With Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich all set to reacquaint themselves with European competition, striker Robert Lewandowski is wary of the threat posed by UEFA Champions League opponents Besiktas, but is determined to help ensure the Bavarians advance.
Bayern begin the Round of 16, first leg at their Allianz Arena home with the return encounter against the Turkish champions set for 14 March. For some, hosting the opening game of the tie might represent a disadvantage, but Polish supremo Lewy doesn't see things that way.
"Sometimes it's better to play at home first [if] you don't know your opponent so well," the Bundesliga's leading goalscorer said in an interview with Kicker. "With the experience gained from the home game, you can better assess the opposition when it comes to facing them away and that makes things easier," he explained.
A scorer of 27 goals in 32 games this term - with 20 coming in the Bundesliga - Lewandowski admits to feeling "ok," with his haul of three in the Champions League but was quick to point out that he hasn't featured in all of Bayern's group stage games, the striker missing the Group B meeting against Celtic with a muscular complaint.
"I know that I can score more," the 29-year-old insisted, his 28 shots on goal in the competition thus far proving a hunger to succeed. "You can play well in the Champions League without scoring. The number one aim has nothing to do with your own goals, it is all about doing what it takes to progress," the five-time Bundesliga champion said. "However, I know that my goals can help along the way and they can be proof of a good performance."
Currently featuring in his seventh season in the Champions League, Lewandowski can boast 43 goals in the competition but has yet to lift the prestigious trophy, coming closest in the 2013 final when he was on the losing side with Borussia Dortmund against his current employers in the 2013 showpiece.
Bayern are among the favourites to go all the way in this season's tournament, but Lewandowski's focus is fully on the current task at hand. "The most important phase starts now," the striker said of the knockout stage. "We want to progress but the first match at home [against Besiktas] will be so important as I understand the atmosphere in Istanbul is incredible. Therefore, we must show in the first leg that we are the better team.
"I don't like the word [favourites]; before you can be considered as such, you must demonstrate it out on the pitch," the forward continued. "Besiktas may have sold Cenk Tosun, their best striker, during the winter transfer window, but they are still very dangerous in the penalty area and like to come at you from out wide to create crosses. Having said that, however, I see us having good chances if we play our game."
Set to renew his rivalry with Besiktas central defender Pepe, Poland's all-time top scorer spoke highly of a player he once managed to outfox on a memorable night in Dortmund in 2013. On that occasion, Lewy's four goals helped Die Schwarzgelben to a 4-1 win over their Champions League semi-finalist opponents Real Madrid to take a significant step toward the London final. "Pepe is a great player," the Bayern marksman said. "In the group stage, he showed that he is the boss of the Besiktas defence and he really helps his team."
Admitting that the current Bundesliga leaders should look to, "At least score a goal and not concede," in Tuesday's first leg, Lewandowski added that, "We have to deliver two good games no matter what happens in the first. We have to try to convince in the away match, [that aspect] is something we must improve on."