Two of the Bundesliga's sharpest shooters will face off when Bayern Munich entertain Eintracht Frankfurt in Saturday's do-or-die clash at the Allianz Arena, with a seventh straight league crown or a historic UEFA Champions League qualification on the line.
Bayern's Robert Lewandowski has been the Bundesliga's goal-getter par excellence for most of the past decade, but there's been a new kid on the block this season in the shape of Frankfurt striker Luka Jovic, who is looking more and more like a natural successor to the prolific Pole.
As the curtain comes down on an electrifying 2018/19 campaign, bundesliga.com shines the spotlight on two No.9s with a natural flair for finding the back of the net…
Watch: How does Jovic score so many goals?
Lewandowski arrived at Borussia Dortmund ahead of the 2010/11 season, fresh from firing Lech Poznan to the Polish Ekstraklasa title with a league-leading 18 goals. He spent his first full season in Germany learning the ropes, making 18 of his 33 Bundesliga appearances from the bench and netting eight times as BVB secured their first title since 2002.
After playing second fiddle to Lucas Barrios for most of that maiden campaign, Lewandowski became Jürgen Klopp's main man in attack as Dortmund defended their league title in 2012, even adding the DFB Cup for good measure. BVB's rising star started all 34 games in the Bundesliga, scoring 22 times, and netted seven goals in their successful cup campaign, stunning future employers Bayern with a hat-trick in the final.
Jovic is only 21, but his early career path already bears a striking resemblance to Lewandowski's. Like the Bayern frontman, he enjoyed early success in his home country, helping Red Star Belgrade to lift the 2015/16 Serbian title when still a teenager. His move to Benfica proved to be a false dawn as he made only two senior appearances, but life in the German fast lane has highlighted his world-class potential, just as it did with Lewandowski.
Watch: Lewandowski analysed by Tifo Football
The Bijeljina native also netted eight goals in his first Bundesliga season, and similarly helped his new club to conquer a long-awaited trophy: the 2018 DFB Cup, which ended Frankfurt's 30-year quest for silverware. Jovic may have been left on the bench as the Eagles stunned Bayern 3-1 in the final in Berlin, but he still played his part in their triumph, scoring with an incredible, intuitive flick to see them past Schalke in the semi-finals.
The 2018/19 campaign has really seen Jovic come into his own, with his 27 goals in all competitions keeping Frankfurt's European charge alive on two fronts – in the Bundesliga and the UEFA Europa League, where they were eventually knocked out on penalties by Chelsea in the semi-finals. The Serbia international netted in both legs against the Blues and successfully converted his spot-kick in the shootout, but it wasn't quite enough to take Die Adler to the showpiece in Baku.
Lewandowski parallels were also inevitable when Jovic hit five goals against Fortuna Düsseldorf in mid-October, in a dazzling performance that had the rest of the footballing world sitting up and taking notice. The goals themselves were superbly taken – two left-footed volleys, two instinctive efforts on the turn and a header, to make it a perfect hat-trick in the second half.
The day, Jovic not only became the 15th player to hit five goals in a single Bundesliga outing, but the youngest of the bunch at 20 years and 300 days old. The last man to achieve the feat had of course been Lewy, in September 2015, when he came off the bench to stun Wolfsburg with a record-breaking salvo of five goals in just nine minutes.
Watch: Jovic's five-goal splurge against Düsseldorf
Lewandowski has been making the extraordinary look ordinary for many years, and his insatiable hunger for goals only increased when he joined Bayern in summer 2014.
He has hit the 20-goal mark in seven of his nine Bundesliga seasons – even notching 30 in 2015/16 and 2016/17 – and surpassed the 200-goal milestone in April's 5-0 thrashing of his old club Dortmund. With a grand total of 202 strikes in 289 appearances, the 30-year-old sits fifth in the list of all-time scorers, and boasts the most goals of any non-German.
The Poland national captain is on course to land his fourth top scorer's cannon after 2014, 2016 and 2018, as he goes into the final day with a four-goal advantage over BVB's Paco Alcacer. Jovic lies third in this season's scoring charts on 17, having shown throughout the campaign that he is ready to tussle with the big boys. No wonder Frankfurt made his loan deal from Benfica permanent in April.
"Luka's development with us has been great to see," enthused Eintracht team manager Fredi Bobic. "For us there was never any doubt about wanting to bring him here permanently. He's a player with extraordinary abilities. It's important for us to sign him."
So, can Jovic follow in Lewandowski's footsteps and become the Bundesliga's next goal machine? The Frankfurt star certainly has the potential, and shares many of his Bayern counterpart's exceptional attributes; he boasts great strength and agility, can strike the ball with both feet and is dominant in the air.
For so young a player, he is also ice-cool in front of goal. With both players, the danger can come from anywhere, and they're also not shy about setting up better-placed teammates; Lewandowski has seven assists this term, and Jovic five.
The Serbian would certainly do well to take a leaf or two out of the Pole's book if he hopes to enjoy the same long-term success. Lewandowski is a consummate professional, who is not only in top-notch physical shape – he was nicknamed 'The Body' at Dortmund – but also pays meticulous attention to his dietary and sleeping habits. Consequently, the Bayern striker has remained injury-free for more or less the entirety of his nine-year spell in Germany, and – incredibly – has never missed more than two consecutive games.
If Lewandowski is already the finished article, Jovic is still a rough diamond who could be polished into one of the most brilliant strikers in world football. The Frankfurt No.8 has won plenty of admirers after a breakout campaign and may well be tempted to extend his stay in Frankfurt beyond his current deal, which expires in 2023 - especially if the Eagles can snatch a place in the Champions League on Saturday. After all, as his opposite number at Bayern could tell him, there are few playgrounds as pleasing for a prolific poacher as the goal-glutted German top flight.
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