One down, 2 to go for treble-chasing Bayern Munich

Thomas Mueller during Bayern Munich’s title-clinching Bundesliga match against Wolfsburg. (AFP)
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Updated 02 July 2020

One down, 2 to go for treble-chasing Bayern Munich

  • Bayern are expected to secure the league and Cup double for the 13th time

BERLIN: Bayern Munich are expected by the club's own hierarchy to take the next step towards the treble in Saturday's German Cup final before they attempt more Champions League glory in August.

The German press dubbed Bayern “FC Nimmersatt” (never satisfied) after celebrating an eighth straight league title last Saturday, the 30th in the club's history.

“The team is in such good shape that they are able to win every title this season,” said Bayern President Herbert Hainer.

Before tackling Europe and a possible repeat of their 2013 treble, Bayern face Bayer Leverkusen in Berlin in Saturday’s Cup final having already lost to the Werkself this season.

Leverkusen Sporting Director Rudi Voeller has promised a “big fight” as they look to repeat November’s shock league win when Jamaica winger Leon Bailey scored twice at the Allianz Arena.

Bayern are expected to secure the league and Cup double for the 13th time.

“We'll tackle everything, those are our goals,” said Bayern head coach Hansi Flick, who only took over mid-season.

“At Bayern, you always think a bit bigger. First the Cup is in focus and then it's important the team has some time off and the staff can clear their heads.

“After that, we'll prepare intensively for the Champions League.”

Flick plans to send his players on a two-week holiday after the Cup final before a training camp ahead of their last-16 second leg against Chelsea on Aug. 7 or 8.

They hammered Frank Lampard's Blues 3-0 in February's first leg in London, making Bayern among the favorites to be European champions.

Bayern could face a disadvantage against potential opponents in the Final 8 tournament in Lisbon, due to start on Aug. 12, from leagues which are not scheduled to finish until late July.

La Liga runs until July 19, while the Premier League is set to end a week later, with Serie A not slated to come to a conclusion until Aug. 2.

Only PSG and Lyon will have had less game time than Bayern and RB Leipzig, as Ligue 1 was ended early due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We just have to make sure that we make the best of the situation,” Flick said.

“It could be an advantage because one or two players would be available again.”

Bayern's forwards are in stellar form.

Thomas Mueller produced a Bundesliga record 21 assists this season, while striker Robert Lewandowski has netted 49 times in 42 games, including 11 in the Champions League.

Bayern have been European champions five times and two of their 2001 title-winning team are being groomed to take charge.

Former midfielder Hasan Salihamidzic is sporting director, while ex-goalkeeper Oliver Kahn will replace Karl-Heinz Rummenigge as chairman in 2022.

“In 2001, we won the Champions League together playing in jerseys, now we want to repeat that success with him in suits,” said Salihamidzic.

“Oliver feels the same way — we'll give everything to see it happen.

“It's our turn again.”


Record-breaking Lukaku propelling Inter’s European dream

Updated 12 August 2020

Record-breaking Lukaku propelling Inter’s European dream

  • Inter reach their first European semifinal since 2010 when they went on to win the Champions League

MILAN: A record-breaking Romelu Lukaku is leading Inter Milan's chase for their first trophy in 9 years.

Eyebrows were raised last year when Inter shelled out a club record of around €65 million ($73 million) plus €13 million  ($15 million) in bonuses for Lukaku, who had had a disappointing final season at Manchester United.

However, Lukaku swiftly developed a scintillating partnership with Lautaro Martínez and their goals helped Inter sustain a title challenge before eventually finishing second in Serie A, a point behind Juventus.

Inter scored 81 league goals — well above the paltry 57 they managed in the previous campaign.

Lukaku scored again on Monday and set up another to help Inter beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 to reach the Europa League semifinals.

“Romelu has never played so well, not even in the past,” Inter coach Antonio Conte said.

The Belgian forward became the first player to find the net in nine consecutive Europa League games, surpassing the eight set by Alan Shearer for Newcastle in 2005.

Lukaku’s 31st goal of the season took him past the 30-mark for the first time in his career.

“I’ve always wanted to win, ever since I was little,” Lukaku said. “I’ve always said that I will give my all for this team.

“We’re a great team; my teammates help me a lot, otherwise I couldn’t do these things and achieve these numbers ... my teammates look for me. We’re doing well together, all of us.”

Inter reached their first European semifinal since 2010 when they went on to win the Champions League as well as Serie A and the Italian Cup to complete a historic treble.

They retained the Italian Cup the following year but have not managed to lift silverware since.

The Nerazzurri play Shakhtar Donetsk or Basel in the semifinals on Monday.

After an intense period of playing matches approximately every three days after soccer restarted following the pandemic-enforced shutdown, Conte has almost a week to prepare his players.

He will want to make sure they understand that profligacy can prove costly at this level.

Inter have often failed to kill off games in which they have  dominated, and that was again the case on Monday when they had opportunities to extend their advantage.

That allowed Leverkusen to stay in the quarterfinal despite having only two shots on target.

“We could have gone through in a more relaxed manner because, despite the fact that we never really had to dig in, the result was close,” Conte said.

“It’s difficult to be annoyed. I can only compliment the lads on their performance. As is the case after every game, we’ll analyze every situation and see where we can improve.”