Robert Lewandowski and Antonio Rüdiger (l-r.) faced each other during the Germany defender's time in the Bundesliga. - © DFL/imagoimages
Robert Lewandowski and Antonio Rüdiger (l-r.) faced each other during the Germany defender's time in the Bundesliga. - © DFL/imagoimages
bundesliga

"I have a lot of respect for Robert Lewandowski" - Chelsea defender Antonio Rüdiger

Robert Lewandowski has "gotten even better this season" says the man charged with frustrating the Bayern Munich frontman in next month's UEFA Champions League Last 16 tie with Chelsea, Antonio Rüdiger.

Lewandowski scored a breathtaking 19 times for Bayern in the first half of the Bundesliga season and has Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's single-season best for a non-German player (31 goals) and Gerd Müller's legendary all-time single season record (40) of 1971/72 in his sights.

Rüdiger has had first-hand experience of the challenge Lewandowski poses to a Bundesliga defender having spent two-and-a-half seasons in the German top flight with VfB Stuttgart earlier in his career.

Lewandowski and Rüdiger (l-r.) will renew acquaintances when Bayern Munich meet Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League last 16. - gettyimages

But the Germany international told SportBild that the Bayern man is - even at 31 - still improving.

"Mauro Icardi, Harry Kane and Robert Lewandowski have been the best No.9s in recent years. Lewandowski looks to have gotten even better this season," said Rüdiger, who will face Bayern's top scorer in the first leg in London on 25 February with the return in Munich on 18 March.

"I have a lot of respect for him. It'll be a tough challenge to be able to keep him in check. We can only do that as a team."

While Chelsea are battling to stay in the top four of the English Premier League to ensure Champions League football next season, Bayern are attempting to claw back the ground lost on Bundesliga pacesetters RB Leipzig as they seek an unprecedented eighth successive German title.

The other Champions League knockout ties involving Bundesliga teams see Borussia Dortmund face French giants Paris Saint-Germain, while Leipzig face London's Tottenham Hotspur.