bundesliga

Bayern Munich vs. Bayer Leverkusen: How do the teams match up?

whatsappmailcopy-link

Bayern Munich look to be closing in on another Bundesliga title, but in-form visitors Bayer Leverkusen could put a spanner in the works this weekend. So where could Saturday's crunch encounter be won and lost?

Both teams are enjoying excellent campaigns at home and abroad so far, producing some top attacking football and scoring freely. In the Bundesliga they lie first and third, meaning this weekend's meeting in Munich has added significance.

Bayern are out to at least maintain an eight-point cushion over Borussia Dortmund, while Leverkusen hope to close the gap to second with their first away win over the champions since 2019.

With many of the best players in world football set to be on show, bundesliga.com examines some of those who could make a telling impact on Matchday 25...

Biggest goal threat: Robert Lewandowski vs. Moussa Diaby

Robert Lewandowski is having another sensational season, with the Best FIFA Men's Player for 2020 and 2021 once again scoring with a staggering degree of regularity. The Bayern striker has 28 goals in 24 Bundesliga matches in 2021/22, meaning he is in with a good chance of surpassing his record-breaking single-season haul of 41 league goals from last term.

Watch: All of Lewandowski's Bundesliga goals this season

The 33-year-old seems to be getting better with age, remaining a danger to opposition defences from every angle and at every moment. Leverkusen know all about that, of course, with the Poland captain having struck the first two goals in Bayern's 5-1 away win over Die Werkself on Matchday 8.

Lewandowski has 12 goals and 15 wins in 22 career matches against Leverkusen for both Dortmund and Bayern. He has scored five goals in his last three matches against Saturday's opponents, but has gone two home matches without finding the net against them.

He comes into the game in good form, though, having got five goals in his last four Bundesliga matches - and 12 in his last nine.

"We're happy and grateful to have Robert," Bayern captain Manuel Neuer said after Lewandowski got his 300th Bundesliga goal - as part of a hat-trick - in the 4-0 win over Cologne in January. "He's a machine up front."

Watch: Lewandowski helped Bayern to a crushing win in Leverkusen earlier this season

Very few players come close to keeping pace with Lewandowski at the top of the scoring chart, although Leverkusen's Czech star Patrik Schick has been doing his best. The former RB Leipzig forward has 20 goals in as many league matches this season, but a recent injury means the joint-top goalscorer at UEFA Euro 2020 will not be able to play in Munich.

Instead the goalscoring burden will fall to French winger Moussa Diaby, who has been on an incredible run since the turn of the year. The 22-year-old's goalscoring streak started with a hat-trick in the 5-1 hammering of Augsburg on Matchday 20, a dazzling display that earned him Man of the Matchday honours.

The ex-Paris Saint-Germain player followed up with solitary strikes in thumping triumphs over Dortmund and VfB Stuttgart, before getting a double in last week's 3-0 victory over Arminia Bielefeld. With seven goals in his last five league matches, Diaby now has 12 for the campaign.

Watch: Moussa Diaby continued his purple patch against Bielefeld

The Leverkusen attacker's direct play and searing pace - league wide he's the 16th-fastest player in the Bundesliga this year - also leads to chances for his teammates. The France international has seven league assists this season and it's no surprise that - along with Lewandowski - he has been nominated as the Bundesliga Player of the Month for February.

"I'm always happy when the fans are singing my name," Diaby said after his brace against Bielefeld. "It proves that they have love for me, and I have it for them, too. So I'm going to try and continue to make them happy by scoring goals and creating ones for my teammates."

The sprinters: Leroy Sane vs. Jeremie Frimpong

Bayern have scored a whopping 75 goals in 24 games so far, with Leroy Sane contributing directly to 14 of them. The Germany attacker has found the net seven times himself, and has seven assists to his name, too. In the Bayern squad that puts him just behind Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry (10) for goals, and only behind Thomas Müller (16) for assists.

Pace is one of Sane's biggest assets, of course, and - after being clocked at 21.9 miles/35.2 kilometeres per hour - he is the 14th-fastest player in the league this season. He is also tenth in the Bundesliga for sprints (615) - a clear sign to upcoming opponents that their staying power will be tested.

Sane was switched from the right to the left wing after Julian Nagelsmann arrived at Bayern last summer, and he has often been encouraged to find space - or even been deployed - in a more central attacking midfield role. The 26-year-old is clearly making the most of his second year in Munich, having also got five goals and four assists in the UEFA Champions League this season.

Watch: Leroy Sane under the tactical microscope

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who helped bring Sane to the club, believes that Bayern's number 10 has become a completely different player this term - and one who is maximising his talent.

"The whole club is happy - he's happy," said the former Bayern CEO. "He wants to get on the ball now. He's not only fast and a goal threat, he is also hard-running and helps out defensively."

The matchwinner from the bench against Eintracht Frankfurt last time out, Sane is obviously enjoying his football. That's something that Leverkusen speedster Jeremie Frimpong has always seemed to do.

Having first made a name for himself with his rapid raids down the right for Celtic, the Dutch flyer usually plays with a smile on his face. He's had good reason to do so in 2021/22, starting 23 league games to date in his first full year in German football. The 21-year-old right-back is also the fifth-fastest player in the league this season, producing a top speed of 22.4 miles/36.04 kilometres per hour.

With 720 lung-busting sprints so far, he is second only to Hoffenheim wing-back David Raum in that category, while he is also in the top 20 for intensive runs. Frimpong's attacking instincts make him a leading light for Leverkusen, and he has scored once - in the Matchday 13 win in Leipzig - as well as chipping in with six assists.

Leverkusen right-back Jeremie Frimpong (No.30) has struck up a terrific understanding with Moussa Diaby (2nd.l). - RONNY HARTMANN/AFP via Getty Images

The Netherlands U21 international arrived in January 2021 and says he took a while to settle in a league where "you can never switch off." Now, though, he is starting to fulfil his obvious potential.

"Jeremie is a player who excels when he feels there's trust in him," said Leverkusen boss Gerardo Seoane early in the season. "He's capable of developing incredibly quickly."

The youngsters: Jamal Musiala vs. Florian Wirtz

The Bundesliga is known for its talented young players, and Jamal Musiala is one of the best among them. He made his league debut at 17, holding the record as Bayern's youngest ever top-flight player until 16-year-old Paul Wanner featured against Borussia Mönchengladbach in January.

At 17 years and 205 days, Musiala became the youngest goalscorer in the German champions' history during the 8-0 win over Schalke on the opening day of 2020/21. He finished his first full Bundesliga campaign with six goals and an assist from 26 appearances, and the former Chelsea academy player is on course to improve on those numbers this season.

Musiala has already made more starts in the league (eight) than he managed last term, and he now has three goals and four assists in 21 league games.

The Germany international - who made his debut for his country in March 2021 before becoming its second-youngest goalscorer last October - impressed again on the day of his 19th birthday.

"I thought he was very good," Bayern coach Nagelsmann said after Musiala’s latest start in last Saturday's win at Frankfurt. "Whatever situation your pass finds him in, he always manages to get out of it with the ball.

"He's a really, really good player who - because of the competition we have - actually doesn't play quite as often as a player of his talent should.

"Today he did a really good job. I would have been even happier had he scored, but he was good in possession and really hard working."

Musiala's Germany teammate Florian Wirtz is cut from the same cloth: an incredibly exciting attacking player who has the world at his feet.

Watch: Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz - Germany's next gen

The teenager won't turn 19 until May, but he's already in his third season of Bundesliga football. Leverkusen's youngest ever player became the league's youngest ever goalscorer when he netted against Bayern on Matchday 30 of the 2019/20 season, aged just 17 years and 16 days. Dortmund attacker Youssoufa Moukoko would eventually take that record from him, but Wirtz has been creating plenty more.

A UEFA Euro U21 winner with Germany last summer, he has contributed directly to 17 of Leverkusen's 63 league goals this season. He has seven goals and 10 assists in 22 league appearances, and is second only to Bayern attacker Müller as the chief creative force in the league.

The Germany international also got three goals in the UEFA Europa League group stage to help his side top the standings and set up a last-16 clash with Atalanta this month.

Wirtz recently told bundesliga.com that Leverkusen can "dream about winning trophies" with the team they have, but it's clear that he is central to those aspirations.

Seoane said the teenager always takes the right decisions in the penalty area, and suggested that this "exceptional talent" is aided by a mentality that is beyond compare for someone so young.

"What Florian produces week after week never ceases to amaze us, even if we can see it every day," the Leverkusen boss said after Wirtz got a goal and an assist in the 4-2 win over Stuttgart on Matchday 22. "He has immense technical ability but above all his mentality, his ambition and his hunger make him stand out - particularly in difficult games like today."

Wirtz will get another chance to demonstrate those qualities on Saturday in the toughest game of all - away to the champions. It's the type of challenge he's more than ready for.