Thomas Müller is optimistic Bayern Munich can compensate for the injured Robert Lewandowski in their pursuit of a successful Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League defence, starting with Saturday's trip to RB Leipzig...
bundesliga.com: Robert Lewandowski will be missing for around four weeks. How will the team deal with his absence?
Thomas Müller: "First of all it's a real shame for Lewy and for the entire team. That much is clear. It's not easy to lose the player who is our best goalscorer by a distance and such a big character as well. That's the challenge of the professional game, though, and it isn't something new. In football and in other top-level sports there will always be injuries, even at inopportune moments. That's why we don't just have one player in the team, but many and those players have a lot of quality. It's about the rest of us plugging the gap together now. We still have good options in attack with variations in terms of the line-up. I'm sure it will look a bit different to the games with Lewandowski, but I'm confident that we have a superb team and that we will get the most out of ourselves until Lewy is back."
bundesliga.com: What does that change mean for you personally?
Müller: "It's a change for me, of course. I've been playing with Lewy for seven or eight years now, I'm not exactly sure - I don't quite remember. There's obviously a connection there and we each know how the other reacts to situations; which spaces they take up, when the one-two is on, and so on. Our chemistry is very real and very apparent, so it certainly isn't an advantage for us, or for me personally and for my game, because I look for Lewy. Now I have to find a different teammate who is making those runs, or perhaps I'll be the one receiving passes in the box. As I say, we have to storm into the breach and best case we score as many goals as Lewy would."
bundesliga.com: As a team, will you now be playing for him to an extent?
Müller: "I think Lewy knows his importance to the team. Looking at the last few years and last year in particular, he has been more integrated into the team and has made more of a connection. There was less of him being the goalscorer and the team creating for him. There was more togetherness. We can give him that feeling now as well, but when he isn't on the pitch we won't be thinking about Lewy every second. We will focus on doing everything we can in the Champions League and in the Bundesliga to ensure that we are still in pole position when he is fit again."
bundesliga.com: How will Bayern manage to stay at the top without Lewandowski?
Müller: "That question answers itself really. FC Bayern don’t just have one player, as is the case in football and all other team sports. Of course, we have key players and Lewy is one of those, but the success of a team isn't dependent on a single player. Everyone can be replaced, that is normal, and it is important that other players who are usually in the background take the chance when the key players can't play. Whether those are younger players or more established players with a lot of games under their belts who now have to take on more responsibility. It is an interesting situation for both the supporters outside and for us internally, but we are optimistic."
Müller: "Leipzig's strengths definitely lie in their togetherness and their balance. They know what they want to do on the pitch and are working in a well thought-out structure. At least it seems that way when you watch them. They all seem to be pulling in the same direction and there is no doubt. They have a balanced team and don't depend on a single player. Leipzig are versatile in attack as well as in defence, and regularly play different systems. The consistency they show in getting points on the day is something we have to respect. Nevertheless, we go to Leipzig with a four-point lead and our heads held high and, as you mentioned, I'm not sure we have lost to them before."
Watch: Müller scored twice in a six-goal thriller with Leipzig earlier this season
bundesliga.com: You did, once, under then Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhüttl...
Müller: "It's not particularly relevant what past results have been, although the four draws are evidence of the quality Leipzig have. That is no secret and it is something we have continued to point out. As has often been the case in my career when I have faced that question, I'm positive and we as FC Bayern are always positive that we will win any game. That's how it will be this time as well. We approach the game with optimism, even though we know it will be anything but an easy game."
bundesliga.com: Just four points separate you from Leipzig. Is that a motivating factor for the tie?
Müller: "I'll put it like this: we want to be champions and we know that this is a very unusual season, given the circumstances. We knew all along that it wouldn't be an easy season, given the schedule over summer, with the special playing calendar. That is obvious, but we know that the pressure is on Leipzig and that is obvious, too. We have a four-point lead and are guaranteed to stay top of the table, and should we win it will be a clear statement of intent in the title race. That's why I see it as an advantage for us that the pressure is on Leipzig, if they really have title ambitions. Which I think they do."
Watch: Leipzig vs. Bayern - the Bundesliga's best defence vs. its best attack
bundesliga.com: Bayern have a few very important weeks ahead. What do you expect from yourself and from the team in the final stages of the season?
Müller: "The obvious really. I hope that we have the chance in every competition to win the title by the final matchday, through our own actions and strengths. That goes for the Bundesliga, which is a longer competition in which we will play every week. I think we have eight games left, eight or nine, and we face some good opponents who by extension of that are high up the table. With that in mind, the task is clear to us. As reigning champions, the Champions League is something special for us. Even though I have played a lot in the Champions League already, it's the crowning achievement and we want to qualify for the next round. In Paris Saint-Germain we have drawn a tough opponent, but it's an exciting tie. That is what matters, because you want to play against the best opponents and win!"
bundesliga.com: You're often described as a 'Raumdeuter'. What does that term mean to you and what sets a 'Raumdeuter' apart?
Müller: "I used that term in an interview back in 2011 to emphasise to people that one of my strengths is playing off the ball. The deep runs in behind the ball to carve open spaces for my teammates or to charge into those spaces myself and receive a pass and score. That's how it came about. It's about anticipating moves and finding the spaces and runs that will hurt the defence early."