Germany's Bundesliga teams will be forced to enter 'quarantine training camps' next month in a move designed to ensure the season ends before Euro 2020.

The drastic step was announced by the German football league (DFL) on Thursday and will begin on May 3 with an initial soft quarantine as players, coaches and team officials are ordered to only leave their homes to visit club training facilities or to take part in a matchday.

A harder quarantine will follow from May 12 as the same groups are ordered to stay in locked-down team camps away from their families when not involved in games, with that period ending after the final matches of the season take place on the weekend of May 22-23. It means teams must provide accommodation and living quarters for players and core team staff over that period.

The new rules will apply to all 18 clubs in the Bundesliga and also those that make up the 2. Bundesliga, with the DFL declaring it had told clubs in March that this step was under consideration.

Hertha Berlin players were ordered to isolate last week in a move that has seen three of their Bundesliga games postponed, while the second division of the league has also been hit by call-offs due to COVID-19 cases, complicating the task of finishing the season on time.

Any further cases in the closing weeks of the campaign could cause fixture backlogs that may prove insurmountable before the Euros. Relegation play-offs follow the Bundesliga regular season, and Euro 2020 begins on June 11.

The DFL said in a statement: "Two steps are planned: firstly, the group of persons included in the regular PCR testing programme, comprising the professional team, coaching team and team officials, must stay solely in their home environment or on the training premises/in the stadium ['quasi quarantine'] from Monday, 3 May.

"This is intended to reduce contact and further minimise the infection risk and was successfully implemented in the final phase of last season after the resumption of match operations.

"In the next step, from Wednesday, 12 May, the corresponding group of persons at all 36 clubs will enter a 'quarantine training camp', having undergone a PCR test with a negative result no more than 24 hours beforehand. The 'quarantine training camp' is compulsory until the end of the final match of the respective club on matchday 34 [22/23 May]. Consequently, the last two matchdays of the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 according to the fixture list fall within this specific period.

"The purpose of the 'quarantine training camps' is to provide extra safeguards for the staging of matches, particularly in view of the time pressure caused by UEFA EURO, which follows the regular season.

"It is the clubs' responsibility to ensure that players, coaches and training staff come into contact with no one but each other during the stated period."

Bayern Munich, who said they welcomed the quarantine plan, look set to wrap up the Bundesliga title before their players are forced to collectively isolate. Victory over Mainz on Saturday would guarantee a ninth successive championship for the Bavarians.

France, Spain or Germany?

Eduardo Camavinga has admirers following his exploits for Rennes in Ligue 1.

Some of Europe's biggest clubs are interested, but could he be set for Bavaria?

 

TOP STORY – CAMAVINGA WANTED IN GERMANY

Bayern Munich are hoping to sign Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga, according to France Football.

Camavinga is unwilling to extend his Rennes contract and the 18-year-old has been linked with Real Madrid, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal.

Borussia Monchengladbach's Florian Neuhaus is also on Bayern's list, though the Bundesliga champions reportedly feel Camavinga could be better value for money.

 

ROUND-UP

- Who will permanently replace Jose Mourinho as Tottenham head coach following his sacking on Monday? Football Italia claims Spurs have contacted former Juventus, Chelsea and Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri. The Daily Mail, however, reports RB Leipzig's Julian Nagelsmann is Tottenham's top candidate.

- La Razon says West Ham are leading the race to sign Sevilla forward Youssef En-Nesyri, who has also been linked with United and Liverpool.

PSG are the most likely suitors for Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin, according to Sport. Bellerin is likely to leave the Gunners and he has been linked to Barcelona.

- Sport says Barca's plans depend on Lionel Messi's future. Messi is out of contract at the end of the season, but president Joan Laporta is keen to re-sign the superstar amid reported interest from PSG and Manchester City. It comes as Barca target Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, who has also been linked with rivals Real Madrid, United, City, Chelsea, Liverpool, PSG and Juventus. Lyon captain Memphis Depay, City's Sergio Aguero and Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum are also reportedly wanted at Camp Nou.

Julian Nagelsmann reiterated he has not held talks about the Bayern Munich job – and likened speculation he has to breaking up with a German model who has never actually been his girlfriend.

RB Leipzig head coach Nagelsmann was speaking a day after Hansi Flick announced he was set to leave Bayern at the end of the season.

Flick has been strongly tipped to take over as Germany national team coach with current boss Joachim Low stepping down after the rescheduled Euro 2020 tournament.

Nagelsmann is among the leading contenders to succeed Flick at the Allianz Arena with former Bayern and Germany international Lothar Matthaus indicating he was a shoo-in for the job.

The 33-year-old has won 52, drawn 21 and lost 15 of his 88 matches in charge of Leipzig with a win percentage of 59.09.

But he has again stressed no discussions between himself and Bayern have taken place.

"There is simply nothing I can report," Nagelsmann told a media conference on Sunday ahead of Leipzig's Bundesliga clash with Cologne.

"I think it's totally wrong to then sit down and say what if, and maybe get yourself talked about somewhere and make yourself important on things that aren't there.

"I can't sit down and say, I'm going to break up with Lena Gercke [German model] tomorrow, because I've never dated her, for example.

"I'm sorry to say that there are no new developments compared to the last press conference. The same things apply that I said there.

"There are and were no discussions and no offer. That's why I don't know what Bayern's wish is. I have said I don't want to start a war with my employers - that's still the case."

 

Lothar Matthaus expects Julian Nagelsmann to replace Hansi Flick at Bayern Munich and believes Jesse Marsch will be the next RB Leipzig boss.

Flick on Saturday announced he wants to leave Bayern at the end of the season and has made no secret of his interest in succeeding Germany head coach Joachim Low.

Matthaus thinks Flick will land the Germany job, with Bayern moving for Leipzig's 33-year-old coach Nagelsmann.

Bayern and Germany legend Matthaus envisages Leipzig turning to Red Bull Salzburg's Marsch to fill the void if Nagelsmann is appointed as boss of the European champions.

He told Sky: "My opinion is: Flick to the DFB, Nagelsmann to Bayern and Jesse Marsch to Leipzig."

Matthaus added: "Of course, Bayern didn't speak to Julian Nagelsmann directly, but started the conversation with Julian Nagelsmann's side and I'm still standing by that today.

"I am convinced that Julian Nagelsmann will succeed Hansi Flick. He wants to take the next step."

Matthaus believes Marsch would be a shrewd appointment if Leipzig are in the market for a new coach.

"He would be a good guy for the Bundesliga," said the ex-midfielder.

"Nagelsmann would be satisfied. Marsch would be satisfied. I can imagine that going in this direction, but there are contracts that have to be respected."

Matthaus thinks it is only a matter of time before Flick agrees terms to take charge of his country.

"Now the talks will get serious. He will succeed Joachim Low. Everyone knows him at the DFB. Everyone likes him at the DFB."

A new defender appears to be at the forefront of Manchester United's planning.

The Premier League giants have been linked with a host of centre-backs.

But they could turn to a familiar club to bolster their defence.

 

TOP STORY – ANOTHER LEICESTER DEFENDER SET FOR OLD TRAFFORD?

Manchester United are eyeing Leicester City defender Wesley Fofana, according to Foot Mercato.

United are targeting a new partner for former Leicester star Harry Maguire – the world's most expensive centre-back – amid links to RB Leipzig's Ibrahima Konate, Sevilla's Jules Kounde, Villarreal defender Pau Torres and Real Madrid pair Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane.

Fofana only joined Leicester from Saint-Etienne at the start of the season and is contracted until 2025.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano says Konate remains one of Liverpool's top transfer targets. Liverpool are reportedly preparing a five-year contract.

Arsenal are targeting Rennes and France sensation Eduardo Camavinga, reports Marca. The 18-year-old midfielder, who has already rejected a contract extension, has been linked with Madrid, United and Paris Saint-Germain.

- Inter's Martin Satriano is attracting interest from Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea, PSG and Leipzig, claims the Daily Mail.

- Tottenham are considering a move for Barcelona's Emerson, says Mundo Deportivo. The 22-year-old is currently on loan at Real Betis amid links with Inter and PSG.

Atletico Madrid are eyeing Juventus sensation Nicolo Rovella and Udinese's Nahuel Molina, according to Mundo Deportivo.

- Gazzetta dello Sport reports Milan have enquired about Lille goalkeeper Mike Maignan as the Serie A side consider alternatives to Gianluigi Donnarumma should he fail to sign a contract extension. Meanwhile, SportItalia says Milan have offered Inter full-back Danilo D'Ambrosio a two-year deal. The Italian is out of contract at season's end.

Ibrahima Konate has cast fresh doubt on suggestions he will leave RB Leipzig to join Liverpool at the end of the season.

The 21-year-old French defender is said to have a €40million (£34.8m) release clause in his contract and reports have claimed the Reds may activate that.

However, Leipzig sporting director Markus Krosche last month told Stats Perform News the move was "not an option" for Konate to consider.

Now, Konate has spoken on the matter, telling German newspaper Bild: "I have a contract until 2023. And contracts are there to be fulfilled.

"There are often rumours in football and many believe them immediately. I or my agents did not get a call from Liverpool.

"I also have big goals with RB Leipzig: to get the best possible result in the Bundesliga, reach the cup final and the Under-21 European Championship with France."

Leipzig, sitting second in the Bundesliga, were facing a home assignment on Friday against Hoffenheim as they looked to put pressure on leaders Bayern Munich.

Unlike Liverpool, whose hopes hang in the balance, Leipzig appear certain to be in the Champions League next season.

Yet they will lose one star French defender when Dayot Upamecano defects to Bayern Munich at the end of the campaign, and to see another depart might be considered a body blow.

Konate is already thinking about life at Leipzig after Upamecano leaves, insisting he wants to be appraised on his own merits rather than compared to the future Bayern star.

"I don't want to be Dayot's successor. I'm me," said Konate. "We both came to Leipzig in 2017 and played well together here. Unfortunately, our paths are now parting. I'll let Dayot have his new job and continue doing my thing here."

Injuries have got in the way of Konate's progress and he has played in just 11 Bundesliga games this season, starting five times in the competition.

In that time he has achieved a duel success rate of 68.66 per cent, which is the third highest among defenders with more than 500 minutes on the pitch this season in Germany's top flight. Opta defines a duel as a '50-50 contest between two players of opposing sides'.

Konate has also won 23 of his 26 aerial challenges in the Bundesliga during the current campaign, and three of four tackles.

On the tackles front, Konate has good examples to follow in the Leipzig ranks of players with strong success rates. Among defenders with over 500 minutes of action in the Bundesliga this term, Lukas Klostermann ranks first in the league with a 92.31 per cent rate (12 of 13 tackles won), while Upamecano is fourth with 81.82 per cent (27 of 33 won).

Julian Nagelsmann insists there have been no talks with Bayern Munich as he made clear his contract with RB Leipzig runs until 2023.

Hansi Flick has been hugely successful since taking charge at Bayern, but a strained relationship with sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic has led to speculation over his future beyond the current campaign.

Amid links to the upcoming vacancy with the Germany national team, Flick cryptically said after the Champions League exit to Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday: "I have a contract with Bayern but you always have thoughts about how the future looks and if everything is working wonderfully here."

Lothar Matthaus claimed while working for Sky Deutschland's coverage of the Champions League second leg that Bayern had already "talked a bit" to Nagelsmann about taking over, should Flick leave his current post.

However, speaking to the media on Wednesday, the Leipzig boss denied having held any such conversations with the reigning Bundesliga champions.

"There were and are no talks with Bayern. I have no idea where Lothar got this information from. This of course also applies to my advisors, there were also no talks," Nagelsmann said.

"I have not spoken to the club because there will be nothing to discuss. I still have a contract with RB until 2023."

Nagelsmann was speaking to preview second-placed Leipzig’s home game against his former employers Hoffenheim on Friday.

The game offers the hosts a chance to increase the pressure on table-topping Bayern in the title race; the gap stands at five points with six games to play in the season.

"We still need eight points for this to be the most successful season in the club’s history," Nagelsmann said ahead of the run-in.

"We have to win our games – it is that simple. We are focusing only on ourselves in order to get as many points as we can. Then we will see whether Bayern stumble or not. Normally, it wouldn't happen.

"If we finish in second then it was still an outstanding season. 

"We still have room to develop as a team and we have had a really consistent season even though we have so many young players in our ranks. We have been good, you've seen that already. If we can now go from good to great then we would be more than happy."

Cristiano Ronaldo's future beyond this season has been a hot topic of discussion.

The 36-year-old Portuguese forward appears set to exit Juventus after three seasons in Turin, despite being contracted for another year.

Ronaldo has been linked with former club Real Madrid and a switch to the United States, but there may be another option.

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO IN UTD-JUVE SWAP DEAL

Manchester United want to sign Cristiano Ronaldo this off-season and would consider a swap deal with Juventus for Paul Pogba, according to Calciomercato.

Ronaldo played for United from 2003 to 2009 in the earlier part of his career, making almost 300 appearances for the Red Devils before his blockbuster move to Real Madrid.

Pogba, who spent time at Juventus from 2012 to 2016, has also been the subject of transfer speculation.

Juventus have this week been linked with a mega swap deal with United as they look for a transfer shake-up this off-season.

ROUND-UP

- The Independent reports Harry Kane's preference, if he was to leave Tottenham, is to remain in England and join either United or Manchester City.

- Juve forward Paulo Dybala has attracted interest from Premier League pair United and Chelsea, claims Tuttosport.

- United are also keen on an off-season move for Madrid defender Raphael Varane, according to The Mail. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United have also been linked with Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, RB Leipzig centre-back Ibrahima Konate, Sevilla star Jules Kounde and Villarreal defender Pau Torres.

- The Daily Mail reports Bayern Munich are bullish they can sign Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland as Robert Lewandowski's heir if he remains in Germany for one more season amid widespread interest this upcoming off-season. Haaland has been heavily linked with City, United, Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

- Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira is wanted by Argentine giants Boca Juniors, reports TyC Sports. Torreira is currently on loan at Atletico Madrid.

RB Leipzig have completed a permanent deal for Benjamin Henrichs, who has been on loan at the Bundesliga club in the 2020-21 season.

Henrichs has made 15 appearances in all competitions since joining from Monaco, with his campaign hampered by injury issues.

However, the Germany international contributed his first goal involvement on Saturday, providing the assist as captain Marcel Sabitzer completed the scoring in second-placed Leipzig's 4-1 triumph at Werder Bremen.

The 24-year-old has signed a contract that runs through to 2025 after the purchase option was activated, reportedly at a cost of €15million.

"Since first coming to Leipzig, it’s been my goal to stay for the long term. I feel really good here and am pleased to be an RB Leipzig player for the coming years," Henrichs told Leipzig's website.

"The injuries I've suffered this season are completely behind me. Now I want to get back at it along with the rest of the team."

Leipzig's resounding triumph over Bremen allowed them to close the gap to leaders Bayern Munich, who were surprisingly held to a 1-1 draw by Union Berlin at the weekend.

Julian Nagelsmann's side trail the reigning league champions by five points with eight games remaining.

Henrichs previously played for Bayer Leverkusen before joining Monaco in 2018.

What does the future hold for Kylian Mbappe and Cristiano Ronaldo?

Mbappe has been heavily linked with Real Madrid, while Ronaldo's future at Juventus is far from certain.

A possible switch to the Spanish capital could reportedly impact Ronaldo.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE OUT, RONALDO IN AT PSG?

Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo could join Paris Saint-Germain if Kylian Mbappe leaves for Real Madrid, according to Tuttosport.

Mbappe has long been tipped to swap Ligue 1 holders PSG for LaLiga champions Madrid, who have been linked with Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and Inter forward Romelu Lukaku.

If Mbappe makes the move to the Santiago Bernabeu, it could send Ronald to Paris as Juve look to reduce their wage bill in Turin.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Athletic reports Harry Kane will ask to leave Tottenham if they do not qualify for next season's Champions League. The Spurs star has been linked with Manchester United, Manchester City and Madrid.

Barcelona are eyeing Tottenham defender Davinson Sanchez, claims Mundo Deportivo. The LaLiga giants are not rumoured to be interested in Bayern Munich's Jerome Boateng, who is set to depart Bavaria at season's end.

- The Mirror says Liverpool are interested in signing Barca star Pedri, who reportedly has a release clause around £70million (€81m).

United have been warned West Ham will not accept an offer to include Jesse Lingard as part of a deal to prise Declan Rice to Old Trafford, claims The Sun. United are also keen to bring back Sam Johnstone from West Brom if David de Gea or Dean Henderson leave.

- Bild says Liverpool are entering the final stages of a deal for RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate. Premier League rivals United have also been linked.

Lionel Messi's future is a popular topic.

Messi wanted to leave Barcelona at the start of the season but opted to remain at Camp Nou.

With his contract expiring at the end of 2020-21, the Barca superstar is continuing to make headlines.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI WAITING ON BARCA

Barcelona have yet to make a move to re-sign superstar captain Lionel Messi, according to the front page of Wednesday's Marca.

Messi is out of contract at the end of the season and his future is far from certain, having been tipped to join either Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City.

Led by new president Joan Laporta, Barca are determined to retain the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

 

ROUND-UP

- Mundo Deportivo reports Ousmane Dembele wants to continue with Barca, but speculation is mounting that Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar could return to Camp Nou. Neymar – who left Barca for PSG in a world-record €222million deal in 2017 – has been negotiating a new contract in the French capital. Dembele has previously been linked with Manchester United.

Manchester City are eyeing a new striker but they are unwilling to spend "crazy" money, claims Fabrizio Romano. With Sergio Aguero – linked with Chelsea, Inter, PSG and Barcelona – leaving on a free transfer, Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland has emerged as City's prime target, while Tottenham star Harry Kane is another option.

- Goal says Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli and Juventus' Federico Bernardeschi could swap clubs. Both players have struggled this season and they could reportedly be involved in an exchange deal. Romagnoli has attracted interest from Barca and Chelsea.

- Eurosport reports United and Liverpool could go head-to-head in a battle to sign RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate. The 21-year-old has been heavily linked with Liverpool, but United are also interested. Sevilla's Jules Kounde, Madrid captain Sergio Ramos and team-mate Raphael Varane, Villarreal's Pau Torres and Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly are also reportedly being monitored at Old Trafford.

- Romano claims there are "huge chances" for Hector Bellerin to leave Arsenal. The Spaniard was previously linked with PSG and Barca.

Hansi Flick hailed his side's "mentality" after they moved seven points clear at the Bundesliga summit with a 1-0 win over RB Leipzig on Saturday. 

Leon Goretzka's third goal in his last four top-flight games proved the difference at the Red Bull Arena as Bayern took a significant step towards a ninth consecutive Bundesliga title. 

It marked the 62nd consecutive match in which Bayern have found the back of the net, setting a new record in Germany football since the Bundesliga was founded in 1963. 

Bayern did not have it all their own way against Leipzig, who had 14 shots to their nine, and Flick acknowledged his side had to use all of their mental strength to claim all three points against their second-placed hosts. 

"It was a top game and Leipzig showed why they are right up there," he told Sky. "We were on the trigger right from the start. 

"We didn't play forward as we would have wanted, but the goal was played out nicely. Leipzig caused us some problems, but the morale and mentality of my players is really excellent."

Goretzka's goal was created by Thomas Muller, who has now been involved in 11 goals in his last 10 Bundesliga games (four goals, seven assists). 

The 31-year-old has not played for Germany since November 2018 after being deemed surplus to requirements by Joachim Low.

However, there have been growing calls for him to be recalled for the rescheduled Euro 2020 at the end of the domestic season. 

Flick praised Muller for his "sensational" campaign, but said he did not want to influence Low, who he was assistant to between 2006 and 2014.

"I don't have to interfere," he added. "Thomas Muller is playing a sensational season. He can be important for other teams too, but in the end it has to be decided by Jogi. 

"He pushes his team-mates again and again, also in training. I am glad that we have such players in our ranks."

No side leading the Bundesliga by at least seven points after 27 games has failed to go on and win the title, but goalscorer Goretzka is refusing to get carried away.

"There are still 21 points to be awarded," he said. "It was a big step, but not the decisive one."

Bayern host Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday before welcoming Union Berlin to the Allianz Arena in the Bundesliga four days later.

Bayern Munich took a giant stride towards a ninth consecutive Bundesliga title as Leon Goretzka's goal sealed a 1-0 win over nearest rivals RB Leipzig on Saturday. 

Hansi Flick's side, who were without top goalscorer Robert Lewandowski after he sustained a knee injury on international duty with Poland, are now seven points ahead of second-placed Leipzig, with seven games remaining. 

A fifth straight Bundesliga win was secured seven minutes before the interval, Goretzka powering home after smart play by Thomas Muller – a German-record 62nd consecutive match in which they have scored. 

Leipzig came close to securing a point on a number of occasions in the second half, but their eight-game unbeaten league run – and possibly their title hopes – ultimately came to an end at the Red Bull Arena.

Despite doing much of the pressing in the early stages, Leipzig were unable to trouble Manuel Neuer in the Bayern goal. 

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting fizzed wide midway through the first half before Bayern went ahead with their first shot on target in the 38th minute. 

Thomas Muller pulled the ball back to Goretzka, who thundered into Peter Gulacsi's top-left corner from 15 yards for his fifth Bundesliga goal of the campaign. 

Gulacsi got down well to paw away Leroy Sane's volley from outside the area as Bayern threatened to extend their advantage before the interval.

Dani Olmo twice went close straight after the break, while Neuer superbly tipped over Marcel Sabitzer's long-range drive. 

Muller was denied by Gulacsi late on, but it mattered little in the end as Bayern held on for a vital three points with the minimum of fuss. 

News of Robert Lewandowski being ruled out for a month on Tuesday left many feeling the pendulum might have swung in RB Leipzig's favour in the Bundesliga title race.

Enjoying another phenomenal season, the Poland striker has been irresistible for reigning champions Bayern and had come to within touching distance of history.

With 35 league goals in just 25 matches, Lewandowski was just five strikes from equalling Gerd Muller's all-time single-season record – no one has matched that haul since the Bayern and West Germany great achieved it in 1971-72.

Although already seemingly certain to be regarded as a Bundesliga icon long after he hangs up his boots, eclipsing such a feat while well into his thirties would have surely elevated his legend to a whole new level in German football history.

Who knows, he may yet reach it this term. Assuming he is out for exactly four weeks, the time period Bayern themselves specified, netting another six in Bayern's final three league games is by no means beyond Lewandowski given the rate he had been scoring at.

But without suffering his knee injury against Andorra, he would have had eight league matches to reach that figure, while his absence will also surely impact on the collective for Bayern.

Hansi Flick's men are top but only have a four-point cushion ahead of RB Leipzig, whom they will hosted by on Saturday in a game that could have decisive ramifications on the title race.

But Leipzig cannot fall into the trap of taking the absence of Lewandowski – whose xG overperformance of 8.8 for non-penalty goals (29 scored, 20.2 xG) is unmatched across Europe's top five leagues – for granted.

 

"Basically, Bayern still has a lot of good players even if Robert Lewandowski will be missing the game," Leipzig sporting director Markus Krosche told Stats Perform News. "They can replace him.

"Of course, he is a very important player for them after having scored 35 goals, but the squad is good enough to replace him. That's still not our focus.

"We have to focus on ourselves and what happens on the pitch because that's what counts for us. If we push ourselves to the limit, then we have a great possibility to beat them. It doesn't matter if they play with or without Lewandowski."

Victory for Bayern in Leipzig will see them take a huge step towards a ninth successive Bundesliga title and the omens aren't great for Julian Nagelsmann's side, having won just once in 11 competitive meetings with Bayern.

But Die Roten Bullen head into the weekend unbeaten in eight league games, a run that's seen them amass 22 from a possible 24 points and subsequently claw themselves back to within just a few points of Bayern.

"I am pretty proud," Krosche replied when asked how if felt to be Bayern's main rival in 2020-21. "But not only because we are second in the league and their closest rival, but also the way we have been playing in the last few months makes me proud.

"The boys did a great job and have developed well. The way we play is one of the best styles in the Bundesliga, and it is because of our playing style that we could achieve these results. I am proud about the development of the boys.

"We need to keep doing the same things just like in the last few weeks and months. We need to show this football on the pitch. Of course, we need to push ourselves to the limit against Bayern, but we have a lot of self-confidence.

"Our playing style is really good and the boys are convinced of our idea of how to play. So, we'll try to reach our maximum and then we have a good chance to beat them."

 

Stopping Bayern as an attacking threat will be half the battle on Saturday, as Die Roten are averaging three goals every game in the Bundesliga and haven't fired blanks in any of their previous 61 matches across all competitions, equalling a club record. Coincidentally, Leipzig were the last team to shut them out in February last year.

Despite such a remarkable run, Bayern have not been immune to criticism and the fact they aren't yet cruising at the top has led to suggestions of the champions being a shadow of their former selves, and losing Lewandowski for a month won't help.

But Krosche is adamant talk of a Bayern with "weaknesses" has been over the top, instead surmising the chasing pack has improved, with Leipzig boasting the best defence in the league (21 conceded). He said: "Bayern have not played a bad season. People say that they have some weaknesses this season but that's not the case.

"I think it's basically the case that we are doing very well. We have a very good balance between offence and defence. That's what makes us strong this season, and that's the reason why we are so close to Bayern right now.

 

"What will be decisive on Saturday is how we can find the balance. This is our plan and we'll try to do it. I don't want to reduce it to 'Bayern are having weaknesses' but rather say that we are consistent this year and that we have a good opportunity to move even closer when we beat them."

Beyond the potential impact on the title race, Saturday will be a particularly intriguing contest for Dayot Upamecano, who has already agreed to join Bayern at the end of the season. Krosche hopes he can succeed in Munich but was non-committal on projecting the Frenchman's future at the Allianz Arena.

"Upa is a player that has everything you need. He is a young guy who already has a lot of international experience," he continued. "As I said, he's got everything. He is an important player for us. He has a bright future ahead.

"I don't know what will happen at Bayern next season. He has a lot of potential for further development, but we will see. We are happy that he is still with us and we hope that we can be successful this season with him. Then we will see how he performs at Bayern."

One thing's for certain, Upamecano will be relieved to know the next time he has to come up against Lewandowski will only be a training session.

Timo Werner only joined Chelsea at the start of the season, but could he leave Stamford Bridge?

Premier League giants Chelsea are among the clubs interested in Erling Haaland.

But reports claim Chelsea are not prepared to sanction a Werner exit.

 

TOP STORY – NO CHELSEA EXIT FOR WERNER

Chelsea are not planning on selling Timo Werner as they eye Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, according to Telegraph.

Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea have been heavily linked with Haaland, who is also being targeted by Real Madrid, Manchester City, Barcelona, Manchester United, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

But Chelsea are against the idea of parting with Werner or using the German forward in a deal to prise Haaland to Stamford Bridge after one season in London.

 

ROUND-UP

Barca are eyeing a move for Sergio Aguero after City announced their all-time leading goalscorer will leave the club on a free transfer at season's end, claims Fabrizio Romano. Inter, Chelsea and PSG have also been linked.

- Gazzetta dello Sport reports Kalidou Koulibaly is likely to leave Napoli at the end of the season. Koulibaly has been linked with United, PSG and Bayern Munich previously.

- While a Koulibaly departure is on the cards, could legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon arrive? Gazzetta dello Sport claims Napoli are interested in the Juventus great, who is searching for regular football.

Cristiano Ronaldo will decide his future before May, according to Tuttosport. The Juventus superstar has been linked with former clubs Madrid and United, as well as PSG.

- Fiorentina's Dusan Vlahovic, Torino captain Andrea Belotti, PSV's Donyell Malen, AZ's Myron Boadu and Celtic star Odsonne Edouard are on Milan's shortlist of strikers in the transfer window, reports Calciomercato.

- The Athletic and other outlets claim Liverpool are nearing a deal to sign RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate. Leipzig sporting director Markus Krosche played down the possible transfer in an interview with Stats Perform News.

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