‘Hungry’ Bayern Munich Turn Focus To Lazio After Bayer Leverkusen Humbling


Bayern Munich captain Manuel Neuer insisted on Tuesday there are no leadership problems at the club after a shock defeat to Bayer Leverkusen put their long reign as German champions in jeopardy. Coming off the back of a 3-0 humiliation at the hands of Leverkusen, Bayern head to Lazio on Wednesday knowing only a deep run in the Champions League will save their season. Bayern has won the Bundesliga each of the last 11 years but now trails Leverkusen by five points, and Neuer said it is not just up to the senior players to turn the situation around.

“We have a lot of leaders,” Germany goalkeeper Neuer said on the eve of the first leg of Bayern's last-16 tie in Italy.

He said, “Thomas Mueller was not on the pitch, Joshua Kimmich came on as a substitute and was injured. It is true that with a good team and a certain spine you can sort things out.”

“But if one of the leaders is missing, like at Bayer, others will have to take charge.”

Thomas Tuchel finds himself under pressure at a club where coaches are judged primarily on the team's Champions League performance, especially in recent years when Bayern's financial strength has made domestic dominance a formality.

Despite winning the double, Niko Kovac never recovered from their last 16 elimination at the hands of Liverpool in 2019.

Tuchel's predecessor Julian Nagelsmann's days were numbered after Bayern were knocked out by Villarreal at the quarter-final stage in 2022.

A poor performance against Lazio, who sit eighth in the Serie A table, less than a year after joining the German champions, could push Tuchel closer to the unthinkable exit.

'Nothing has changed'

With 13 games remaining, Bayern could still close the gap – especially given Leverkusen's reputation for finishing second – but it was the manner of the defeat that was most troubling.

Bayern had only one shot on target and no clear chances on goal, compared to Leverkusen's eight.

Neuer said, “We need to learn something from that bad game and turn it into a positive. Everyone is motivated and hungry to perform better.”

“Lazio may not be the biggest name on people's lips, but we have already struggled against weaker opponents… They deserve to be in the knockout stages and we will not underestimate any team.”

Despite having a smaller budget than six-time European champions Bayern, Xabi Alonso's side showed they are clearly the best in Germany.

Despite Tuchel's past success, the highlight of which was winning the Champions League with Chelsea in 2021, he has failed to put his stamp on a Bayern team that has often relied on individuals.

Bayern CEO Jan-Christian Driessen told reporters on Saturday that “nothing has changed regarding the question of the coach's future”.

But the fact that Tuchel has failed to put his stamp on the club despite taking over just six months after Alonso's appointment at Leverkusen will worry the Bayern hierarchy.

No title for Kane?

Already knocked out by third division Saarbrucken in the German Cup, Bayern is staring at a trophy-less season for the first time since 2012.

This should not have gone unnoticed after silverware-hungry Harry Kane arrived at the club.

However Bayern would have been in a much worse position without their 100 million euro ($108 million) striker, who has scored 28 goals in 28 matches in all competitions this season.

Kane received little service from a weak Bayern midfield on Saturday. Veteran Thomas Muller criticized his team's performance, saying, “Leverkusen were taking risks, finding solutions and playing football.

“We are playing from A to B, from B to C, and no one plays freely or takes risks.”

Tuchel said Mueller had earned the right to express his views.

“If anyone is allowed to make a statement like that, it's Thomas,” Tuchel ventured.

“I can't imagine anyone underestimating this game, especially after what happened on Saturday. It's very important that we don't just get ourselves criticized because we need to play with confidence.”

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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