Rivals ponder how to break Bayern’s grip on Bundesliga

The Bavarian giant has already lost 3 of the Champions League-winning squad

BERLIN • European champions Bayern Munich begins the hunt for a ninth-straight Bundesliga title tomorrow, but while their rivals ponder how to break their iron grip on the German league, the Bavarian giant has pressing issues to resolve on the eve of the new season.

Bayern hosts Schalke at the Allianz Arena to kick off the Bundesliga season just 26 days after lifting the Champions League trophy in Lisbon to complete the treble.

They stand to play 57 games in a condensed 2020/2021 fixture list, due to the knock-on effects of the pandemic, but tomorrow, Bayern will be able to play in front of a small number of fans for the first time since March.

However, they have already lost three of the Champions League-winning squad.

Ivan Periši, Philippe Coutinho and Álvaro Odriozola have returned to Inter Milan, Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively after their loan deals expired.

“We have to make up for it,” head coach Hansi Flick admitted with Bayern facing Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup and Borussia Dortmund for the German Super Cup in the coming fortnight. Bayern wants to sign a winger, to back up Leroy Sané, Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry, with Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi again on their radar. They also

want a defender.

‘They Destroy Them’

Flick’s star-studded squad finished last season on an all-conquering 21-game winning run, including the 8-2 thrashing of Spanish giants Barcelona in the Champions League’s semifinals.

“The current team of Hansi Flick is perhaps the best Bayern team ever,” Hans-Joachim Watzke, CEO of arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund, declared last month.

“They no longer beat their opponents — they destroy them.”

Bayern’s last loss was at the hands of Mönchengladbach in December.

Watzke refuses to make any statements about Dortmund deny- ing the Bavarians a ninth-straight Bundesliga title in 2020/2021.

The messages are similar from the camp of Champions League semifinalists RB Leipzig.

Bayern’s impressive run is down to the irresistible form of stars like Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski.

However, to preserve the harmony in the dressing room, Flick and the club’s bosses must quickly resolve the future of defender David Alaba and midfielder Thiago Alcântara. Both are stalling over signing contract extensions.

‘Money-hungry Piranha’

Alcântara has been heavily linked to a move to Premier League clubs Liverpool and Manchester United.

Alaba is said to want a big pay rise.

A war of words broke out over the Austrian defender at the weekend after former club chairman Uli Hoeness branded Alaba’s agent Pini Zahavi a “money-hungry piranha”.

More diplomatically, Alaba hopes a solution can be found soon “so that the club, my teammates, but also the fans know where they stand”.

On Tuesday, midfielder Leon Goretzka said the squad can “block out” off-field mud-slinging. — AFP