Robert Lewandowski has scored 42 of Bayern Munich’s 115 goals in all competitions this season, or 36.5 percent. In the Bundesliga that rises to almost 45 percent.
But how dependent are they on the Polish striker to shoot them to glory? Well, we’re going to find out.
Lewandowski’s expected one-month absence with a knee injury will undoubtedly blow Bayern hard as they defend their league crown and take on Paris Saint-Germain in the last eight of the Champions League.
Robert Lewandowski sustained a knee injury in Poland and could be out for a month
Lewandowski has scored 45 percent of Bayern’s goals in the Bundesliga this season and 42 in total
The match at the top of the table on Saturday, Bayern could see seven points clearly or just a lone point
And we will begin to understand how damaging this is on Saturday night when Bayern travels to their closest title challenger RB Leipzig.
The significance of these cannot be underestimated. If Bayern wins, their lead at the top will stretch from the current four points to seven, crushing the minds of the pretenders hoping to deny them a ninth straight title.
Never before in the history of the Bundesliga was a team seven points free, with seven games to go. With Bayern oldies trying to get themselves over the line, it would all be over, except for the screaming.
But if Leipzig wins and narrows that gap to just a lonely point, belief will grow that the Bundesliga Championship trophy will eventually end up somewhere other than the Allianz Arena.
The Bundesliga title race then becomes a two-way battle for the remaining seven games of the season, offering infinitely more entertainment and intrigue than the Bayern processions of recent times.
The injury is also a blow to the other fascinating subplot to the end of the season in Germany – whether Lewandowski, with 35 league goals, can beat Gerd Muller’s long-standing Bundesliga record of 40 in 1971-72.
Leipzig will eagerly take advantage of Lewandowski’s absence from Saturday night’s meeting
Bayern was in a rampant mood when they defeated Stuttgart 4-0 with 10 men in their last appearance
Take a quick look
RB LEIPZIG vs BAYERN MUNICH
Saturday; 5.30pm UK time start
Red Bull Arena, Leipzig
Live on BT Sport 1
LIKELY LINE UPS
RB Leipzig: Gulacsi; Klostermann, Upamecano, Orban; Mukiele, Sabitzer (c), Adams, Haidara; Nkunku, Olmo; Sorloth
Bayern Munich: Newer (c); Pavard, Sule, Alaba, Hernandez; Kimmich, Goretzka; Sane, Muller, Coman; Gnabry
Mind you, even if he returns from injury with three or four games of the season to go, you would still be supporting him to make it, given his sparkling form over the past year.
Leipzig has gradually risen to replace Borussia Dortmund as Bayern’s main title challenger and the two sides played an exciting 3-3 draw in Munich on December 5.
Lewandowski wasn’t on target at the time and, unbelievably, Leipzig is the only Bundesliga opponent he hasn’t scored against this season.
But the fact that Bayern still got a point in that game without scoring their talisman – younger Jamal Musiala and old hand Thomas Muller (twice) scored their goals – provides encouragement that they can get by without him.
‘We live in the here and now. Our game will of course change, ” said Bayern manager Hansi Flick. ‘In the box Robert is another player, a special one. He creates goals from nothing. ‘
Flick will have to improvise, but Bayern still has plenty of brilliant players to get the job done in the Red Bull Arena.
Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting could be an equal replacement or Muller could swap his second striker to lead the line.
Alternatively, Flick could use Bayerns speedsters such as Leroy Sane, Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry and counterattack, possibly with Muller as an advanced focal point.
‘Now it is up to others to act and fill the gap. This is not the first time that has happened in football, ‘said Muller, whose impressive distance of 13 goals and 17 assists has been overshadowed by Lewandowski this season.
In the absence of Lewandowski, players like Leon Goretzka (left) and Thomas Muller (right) will have to perform and deliver the goals.
Bayern’s fast-paced players like Serge Gnabry will also be crucial in keeping them on track
Besides their obvious depth of quality, another thing in Bayern’s favor is the psychological effect of their vastly superior track record over Leipzig.
This is the 10th meeting between two clubs that are almost certainly the most disapproved of in Germany. Six of the previous nine have come with the teams that sit first and second at the table.
But Bayern won four out of nine in March 2018 with four draws and only one success in Leipzig. However, the last four league games were tied, so the gap is closing.
Julian Nagelsmann’s team may have been outclassed by Liverpool in the Champions League, but it’s the German team with seven wins and a draw from their last eight Bundesliga games.
They have not been out of the top four all season, briefly leading the way in October and his second since the turn of the year. We will now see if they have a final push in them.
Julian Nagelsmann’s Leipzig is unlikely to get a better chance of overhauling Bayern
Defender Dayot Upamecano will play against Bayern for the last time before joining them
Saturday RB Leipzig (A)
April 10 Union Berlin (H)
April 17th Wolfsburg (A)
20th of April Bayer Leverkusen (H)
April 24 Mainz (A)
May 8th Borussia Mönchengladbach (H)
15 May Freiburg (A)
May 22nd Augsburg (H)
Run-up in Leipzig
Saturday Bayern Munich (H)
April 10 Werder Bremen (A)
April 16 Hoffenheim (H)
20th of April Cologne (A)
April 25 Stuttgart (H)
May 8th Borussia Dortmund (A)
15 May Wolfsburg (H)
May 22nd Union Berlin (A)
Leipzig’s high intensity, urgency and over-the-counter effectiveness are well known and they are enhanced by defensive rock Dayot Upamecano, who will join Bayern in the summer and overcome a thigh strain. Wing-back Angelino is out with a thigh injury.
There is a sense of now or never about the Leipzig season. Their European exit in the last 16 stage sets crucial prep time for their title defense as Bayern are engaged in two intense and energy-guzzling legs with PSG.
But all of these benefits will be irrelevant if they don’t win – or at least a draw – on Saturday.
Bayern have won everything for them in recent months – their Treble from last season has turned sixfold after victories in the German SuperCup, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.
Bayern has swept them all for them for the past year, but there are no guarantees at this point
The tradeoff was an unrelenting competition list that has occasionally brought to light a number of fallibility. For example, they were dumped out of the cup by second-grader Holstein Kiel, hoping for a Treble repeat.
But most of the time the Bayern machine hums along very nicely and furiously in front of their rivals. Bayern still specializes in extinguishing that glimmer of hope in a most brutal way.
Take last month’s meeting with Dortmund when two goals from Erling Haaland came within the first 10 minutes.
Panic? Not at all, Bayern was right by half time and then late goals from Leon Goretzka and then Lewandowski kept the status quo going.
Bayern managed to beat Dortmund last month despite two goals behind
Or the absurd match against Stuttgart two weeks later, when Bayern saw Alphonso Davies leave just 12 minutes later before reacting by establishing a 4-0 lead in the 39th minute.
Lewandowski scored a hat-trick that afternoon and we don’t really know how bad they are without him.
Leipzig hopes to have some fun with it – and in the meantime avert another Bayern walk to the title.