Bayern in Berlin: Title race, record chase and contract poker
BERLIN - Three points, no more and no less was the return for Bayern Munich at Union Berlin on Sunday and coach Hansi Flick was content if far from euphoric with the 2-0 win. Bayern have three topics to occupy their thoughts as they approach the rest of the season.
TITLE RACE: Thomas Mueller considered the four-point advantage to Borussia Dortmund when the Bundesliga restarted in simple terms. "We had nine games [left], we had to win eight," he said. "The goal is quite clear. Today was the first step. That the match in Dortmund (on May 26) will be decisive in that, is clear."
The top pair meet a week on Tuesday with Bayern knowing a win - or even a draw - would keep them well on course for a record-extending eighth successive championship.
But captain Manuel Neuer warned against focussing only on Dortmund as title rivals. "Some things can still happen, you cannot write off any team, especially when they are so strong as Leipzig," he said. RB Leipzig, however, are seven points adrift in fourth with Borussia Moenchengladbach six off the pace in third.
Coach Hansi Flick, meanwhile, is maintaining the classic approach - one game at a time. "We play first against Eintracht Frankfurt (on Saturday), everything else comes afterwards." He also demanded an improvement throughout the team. "Every individual can do better," was his verdict on the first match back.
RECORD HUNT: Robert Lewandowski has already scored 40 goals this season. Bayern quickly updated his all-competition tally after he opened the scoring from the spot in Berlin. But while the Polish forward has struck in league, cup and Champions League this season, Gerd Mueller's legendary 1971/72 campaign produced 40 goals in the Bundesliga alone.
Chasing that mark would require Lewandowski to hit another 14 goals in the remaining eight games, a rate which is difficult though not impossible. "It will not be easy," said Flick, who thought his team-mates could have provided more chances for the forward, who returned from a leg injury, in Berlin. "Lewy made a very good impression," the boss said. "He is top fit."
CONTRACT POKER: Neuer seemed doubtful when told chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was very optimistic contract negotiations with the keeper would soon be resolved. Rummenigge confidently predicted the marriage between player and club would hold despite talks dragging on.
In fairness Neuer too told Sky television he was optimistic things would reach an amicable conclusion but retained an element of caution. "I think Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is in the picture," he said. But: "At the moment there is nothing to announce and I'll stick with that."dpa