Lazio target Bayern scalp, Chelsea to test Atletico mettle

Tuesday February 23 2021
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Manuel Neuer has challenged Bayern to get back up. PHOTO/AFP

By AFP

Bayern Munich are showing chinks in their armour ahead of tonight’s Champions League last-16 first leg at Lazio after dropping points and leaking goals in the Bundesliga.

The reigning European champions crashed to a 2-1 league defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday, on the back of a 3-3 home draw to struggling Arminia Bielefeld.

Bayern’s commanding lead in the Bundesliga has been slashed from seven points in early February to just two after second-placed Leipzig’s 3-0 win at Hertha Berlin on Sunday.

Their defence remains a cause for concern having conceded 31 goals after 22 league games – their worst record at the back for 29 years.

The Bavarians have looked fatigued since winning the Club World Cup in Qatar 11 days ago and chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge took a swipe at the team’s poor form over the weekend.

“We’re too inconsistent,” Rummenigge told broadcaster ZDF.
“We sometimes only put in the effort over the last few metres,” he added after Bayern had found themselves 2-0 down against both Frankfurt and Bielefeld.

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The strength in depth of Bayern’s bumper squad has been severely tested since their Qatar sojourn.

Defender Benjamin Pavard and Thomas Mueller have been sidelined after testing positive for Covid-19. Midfielder Corentin Tolisso is expected to be out for months after surgery on an injured thigh, while winger Serge Gnabry is struggling to recover in time to face Lazio after also suffering a thigh problem.

Mueller’s understudy Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting has struggled to provide Lewandowski with the sort of service Bayern’s top-scorer is used to.

To defend their Bundesliga and Champions League titles, Bayern need to get their season back on track, starting with the clash against Lazio.

There was some good news in Saturday’s defeat as Leon Goretzka came on for his first appearance since testing negative for Covid-19 in January.

The midfielder is likely to rekindle his partnership with Joshua Kimmich.

Resurgent Chelsea test Atletico
Chelsea and Atletico Madrid meet for the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie tonight in Bucharest on the back of contrasting seasons so far.

Despite splashing out $308 million on new players in a deflated transfer market due to the economic impact of coronavirus, Chelsea find themselves fifth in the Premier League.

Atletico’s form has dipped in recent weeks, but they still enjoy a three-point lead at the top of La Liga with a game in hand over Real Madrid to spare.

Since losing to Atletico in the semi-finals of the 2013-14 season, Chelsea have not won a single knockout Champions League tie.

On the other hand, the Spaniards – on top of two runs to the final – have reached a semi-final, two quarter-finals and won the Europa League in the two seasons they did not make the Champions League knockout stages under Simeone.

Everyone is now aware that drawing Atletico in a Champions League knockout tie means a battle. And that is just how Simeone likes it. 

Uefa Champs League
TONIGHT | LIVE ON DSTV 222 - 11pm
Lazio        vs.    Bayern
Atle. Madrid    vs.    Chelsea
 

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