Summary

  • Germany and Poland won a game apiece against each other in qualifying, with Lewandowski scoring once.
  • The teams were separated by a single point at the top of qualifying Group D.
  • Seven Bayern players could take to the field when the teams meet on 16 June.

FC Bayern München trio Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels form the defensive fulcrum for world champions Germany, but can they keep clubmate Robert Lewandowski - the top scorer in qualifying - quiet when they go head-to-head with Poland at UEFA EURO 2016?

"I play with Bayern players every day," says Lewandowski, who scored 13 goals for Poland as they finished second in UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying Group D, one point behind Germany. "I know them well."

Lewangoalski

For the six-strong Bayern contingent in Joachim Löw's squad, such a statement could be taken as a veiled threat, especially given the Pole fired the Bavarians to a record fourth successive Bundesliga title in 2015/16 with a Torjägerkanone-winning 30 league goals.

But then this is no ordinary defence. Neuer and Boateng were at the heart of that same Bayern team that only conceded 17 goals in Pep Guardiola's final season at the Allianz Arena, and the fact the Bavarian giants have added former Borussia Dortmund captain Hummels to their ranks augurs well for Carlo Ancelotti's maiden campaign in Munich.

A case for the defence

Germany's defensive unit is almost identical to what Bayern's should be next season, with 1.FC Köln's Jonas Hector tasked with doing much the same job Austria's David Alaba does for FCB. The right-back role shared by Philipp Lahm and Rafinha for Bayern differs little from what either FC Schalke 04 captain Benedikt Höwedes or Liverpool FC utility man Emre Can will be expected to fulfil in France.

Manuel Neuer (l.) was powerless to stop Poland sealing their first victory over Germany in 19 attempts in October 2014.

Whose hands does that play into, though? Poland won their home fixture against Germany in qualifying 2-0 in October 2014, with former Bayer 04 Leverkusen and FC Augsburg man Arkadiusz Milik and Sebastian Mila scoring to give Adam Nawalka's men their first-ever win over Die Nationalmannschaft.

'Beating world champions opened our eyes'

"For my team, the realisation that we could beat the very best was a huge boost to morale," says Poland's captain Lewandowski, who played the 90 minutes of the match in Warsaw. "Beating the world champions in qualifying opened our eyes to the potential of this team."

Germany, though, took revenge in Frankfurt last September. Lewandowski scored to cancel out Thomas Müller's opener before another Bayern man, Mario Götze, registered a brace to complete a 3-1 win. It was Lewandowski's second goal against Germany, having scored the opener in a 2-2 friendly draw with Joachim Löw's side in Gdansk in September 2011.

Lewandowski (r.) was the first player since 1. FC Köln's Dieter Müller in 1976/77 to cross the 30-goal threshold in a single Bundesliga season.

Lewandowski almost always starts as a lone striker for Bayern, with any two from Douglas Costa, Kingsley Coman, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben supplying the ammunition from out wide. For Poland, he often plays in a front two with Milik, who has found his career-best form since leaving Germany for AFC Ajax in 2014.

Sitting tight

"You get teams defending with five at the back and two holding midfielders," says Lewandowski of Bayern's opponents. "You don't get any balls through for large spells of the game […but] whether you get one touch or 100, you need to be totally focused for that one chance that comes your way." Not that Lewandowski needs many chances - the 27-year-old took just nine second-half minutes to steer the Bavarians to a 5-1 win over VfL Wolfsburg in September.

Jerome Boateng (l.) and Hummels (r.) won the FIFA World Cup together with Germany in 2014.

Furthermore, Germany are decidedly unlikely to sit back in the same way, with Hummels and Boateng two of only a handful of centre-backs in world football capable of treating the position as a springboard for attacks with distribution that would do most NFL quarter-backs proud. Should Hummels continue to struggle with a calf injury, it is worth remembering that that final Bayern piece of the Germany jigsaw, Joshua Kimmich, ended the 2015/16 Bundesliga campaign with a pass completion percentage of 92.6 per cent from central defence, and is likely to deputise with aplomb.

All to play for

Poland should therefore have less of the ball than what Lewandowski is used to with Bayern, though if they can find their captain on the counter-attack, the striker might have one less marker than usual. However it unfolds, it promises to be a fascinating battle when the teams go head-to-head in Group C at the Stade de France on 16 June. Progression through the tournament, and bragging rights back at the Allianz Arena, are at stake.

Stuart Telford