Former Bayern Munich player Lothar Matthäus (r.) firmly believes Robert Lewandowski (l.) will break the Bundesliga scoring record this season. - © via images / DeFodi
Former Bayern Munich player Lothar Matthäus (r.) firmly believes Robert Lewandowski (l.) will break the Bundesliga scoring record this season. - © via images / DeFodi

"Robert Lewandowski will score at least 41 goals" - Lothar Matthäus

Bundesliga and Germany legend Lothar Matthäus has no doubt whatsoever that Robert Lewandowski will break Gerd Müller's long-standing goal record this season, but he believes RB Leipzig are "genuine contenders" for the league title alongside Bayern Munich. sat down with the World Player of the Year from 1990 for his thoughts on Lewandowski, Alphonso Davies, Manuel Neuer and the decisive phase of the 2020/21 campaign. Lothar Matthäus, Lewandowski is scoring non-stop at the moment. Do you think he can beat Gerd Müller's record for goals in a season?

Matthäus: "I would bet a lot of money on him breaking that record, not only because of Lewandowski's quality but also the style in which Bayern play. When you play for Bayern and the team are averaging four goals per game in the Champions League and in the Bundesliga, you're automatically among the goals as a striker. Even if they scored three per game the striker will score one of them, so he'll always get his chances. Lewandowski had nine shots against Borussia Dortmund and scored three of them. It's crazy what he is producing and it’s not like he is shooting from 30 metres just to have an attempt on goal: when Lewandowski has a shot it's really dangerous for the opponent. He also takes the penalties, so I would say that Lewandowski will score at least 41 goals this season and break Müller's record."

Watch: Lewandowski's race to 40 goals RB Leipzig are in the mix for the title race. How can they keep the pace with Bayern?

Matthäus: "The players have grown in stature. We always speak about Bayern having Lewandowski and Neuer, but Leipzig have brought in players from abroad. There are very few German players in the starting line-up, but they are all impactful players, such as Willi Orban or Dominik Szoboszlai from Hungary, Marcel Sabitzer from Austria, Emil Forsberg from Sweden, Yussuf Poulsen from Denmark and the group of French players there. That is top quality there.

"They have an ambitious coach, they have different systems they can play in, both in defence and attack, that are fully rehearsed and work, plus they have a strong bench, which is deeper than Bayern's. Leipzig are brilliantly set up for this season and the title race, also for their other challenges, such as the cup.

"Leipzig deserve to be where they are in the league, second place right behind Bayern, and if you wish to be bold, you could suggest that if they win their next 10 games then they will be champions. They have a game against Bayern and are just two points behind [pre-Matchday 25]. They won't win all 10 games but they are a genuine contender and Bayern know that." What suggests that the title race will remain tight until the end?

Matthäus: "I forgot to mention before, Leipzig also have the results from last season. They were in the DFB Cup final [in 2019] and reached the Champions League semi-finals. That is psychologically important for the players to experience that kind of success. They didn't win a title, but reaching those levels for such a young club will have given the players a certain self-confidence: 'We were so close to Bayern, we lost the Champions League semi to Paris, not Bayern, but they won that title and the German Cup and we were so close to them.' I believe Leipzig have that top quality and these results will have made every single player stronger."

Watch: From the archives - Matthäus' top 5 Bundesliga goals And do Leipzig believe they will keep going strong until the end?

Matthäus: "Yeah, the players believe in themselves more. Previously you'd have said, 'ok, you'll be fourth or fifth, you're are a young club, you're are in the Champions League for the third time, and are progressing all the time'.  Now they have even gained experience in the Champions League by coming out of a group with PSG and Manchester United in it. This is building a foundation on which the team can become stronger, more confident and believe in themselves more." Are Bayern perhaps beatable?

Matthäus: "Yeah, there is a chance there. Leipzig cannot afford to make any mistakes. They managed their bogey team Freiburg very well, a team that has often made life very difficult for them and cost them points. The important thing is that when you want to beat a team like Bayern in the league, you have a chance against them in a game but the league itself is long.

"When you want to win it, you need Bayern to have a lull, two of which they've had. They shouldn't have dropped two points against Bielefeld, but they had come from the Club World Cup in Doha. The loss to Frankfurt can happen given the way they play. You need to be ready to pounce then and Leipzig were: they had a period when Bayern picked up one point in two games, Leipzig had six. That was a point when Bayern realised they had company.

"It's great for the Bundesliga and the fans that we have a title race. And I believe, because of the quality Leipzig bring, not just in the starting team but on the bench, they are a real threat for the other big clubs who compete for the Champions League places but they can also give Bayern's throne a little shake. An important player in Dayot Upamecano will leave Leipzig for Bayern, which is often the case, but where should Bayern pick up players from the Bundesliga if not from their biggest rivals? Otherwise, they would not improve. It's a win-win situation for Bayern as they not only strengthen themselves with a great player but also weaken their big rivals."

Watch: Why Upamecano is the perfect signing for Bayern At the moment, with Manuel Neuer, Peter Gulacsi, Yann Sommer and Lukas Hradecky, there are plenty of strong goalkeepers in the Bundesliga. Who excites you most?

Matthäus: "If I had to choose from those four, I would go for Neuer. If I have Manuel Neuer in my team, I don't need the other three. It's like Oliver Kahn in the past. It won’t hurt the others: Manuel is the best and the others know that too, it's no secret and nothing against the others. They're all great keepers, who have given their teams many wins, earned many points with brilliant saves.

"But with Manuel Neuer behind you, similar to Oliver Kahn, you know as a defensive player that even if you make a mistake, he is likely to bail you out. At the moment he's conceding a lot but is producing world-class performances. It's down to Bayern's playing style, which means even Neuer hasn’t been able to stop the 34 goals [pre-Werder Bremen] they've conceded to date."

Watch: Neuer under the tactical microscope What comes to your mind when you think of Alphonso Davies?

Matthäus: "High speed, a young player who was moved from an attacking position further down the pitch and has done well, just like when I was at Mönchengladbach in 1979. Ok, I was in the third or fourth division, but I went from being a centre forward to all of a sudden being a defensive midfielder. It's easier for a young player because you don't have to act, you can react when you have that speed.

"Alphonso Davies has tactical problems, he's not always ideally positioned. He won't always play the perfect pass up the pitch, like David Alaba and Joshua Kimmich did three or four years ago. However, he has a huge advantage in that when he makes a mistake or is in the wrong place, he is so fast that he irons out the mistakes with his speed.

"Around 18 months ago I was on the American tour when Bayern played against AC Milan, and Davies hadn't settled in yet. He had three misplaced passes in the first half, all in build-up play in his own half or the halfway line, but he chased down the balls himself with his speed. It doesn't work in every situation or in every game, but he's improving in his build-up play, he no longer gives the ball directly to the opposition. He's learning and I think it's important for a young player to learn from this and build on it.

"He's an asset for the Bundesliga, he's had a great year, going from a nobody to a treble winner and in the Champions League Team of the Year. He's done that through his performances at left back, not just defensively but largely in attack because he creates a lot of pressure. This is down to his experience as an attacker, which he brings into his game in his new position.

"It's something he has to do as it's Bayern Munich's style to have these wing backs. Before Davies it was Alaba and Kimmich on the other side. Pavard, for example, is a bit of a different player because he has the defensive capabilities, also from his experience with France, but you expected Kimmich and Alaba to march forward down the wings. Kimmich also provided a lot of assists. Davies is a big threat down the left side with his speed but he is not quite there with his crosses, compared to someone like Filip Kostic, or his finishing, compared to Angelino. He needs some more time with that but he is still just 20. You can't expect much more from a 20-year-old. He will improve, he will play better crosses, he will score more often, he is an exceptional talent and has a God-given ability in his speed."