG to slip up on the final day, as well as beating Lens. Should it come down to goal difference, PSG hold a big lead over their two title rivals.

Incredibly, PSG are still not yet technically assured of a Champions League place as Lyon in fourth are only three points worse off, although it would take a defeat for the reigning champions and victory for Lyon, plus a goal swing of 16, for them to miss out.

Monaco's opponents Lens, incidentally, also have plenty to play for at the weekend as they are sixth – enough for Europa Conference League qualification – but can still be caught by Rennes in seventh, while they could yet overtake Marseille in fifth if results go their way.

At the opposite end of the table, there may only be one spot left to be settled in the bottom three – Dijon and Nimes are both already down – but six teams are still very much in danger of the drop. Nantes occupy the relegation play-off spot, with Lorient, Brest and Strasbourg just a point better off, and Bordeaux and Reims only two points clear.

SERIE A

With Inter being crowned Scudetto winners for the first time in 11 years at the start of the month, the biggest storyline in Serie A regards Juventus' top-four fate. The dethroned champions, who had finished top nine years running before this season, are currently down in fifth.

Juve are one point behind Napoli and Milan in the two spots directly above them, while Atalanta are three points better off in second and have the better head-to-head record against the Bianconeri.

Andrea Pirlo's side are therefore in need of favours on the final day in what is poised to be a nail-biting finale in terms of those Champions League places. Lazio will finish sixth, so they are assured of Europa League football next term, while Roma hold a two-point advantage over Sassuolo in the Europa Conference League position.

Parma and Crotone are both down already and one of Benevento or Torino will join them, the latter currently three points outside of the relegation zone and with a game in hand to play on Benevento.

BUNDESLIGA

RB Leipzig provided Bayern Munich with some stern competition for a while, but the Bavarian giants' quality eventually told and they are Bundesliga champions for a ninth year running.

It's not only the title race that's done and dusted in Germany, in fact, as RB Leipzig are certain of second place, and both Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg will join them in the Champions League next season.

Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen, meanwhile, will finish in fifth and sixth respectively regardless of events later this week.

However, Union Berlin have work to do if they are to finish seventh for a place in the Europa Conference League play-offs as Borussia Monchengladbach are a point further back, while Stuttgart and Freiburg are two behind with a game to go.

Seven-time German champions Schalke will be competing in the second tier of German football next season, but Cologne and Werder Bremen are hanging on in there, sitting two and one point behind Arminia Bielefeld respectively in 15th place.

Borussia Dortmund interim head coach Edin Terzic hailed Erling Haaland but insisted the Bundesliga club cannot always rely on the star forward following his brace.

Haaland scored twice – including a 90th-minute equaliser – as Dortmund salvaged a 2-2 draw away to lowly Cologne on Saturday.

Linked with Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Liverpool, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus, Haaland opened the scoring in the third minute.

However, two unanswered goals put Cologne ahead before Haaland rescued a point for Dortmund with a last-gasp leveller on the road.

Haaland has scored 14 away goals in the Bundesliga this season – more than Werder Bremen (13), Hertha Berlin (13), Mainz (11), Arminia Bielefeld (10) and Schalke (eight) have scored at home in 2020-21 as Terzic lauded the Norway international.

"Erling's qualities can't be hidden from anyone," Terzic told reporters post-match after Haaland left the field frustrated.

"He scored another two goals today and had, I think, five chances in total. But sill you could see his disappointment today because he wanted to leave the pitch with three points.

"His will to win is what makes him so special. He shows that to us every day and to the rest one or two times a week.

"We are very happy to have him with us but that doesn't mean that we will do less. We will keep on helping him so he can help us."

Hansi Flick hailed Leon Goretzka's "excellent" three-assist display against Cologne but admitted he was not entirely pleased with Bayern Munich's overall performance in Saturday's 5-1 win.

Bayern put an end to their two-game winless streak in the Bundesliga with a routine victory against their relegation-battling opponents at Allianz Arena to retain a two-point lead on RB Leipzig at the summit.

Goretzka set up goals for Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry, making it four assists in his last two outings after also teeing up Jamal Musiala's goal in the 4-1 Champions League win at Lazio in midweek. 

The Germany international was singled out for praise by Flick after the win against Cologne, but the Bayern boss acknowledged there is still room for improvement from his side after conceding for the fourth game in a row thanks to Ellyes Skhiri's strike.

"Leon did an excellent job in assisting the goals. That's why he was Man of the Match for me today," Flick said. "We will analyse the game and show it to the team. There were one or two things I didn't like. 

"But we'll go from game to game. That approach worked well last year. What comes out in the end is up to us. If we put in the performances and pick up wins, we can finish top of the league."

Gnabry marked his return from a thigh injury lay-off by scoring twice from his 14 touches of the ball as a second-half substitute, adding to Lewandowski's brace and Choupo-Moting's opener.

Thomas Muller also appeared for the first time since being struck down by coronavirus at the Club World Cup earlier this month and Flick is delighted to have both players fit and available.

"Serge and Thomas were very important to us as substitutes today," he said. "Thomas assisted Lewy [Lewandowski] with his first touch of the game and brought some certainty to our game, which we needed at that point. 

"Serge has scored two goals. Both will be valuable for us in the next games and I'm happy they're back. It's important to be satisfied with the 5-1 scoreline. We deserved the victory even by that margin."

Bayern let Cologne into the game early in the second half before pulling clear with three goals in the final 25 minutes in what was the 100th competitive meeting between the sides.

With his double on Saturday, Gnabry has now scored nine Bundesliga goals against Cologne - more than against any other side in his career - but the attacker agreed with Flick's assessment that Bayern are not quite at 100 per cent.

"When Thomas and I came on, it was a bit tricky for us," he said. "We hadn't been very sharp or dominant. We tried to lift the tempo and immediately made it 3-1. Then it became easier. 

"In the future, we have to make sure we don't have these shaky phases in the game and we come out of the blocks quicker. Of course, opponents will always have a chance, but we have to reduce these spells, then we'll be stronger again."

Bayern Munich returned to winning ways in the Bundesliga as Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry both scored twice in a convincing 5-1 win over Cologne.

After returning to domestic duties following their Club World Cup success in Qatar with a home draw against Arminia Bielefeld, the reigning champions slipped to a 2-1 loss away at Eintracht Frankfurt last weekend.

However, a 4-1 thrashing of Lazio in Champions League action in midweek proved the catalyst for a first league triumph at their Allianz Arena home since January 30.

Lewandowski's first goal helped Bayern ease into a 2-0 half-time lead and while Cologne briefly threatened a comeback, the returning Thomas Muller made an immediate impression off the bench, providing the assist that allowed the competition's leading scorer to take his tally for the campaign to 28.

Like Muller, substitute Gnabry had an impact on his comeback, the Germany international tucking away a pair of routine finishes as the hosts eased clear in the closing stages.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting had opened the scoring with his first league goal for the club, heading in an inviting cross from Leon Goretzka, who then went on to set up his side's second before the break.

The midfielder waltzed his way beyond Rafael Czichos before laying the ball off as goalkeeper Timo Horn came towards him, allowing the ever-ready Lewandowski to roll it into the net.

Cologne failed to even muster an attempt as the first half proved to be one-way traffic, yet they were gifted a route back into the game when hesitation between centre-back pairing Jerome Boateng and David Alaba allowed Ellyes Skhiri in to produce a delicate lofted finish over the advancing Manuel Neuer.

The goal caused a brief wobble, yet the 64th-minute arrival of Muller - back after overcoming coronavirus - helped steady Bayern, the substitute teeing up Lewandowski to restore the two-goal cushion with a shot on the turn.

Dominick Drexler hit the post from a tight angle after robbing possession from Neuer before Gnabry's four-minute brace, the second of which was set up by the outstanding Goretzka with another delightful delivery into the area, added a touch of gloss to the final scoreline.

 

What does it mean? Bayern remain clear at the summit

Bayern's recent blip had allowed the chasing pack – led by RB Leipzig – to close the gap at the top of the table. Flick's side have already lost more Bundesliga games in 2021 (two) than they did across the entirety of the previous year.

This win is therefore most welcome in what has suddenly become a tighter-than-expected title race, but Flick – who made 44 appearances for Cologne during his playing career - will be concerned at the careless defensive lapse that allowed Skhiri to give the visitors a slither of hope.

Duo back to boost Bayern

While COVID-19 had kept Muller away, Gnabry had not featured since the Club World Cup final due to a thigh issue. The latter only had 13 touches during his goalscoring cameo, but the availability of the pair helps add further strength in depth, even if the fixture congestion eases in March.

Defensive cracks raise concerns

Bayern had conceded 31 goals prior to this game, their highest tally through 22 league games in a campaign since 1991-92. The chance of a clean sheet disappeared when Boateng and Alaba dithered over who was going to attack a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area, in the end neither bothering to take control of the situation.

What's next?

Bayern have a rare week between fixtures, giving them time to prepare for the visit of Borussia Dortmund next Saturday. Cologne, meanwhile, will be hosting Werder Bremen the following day.

Thomas Muller will be involved for Bayern Munich against Cologne, Hansi Flick has confirmed, as the reigning Bundesliga champions aim to get their title defence back on track.

Muller tested positive for COVID-19 while away with the squad at the Club World Cup but is now clear of the virus, allowing him to resume training at the club's headquarters on Thursday.

Speaking to the media, Flick confirmed Muller is to be included in the squad for Saturday's game at the Allianz Arena, with the pressure firmly on after two games without a win in the league.

Ahead of the 100th all-time meeting with Cologne, Bayern have already lost twice as many games (two) in Bundesliga action in 2021 as they did across the entire previous year, with RB Leipzig now just two points behind the leaders in the table.

"He will definitely be part of the squad," Flick said of Muller on Friday. "Things went really quickly with him. 

"Yesterday he had a quick session. Obviously he trained at home, as much as he was able and allowed to do. He's the kind of player who has a good foundation, so he will definitely be a part of that [the matchday squad]. 

"I don't know if it will be possible for him to start or come off the bench, we haven't decided that yet." 

After a surprise 3-3 draw at home with Arminia Bielefeld following their return from clinching Club World Cup success in Qatar, Bayern went down 2-1 at Eintracht Frankfurt last weekend.

They were impressive in midweek, however, thrashing Lazio 4-1 in Rome in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie. 

"Against Bielefeld and Frankfurt, there were certain scenes we saw that indicated that better things were to come, but we had missed players and had done a lot of travelling," said Flick, who revealed Tanguy Nianzou is expected to be back after the international break in March. "I don't want to use that as an excuse, though.

"It was important for us to play in the Champions League against an opponent we respected. We followed our plan with great discipline, that's what I also expect tomorrow against Cologne.  

"I expect the team to show great willpower and a great willingness to win that game. We want to continue and play the way we did against Lazio, that's our job."

Jamal Musiala scored in the rout of Lazio before announcing his intention to represent Germany, rather than England, at international level. It now remains to be seen if Die Mannschaft coach Joachim Low calls up the teenage forward for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers in March.

"It's his decision," Flick said of the choice made by Musiala, who turned 18 on Friday. "Obviously I'm a bit biased towards German football, so I think it's a good decision for German football.

"I always said there is enough good talent in this country, you don't have to worry about that. You have to make sure they develop well. 

"Now it's up to the coaches of the Germany team. If he's invited to join the national team, then we accept that. I do think that is going to give him a push. On the other hand, we have a lot of internationals in our squad who can offer support to him, so I don't think it will be a problem."

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