NEWS

Weakened Bayern wary of explosive J'can winger Bailey

Friday, January 12, 2018

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BERLIN, Germany — Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich will kick off the second half of the German league season at Bayer Leverkusen today without star striker Robert Lewandowski and key defender Mats Hummels.

In the same breath, the many-time German champions will be keeping a close eye on explosive Leverkusen's Jamaican winger Leon Bailey, who has made a name for himself in the first half of the season with six goals and four assists.

And as Bayern look for replacements for Lewandowski and Hummels, they will at the same time be chiselling a plan to contain the 20-year-old Bailey and the other exciting young players at Leverkusen.

“They (Leverkusen) are a young, hungry and highly talented side which has a lot of imagination,” said head coach Jupp Heynckes in yesterday's press conference.

“It's a game which has all the ingredients that make football so attractive; both teams can play good football and it's going to be tough,” he said.

However, Heynckes warns there is plenty of talent in Bayer's ranks, pointing to Germany winger Julian Brandt and teenager Kai Havertz, 18, who are both dangerous in front of goal.

“They are also strong in defence and are a convincing team, that is why they have gone 12 games without a defeat,” added Heynckes.

Lewandowski, the Bundesliga's top-scorer with 15 goals in 17 games so far, is labouring with a knee injury while Hummels has a groin strain and the away match at Leverkusen's BayArena has come too early.

With Lewandowski out, burly Germany striker Sandro Wagner is set to make his first Bundesliga appearance since joining from Hoffenheim last month, reportedly for 12 million euros ($14.3m).

In Hummels' absence, Heynckes will most likely pair Niklas Suele and Jerome Boateng at centre-back.

Bayern hold a commanding 11-point lead over their nearest German league rival, but fourth-placed Bayer Leverkusen are on a 12-match unbeaten run dating back to September in all competitions.

Bayern ran out comfortable 3-1 winners over Leverkusen when the teams last met in Munich in August, but Heynckes' side last won away at Leverkusen in 2013.

Bayern were five points adrift in the league when Heynckes, 72, replaced Carlo Ancelotti at the start of October, but built up a commanding lead as key rivals RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund faltered.

Having also steered the club to the 2013 treble of Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup titles, Bayern's bosses want to keep Heynckes on, but he insists he will leave — as promised — when the season finishes in May.

— AFP/Observer