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.

Robert Lewandowski could have missed his chance to break Gerd Muller's record for goals in a single Bundesliga season, former Bayern Munich forward Roy Makaay says.

Poland striker Lewandowski suffered knee ligament damage in the 3-0 World Cup qualifying win over Andorra and is facing a month out of action.

The 32-year-old will miss both legs of the Champions League quarter-final with Paris Saint-Germain and most likely league matches against RB Leipzig, Union Berlin, Wolfsburg, Bayer Leverkusen and Mainz.

With 35 goals scored in the first 25 matchdays of the Bundesliga season, Lewandowski had looked almost certain to match Muller's famous landmark of 40, set back in 1971-72.

However, given the league leaders have only three matches remaining after they face Mainz on April 24, Makaay thinks the record could have slipped beyond Lewandowski's reach.

The former Netherlands international is also concerned about the options available to coach Hansi Flick when it comes to finding a replacement striker.

"For me, Lewandowski has been the best centre-forward in the world for years. What he does inside and outside the penalty area as a number nine is unbelievable," he told Spox.

"It certainly won't be easy [now] for Lewandowski to break the record. This absence is not good news for Bayern. As for his replacement, you'd have to make that [decision] dependent on the opposition. [Serge] Gnabry is more agile than [Eric Maxim] Choupo-Moting."

However, Makaay remains convinced Lewandowski has plenty yet to offer Bayern in seasons to come, suggesting there would be no pressing need to try to sign Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

"Anyone who scores so consistently at that age can only have a great future ahead of them," Makaay said of the Norway star. "But Lewandowski still has a few very good years ahead of him, I'm sure of that."

Makaay, twice a domestic double winner with Bayern, would have relished the chance to play alongside Lewandowski but also identified two other key players he feels would have made his life as a forward easier.

"Lewandowski and I would certainly have made a good partnership, but I'd also have liked to play with a guy like Thomas Muller," he said.

"The person I really like as a personality is Joshua Kimmich. You want a player like that behind you as a striker. In my time, we had Michael Ballack and later Schweini [Bastian Schweinsteiger] – they weren't too bad, either."

Germany head coach Joachim Low admits he is not completely satisfied with his side with just three months to go until the delayed European Championship finals.

Die Mannschaft cruised to a 3-0 win over Iceland in their opening World Cup 2022 qualifier on Thursday through goals from Leon Goretzka, Kai Havertz and Ilkay Gundogan.

It was a welcome win for Low's men, coming on the back of a 6-0 hammering against Spain in their final match of a poor 2020 that saw them win only three of their eight games.

Germany had 81.5 per cent of the ball, attempted 1,053 passes and had 15 shots compared to Iceland's eight, but Low feels there is plenty of room for improvement.

"I wasn't exactly full of praise for the whole game," he said at a news conference on Saturday previewing the trip to Romania.

"We could have done better in the second half in particular. If we look to the Euros, we have to improve in a few areas. 

"It was a good start and we had a lot of well implemented play. But I'm not yet completely satisfied."

Without the influential Toni Kroos, who withdrew from the squad with a knock, Germany's midfield three of Gundogan, Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich impressed against Iceland.

Jamal Musiala made his debut as a second-half substitute in Duisburg, while Borussia Monchengladbach's highly-rated Florian Neuhaus was also introduced for his fourth cap.

But Low insists Kroos, who remains a regular for Real Madrid, is still integral to his plans.

"The midfield set the tone against Iceland, everyone in their own way. I'm happy about that. But Kroos is a player with immense value to us," said Low, who will end his 15-year tenure after Euro 2020.

"Our strength at major tournaments has been players coming off the bench. We have good players in midfield - any team who wants to achieve something needs that."

Germany's win over Iceland was their 17th in a row in World Cup qualifying, setting a new record and placing them top of Group J ahead of Sunday's trip to Romania.

Niklas Sule has been ruled out of both that match and Wednesday's visit of North Macedonia, while Robin Gosens is also out and Goretzka and Leroy Sane are carrying knocks.

Low does not intend to make many changes ​for the showdown at the National Arena as Germany seek back-to-back competitive wins for the first time since November 2019.

"I'm going to wait until tomorrow to see how things develop with Leon," Low said. "He is the first option in midfield and I hope he can play from the start.

"If he doesn't then it is possible to let Musiala play, or move Serge Gnabry deeper and bring in Timo Werner. Our usual defensive line will start."

Romania kicked off their qualifying campaign with a 3-2 home win against North Macedonia to make it four games without defeat, scoring 12 goals across those fixtures.

And Low expects to face an attack-minded side in Bucharest.

"They have great strengths on the attack and act much more aggressively than Iceland," he said. "We will face completely different challenges.

"I've seen Romania one time or another and we have a lot of information on them. 

"They have technically well-trained players who want the ball. They don't want to defend so much, but they want to play forward. I think Romania's central midfield is very good."

Germany head coach Joachim Low has insisted no final decision has been made on possible recalls for Bayern Munich forward Thomas Muller and Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels.

The experienced pair have not played for their country since being told by Low in March 2019 that they, along with Jerome Boateng, had no future with the national team.

Low's decision to focus on younger talent has not always paid dividends, though, and last November's 6-0 demolition by Spain prompted loud calls from the likes of Mesut Ozil to bring those senior players back into the fold.

A report in Kicker claimed Muller and Hummels are set to be handed places in Low's Euro 2020 squad, which will be his last major tournament in charge before he steps down after 15 years in the role.

While insisting he has made no promises over either player's future, Low did admit the impact of the coronavirus pandemic could mean his planned "upheaval" of the team may have to be put on hold.

"I neither opened nor closed the door," he said when asked about Muller and Hummels' possible return.

"I said that, under normal circumstances, you shouldn't interrupt a radical change. We have the pandemic situation, and perhaps you can consider: should I interrupt the upheaval [of the squad] for a tournament?"

Muller, 31, has played 100 times for Germany since making his debut in 2010 and, like Hummels – who has 70 caps – he was part of the squad that won the World Cup in 2014.

Muller's club form in the past two years, particularly during Bayern's treble triumph in 2019-20, has led to a clamour for his return to the national team.

Since the start of last season, as well as scoring 27 goals in all competitions, he has provided 37 assists, the most of any player in Europe's top-five leagues apart from Kevin De Bruyne (38).

Only two Bundesliga players – Erling Haaland (65) and Robert Lewandowski (109) – have had more direct goal involvements than Muller in that time.

Speaking of a possible Germany comeback, he said: "I feel comfortable in the [Bayern] team. Standing on the pitch with the boys is fun, and there are a lot of national team players on the pitch.

"I feel like chasing titles in the summer. We will see if it is the end for me after the Champions League final or whether I will play for the national team. I'm definitely ready."

Thomas Muller has declared himself ready to return to international duty after Germany boss Joachim Low hinted at a recall for the Bayern Munich attacker ahead of Euro 2020.

Low said last week he is considering a U-turn that would see Muller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng return from the wilderness in time for the rescheduled tournament.

The World Cup-winning trio were told by Low in March 2019 that they would no longer be part of his plans, which left Muller – a regular up until that point – "dumbfounded".

However, with Low under pressure on the back of November's 6-0 thrashing against Spain, the long-serving coach has reiterated the door is once again open for the trio.

Speaking to Sky Sport Germany on Saturday, Low said: "The European Championship is a separate competition and our job is to bring the best players and the best team with us in order to guarantee the greatest possible success."

The three players have a combined 246 caps and have impressed at club level since last featuring for Germany, with Muller and Boateng helping Bayern to six major trophies since the start of last season.

Muller, who has a combined 50 goals and assists in the Bundesliga since the start of last season – only team-mate Robert Lewandowski (75) has more – would welcome the chance to represent his country again this year.

"I feel comfortable in the team. Standing on the pitch with the boys is fun, and there are a lot of national team players on the pitch," he said.

"I feel like chasing titles in the summer. We will see if it is the end for me after the Champions League final or whether I will play for the national team. I'm definitely ready."

Muller played 91 minutes of Bayern's 4-2 win over Borussia Dortmund in Saturday's Der Klassiker, a game in which Boateng was forced off in the second half with a knee injury.

Boateng has had numerous setbacks in the past and Bayern boss Hansi Flick is awaiting news on the severity of this latest injury.

"We don't know exactly what he has done," Flick said. "He said he thought he twisted his knee a bit, but we have to wait for the diagnosis. He is having a scan."

Marco Reus believes Borussia Dortmund were denied "a very clear foul" that would have been given had it been for Bayern Munich just before their rivals scored the pivotal third goal in a thrilling Klassiker.

Dortmund surrendered a two-goal lead given to them by an early Erling Haaland double as they went down to a dramatic 4-2 away defeat to Bayern on Saturday.

It looked like they would still hold on for a point until Leon Goretzka scored a volley two minutes from time, before Robert Lewandowski struck again for Bayern to seal his hat-trick.

Dortmund captain Reus had been substituted by the time Goretzka struck, but he was adamant the crucial goal should not have stood after Emre Can claimed to have been fouled by Leroy Sane in the build-up.

"It's a very clear foul," Reus said to Sky Germany.

"I tell you quite honestly that if that had been for Bayern, it would have been whistled. 

"That's just the way it is. There is nothing to add. That's the way it is."

Responding to Reus' comments, Bayern attacker Thomas Muller insisted it was not the type of incident he would have liked to see whistled for either team.

"When you lose a game, it's clear that you focus on an incident like that," said Muller. "But you'll have analysed that. 

"We don't want these duels to be whistled at the halfway line, otherwise we only have stop-start games. 

"So I wouldn't have whistled that as a foul against us. I really, very much like the way Marco Fritz refereed today."

Despite the controversy about the key goal, Bayern had dominated much of the contest, racking up 27 attempts to just four from Dortmund while having 66 per cent of the possession.

The win moved Bayern two points clear of RB Leipzig atop the Bundesliga and left Dortmund sitting sixth, four points adrift of the top four.

Germany head coach Joachim Low is considering a dramatic U-turn that would see Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels invited back to the national team.

With the delayed Euro 2020 finals coming up in June, Low wants Germany to be as strong as possible, and a 6-0 thrashing by Spain in November was a result that pointed to a need for a change in direction.

Low's own future has come in for scrutiny, and there have even been suggestions Bayern Munich's treble-winning boss Hansi Flick could replace him.

The 2014 World Cup-winning coach declared in March 2019 that it was time for Germany to move on from the old guard, stating that Muller, Hummels and Jerome Boateng – all world champions themselves – would no longer be part of his plans.

It was a decision that Muller at the time said left him "dumbfounded", and Bayern were also critical, with all three players belonging to the Bavarian giants at that time.

Hummels has since moved on to Borussia Dortmund where the 32-year-old defender remains one of German football's star performers. Only Arminia Bielefeld's towering striker Fabian Klos (146) has won more balls in the air this season than Hummels (118) and just two players have made more blocks than his 22, taking all competitions into account.

Bayern midfielder Muller is one of only two players from the Bundesliga to reach doubles figures for goals and assists in all competitions this term, posting 13 and 12 respectively, with Dortmund's Jadon Sancho the other.

"Special circumstances can justify an interruption in the upheaval," Low said in an interview with Kicker magazine.

On the specific matter of Hummels, Boateng and Muller, Low said: "That will be a difficult and important question, also for me

"The character of Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels is that they do not oppress others."

Hansi Flick hailed Leon Goretzka's "excellent" three-assist display against Cologne but admitted he was not entirely pleased with Bayern Munich's overall performance in Saturday's 5-1 win.

Bayern put an end to their two-game winless streak in the Bundesliga with a routine victory against their relegation-battling opponents at Allianz Arena to retain a two-point lead on RB Leipzig at the summit.

Goretzka set up goals for Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry, making it four assists in his last two outings after also teeing up Jamal Musiala's goal in the 4-1 Champions League win at Lazio in midweek. 

The Germany international was singled out for praise by Flick after the win against Cologne, but the Bayern boss acknowledged there is still room for improvement from his side after conceding for the fourth game in a row thanks to Ellyes Skhiri's strike.

"Leon did an excellent job in assisting the goals. That's why he was Man of the Match for me today," Flick said. "We will analyse the game and show it to the team. There were one or two things I didn't like. 

"But we'll go from game to game. That approach worked well last year. What comes out in the end is up to us. If we put in the performances and pick up wins, we can finish top of the league."

Gnabry marked his return from a thigh injury lay-off by scoring twice from his 14 touches of the ball as a second-half substitute, adding to Lewandowski's brace and Choupo-Moting's opener.

Thomas Muller also appeared for the first time since being struck down by coronavirus at the Club World Cup earlier this month and Flick is delighted to have both players fit and available.

"Serge and Thomas were very important to us as substitutes today," he said. "Thomas assisted Lewy [Lewandowski] with his first touch of the game and brought some certainty to our game, which we needed at that point. 

"Serge has scored two goals. Both will be valuable for us in the next games and I'm happy they're back. It's important to be satisfied with the 5-1 scoreline. We deserved the victory even by that margin."

Bayern let Cologne into the game early in the second half before pulling clear with three goals in the final 25 minutes in what was the 100th competitive meeting between the sides.

With his double on Saturday, Gnabry has now scored nine Bundesliga goals against Cologne - more than against any other side in his career - but the attacker agreed with Flick's assessment that Bayern are not quite at 100 per cent.

"When Thomas and I came on, it was a bit tricky for us," he said. "We hadn't been very sharp or dominant. We tried to lift the tempo and immediately made it 3-1. Then it became easier. 

"In the future, we have to make sure we don't have these shaky phases in the game and we come out of the blocks quicker. Of course, opponents will always have a chance, but we have to reduce these spells, then we'll be stronger again."

Bayern Munich returned to winning ways in the Bundesliga as Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry both scored twice in a convincing 5-1 win over Cologne.

After returning to domestic duties following their Club World Cup success in Qatar with a home draw against Arminia Bielefeld, the reigning champions slipped to a 2-1 loss away at Eintracht Frankfurt last weekend.

However, a 4-1 thrashing of Lazio in Champions League action in midweek proved the catalyst for a first league triumph at their Allianz Arena home since January 30.

Lewandowski's first goal helped Bayern ease into a 2-0 half-time lead and while Cologne briefly threatened a comeback, the returning Thomas Muller made an immediate impression off the bench, providing the assist that allowed the competition's leading scorer to take his tally for the campaign to 28.

Like Muller, substitute Gnabry had an impact on his comeback, the Germany international tucking away a pair of routine finishes as the hosts eased clear in the closing stages.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting had opened the scoring with his first league goal for the club, heading in an inviting cross from Leon Goretzka, who then went on to set up his side's second before the break.

The midfielder waltzed his way beyond Rafael Czichos before laying the ball off as goalkeeper Timo Horn came towards him, allowing the ever-ready Lewandowski to roll it into the net.

Cologne failed to even muster an attempt as the first half proved to be one-way traffic, yet they were gifted a route back into the game when hesitation between centre-back pairing Jerome Boateng and David Alaba allowed Ellyes Skhiri in to produce a delicate lofted finish over the advancing Manuel Neuer.

The goal caused a brief wobble, yet the 64th-minute arrival of Muller - back after overcoming coronavirus - helped steady Bayern, the substitute teeing up Lewandowski to restore the two-goal cushion with a shot on the turn.

Dominick Drexler hit the post from a tight angle after robbing possession from Neuer before Gnabry's four-minute brace, the second of which was set up by the outstanding Goretzka with another delightful delivery into the area, added a touch of gloss to the final scoreline.

 

What does it mean? Bayern remain clear at the summit

Bayern's recent blip had allowed the chasing pack – led by RB Leipzig – to close the gap at the top of the table. Flick's side have already lost more Bundesliga games in 2021 (two) than they did across the entirety of the previous year.

This win is therefore most welcome in what has suddenly become a tighter-than-expected title race, but Flick – who made 44 appearances for Cologne during his playing career - will be concerned at the careless defensive lapse that allowed Skhiri to give the visitors a slither of hope.

Duo back to boost Bayern

While COVID-19 had kept Muller away, Gnabry had not featured since the Club World Cup final due to a thigh issue. The latter only had 13 touches during his goalscoring cameo, but the availability of the pair helps add further strength in depth, even if the fixture congestion eases in March.

Defensive cracks raise concerns

Bayern had conceded 31 goals prior to this game, their highest tally through 22 league games in a campaign since 1991-92. The chance of a clean sheet disappeared when Boateng and Alaba dithered over who was going to attack a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area, in the end neither bothering to take control of the situation.

What's next?

Bayern have a rare week between fixtures, giving them time to prepare for the visit of Borussia Dortmund next Saturday. Cologne, meanwhile, will be hosting Werder Bremen the following day.

Thomas Muller returned to training at Bayern Munich on Thursday after the COVID-19 positive test that caused him to miss the Club World Cup final.

The all-action attacking midfielder was dealt his coronavirus blow just hours before Bayern beat Tigres UANL 1-0 to be crowned club world champions in Qatar on February 11, forcing him to self-isolate.

After two weeks away from the squad, and now clear of the virus, Muller was back at the club's training headquarters to be put through his paces.

Bayern announced on their website: "Muller was able to train at Sabener Strasse again on Thursday for the first time after a period self-isolating at home due to testing positive for COVID-19.

"Following final medical tests in the morning, the 31-year-old completed an individual session on the pitch alongside team training under the guidance of fitness boss Prof Dr Holger Broich."

Muller is enjoying a stellar season and is one of just six players from Europe's 'top five' leagues to have reached double figures both in goals and assists across all competitions.

He has 13 goals and 11 assists so far, and has created 81 chances in all.

Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho is the only other player from the Bundesliga to achieve the double to date, after 10 goals and 12 assists.

Lagging some way behind Muller in the Bayern ranks is Serge Gnabry, who has managed only six goals and two assists in 28 appearances, figures that are also significantly down on what team-mates Leroy Sane (G: 8, A: 8) and Kingsley Coman (G: 6, A: 11) have achieved.

Gnabry has had more playing time than his attacking midfield colleagues Sane and Coman, and he began the campaign with a hat-trick against Schalke in Bayern's opener.

The former Arsenal youngster was substituted off in the Club World Cup final because of a torn muscle in his left thigh.

Bayern said on Thursday that Gnabry had undergone intensive rehabilitation in recent days and was able to resume training with Hansi Flick's squad.

That may see him come into contention, perhaps along with Muller, for Saturday's Bundesliga home clash with Cologne.

Bayern Munich completed a year of dominance by collecting the Club World Cup on Thursday, beating Tigres UANL 1-0 in the final.

Victory in Qatar, courtesy of Benjamin Pavard's scrappy second-half goal, clinched a sixth trophy in under 12 months.

Bayern started a 23-match winning run in all competitions this time last year, winning the Bundesliga, DFB Pokal, Champions League and UEFA Super Cup in this time.

They added the DFL-Supercup immediately after seeing that streak ended in September, then completed the set by beating Tigres.

Hansi Flick's side went one better than Bayern's 2013 team, who collected five titles - losing to Borussia Dortmund in the domestic Supercup.

The Bavarian giants were dominant last season and have continued to collect results this term, led by a star-studded cast, as we can see with Opta data.
 

FLICK'S MEN ALMOST FLAWLESS

Going back 12 months to the start of that remarkable winning stretch, Bayern have played 53 matches in all competitions, winning 46 of them.

In fact, they lost games just twice in the last year, to Hoffenheim 4-1 and Borussia Monchengladbach 3-2, both in the Bundesliga, although there was also a penalty shootout defeat to Holstein Kiel that ensured they will not defend their Pokal crown this season.

While dominating, Bayern have mainly been a great watch, scoring 157 goals (2.96 per game) and conceding 51 (0.96 per game). Indeed, those 53 games yielded only 21 Bayern clean sheets.

The standout results were obvious, scoring eight in games against both Barcelona and Schalke, but they also netted six versus Hoffenheim and Salzburg, plus five in clashes with Eintracht Frankfurt (twice), Fortuna Dusseldorf and Mainz.
 

OLD GUARD THE STANDOUT STARS

Bayern have a wealth of exciting young talents, but they relied heavily on their experienced campaigners over this glorious stretch.

Thomas Muller (51), Manuel Neuer (50) and David Alaba (48) led Bayern in appearances over the past year. Neuer was named in the starting XI on the most occasions - every time he played.

Robert Lewandowski has been unsurprisingly the leading marksman with his 49 goals in 45 games, but Joshua Kimmich came to the fore in terms of assists, his 23 - along with nine goals - coming from 43 matches.

Kimmich had one more assist than Muller, despite the forward creating 141 chances to his team-mate's 108.

With Neuer playing all but three of the 53 matches, he accounted for 20 of Bayern's 21 clean sheets - Alexander Nubel earned the other - and made 139 saves.

Niklas Sule, at 91.9 per cent of 1,656, was the most accurate passer to start a game, although he trailed the team's most prominent passers by some distance; Alaba played 3,743 at 88.2 per cent accuracy.

Alaba (4,210) also led the way in terms of touches ahead of Kimmich (4,089), who was beaten in terms of tackles by the slightly surprising figure of Serge Gnabry (76).

Hansi Flick believes success in the Club World Cup will be "very special" as he closes in on a sixth trophy in just 68 matches as Bayern Munich coach.

Bayern comfortably dealt with CAF Champions League winners Al Ahly in their semi-final on Monday, with Robert Lewandowski getting both goals in a 2-0 win.

The Polish striker, who moved to 29 goals for the season with that brace, made it 1-0 in the 17th minute and eventually put the game beyond Al Ahly in the latter stages, though the Egyptian champions rarely looked a threat to Die Roten.

In Thursday's final Bayern will face Tigres, who defeated Copa Libertadores winners Palmeiras 1-0 on Sunday to become the first CONCACAF side to reach the final of the Club World Cup.

French striker Andre-Pierre Gignac got the winner from the spot against Palmeiras, his sixth successive goal-scoring appearance, and Bayern know they cannot afford to be complacent.

"I watched their semi-final, Tigres are a very dynamic team, very athletic, with a lot of power. We have to counter that well in the final," Flick said when asked about Ricardo Ferretti's team.

"If we win the final on Thursday, the team will have finished an outstanding season with a sixth title.

"That would be a very special success in the successful history of FC Bayern. We now have to collect ourselves as quickly as possible and recover quickly in order to be able to be again at 100 per cent on Thursday."

Thomas Muller echoed the sentiment of his coach, reminding the rest of the Bayern team that their mission still needs to be accomplished.

"We are happy that we did not miss anything and have achieved our [first] goal," he added. "Now we have the chance that we really wanted to work for: winning the Club World Cup."

Bayern won the competition in their only previous participation in 2013.

That was the beginning of streak of European dominance in the Club World Cup, with all six iterations since then won by teams from the continent.

Chelsea were the last European side to lose out in the Club World Cup in 2012, as they were defeated 1-0 by Corinthians in the final.

Leon Goretzka and Javi Martinez were not part of the Bayern Munich squad that departed for the Club World Cup on Friday.

Bayern caught a flight to Qatar after their 1-0 victory over Hertha Berlin, which was secured by a deflected first-half strike from Kingsley Coman.

Hansi Flick's side kept a clean sheet thanks to Manuel Neuer's seven saves but they looked vulnerable on the counterattack with Joshua Kimmich anchoring the midfield alone at the Olympiastadion.

Goretzka and Martinez were absent following positive coronavirus tests and they did not travel to Doha with their team-mates.

"We have to look from day to day how things are going for both of them," Flick said.

"Leon is looking a little better, Javi will probably not make it. If not for the first game, then maybe for the second."

Bayern take on Al Ahly on Monday and will contest either the third-place play-off or the final against Palmeiras or Tigres UANL three days later.

The European champions left Germany after opening a 10-point advantage at the Bundesliga summit, though a missed penalty from Robert Lewandowski in the first half against Hertha meant the match was tighter than expected.

"You could tell it would be fiercely contested. Pal Dardai's team fight for every square centimetre," Thomas Muller, who set up Coman to become the first player to reach double figures for goals and assists in the Bundesliga this season, told DAZN.

"We should definitely have scored one or two more goals, so it was a close run thing in the end.

"You can't celebrate in every game. What is striking is that the clean sheet is becoming more and more common."

Bayern Munich's display in their 4-1 rout of Hoffenheim set the standard for the rest of the season, according to Hansi Flick.

Jerome Boateng, Thomas Muller, Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry struck as Bayern cruised to a fourth straight Bundesliga victory – their second-longest winning run of the season after they won five games on the spin between matchweeks three and seven.

Munich have now scored 57 goals in the league this term, a club record after 19 games, while the only other side to have scored more after the same amount of fixtures was Hamburg in 1981-82 (58).

It lifted Bayern, briefly at least, 10 points clear at the top of the table, with the signs looking ominous for the rest of the league as the Bavarian giants chase down a ninth successive title.

"You are used to the fact that both teams want to play football. Hoffenheim has also shown that and created opportunities, especially in the first half," Flick told Bayern's official website. 

"It is a very good result. We have now won four games in a row – 12 points. We played a good game, that is our benchmark.

"Certainly not everything was great, but I'm satisfied. We wanted to get back on track after the two defeats. That's what makes big teams. This is a good thing and gives you confidence."

Lewandowski was typically integral to Bayern's win, setting up Muller for his 10th Bundesliga goal of the season before the Poland star helped himself to a 24th top-flight strike of 2020-21 early in the second half, the most of any Bundesliga player in history after 19 games.

His strike partner Muller was also at his industrious best, with the 31-year-old having hit double figures in the league for the first time since 2015-16, when he scored 20.

"After four wins from four games you can say that we are on the right track," Muller said.

"In large phases of the game, we repeatedly showed serious actions both in the front and in the back. If we pick up the pace, we often end up in good situations. 

"Of course we would have liked to not concede a goal. It was good and creative up front. We would have deserved one more goal."

One player to miss Saturday's win was Corentin Tolisso, who has been fined by Bayern after breaching the club's coronavirus protocols in order to get a tattoo.

"We're grateful that games can currently take place in the Bundesliga despite the ongoing coronavirus situation. A condition of that is that players, coaches and staff must adhere to the DFL's hygiene concept in an exemplary manner," said Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

"Corentin Tolisso has now contravened these guidelines, although our sporting and medical leadership continuously and clearly communicate them. We won't tolerate violations like this. We will therefore hand Corentin Tolisso a heavy fine, which will be donated to charity."

Tolisso's omission from the squad came after Leon Goretzka and Javi Martinez tested positive for COVID-19.

Hansi Flick can still see room for improvement from his Bayern Munich side despite brushing aside Schalke 4-0 to move seven points clear at the top of the Bundesliga.

The reigning champions capitalised on RB Leipzig's shock defeat at Mainz by seeing off Schalke, the division's bottom side, at the Veltins-Arena on Sunday.

Thomas Muller scored either side of Robert Lewandowski's record-breaking goal - netting in an eighth successive away league match - before David Alaba got in on the act in the final minute.

Bayern did not have things all their own way in the first half, though, with Manuel Neuer reacting well to keep out Mark Uth's header from the best of Schalke's opportunities.

Flick is pleased his side have rediscovered their form with three wins in a row since suffering back-to-back losses earlier this month, but he acknowledged there is still more to come.

"I'm not entirely happy with what we showed," he told Sky Sport. "We scored four goals, but we should have done better, especially with the way we positioned ourselves.

"However, I am very satisfied with the nine points with have obtained from the last three games. After defeats to Holstein Kiel [in the DFB-Pokal] and Monchengladbach, it was important to find stability.

"We now have a certain cushion, but it is still important that we approach every game the way we have approached the last few games, that we perform 100 per cent. 

"We're going to take two days off now. This is important to clear your head from time to time. From Wednesday, we will then prepare intensively for Hoffenheim."

Bayern have now kept clean sheets in successive league games for the first time this term, with Neuer making three saves in total - all in the first half.

Neuer's 197th shutout is a new Bundesliga record, surpassing Bayern great Oliver Kahn, but it was bittersweet coming against his beleaguered boyhood club.

Schalke are bottom of the division with one win from 18 games but Neuer is hopeful they can avoid the drop.

"Obviously, it's difficult for them against teams like us," he said. "I think that they have to beat two or three clubs that are in the lower half of the table, one after the other.

"I wish the Schalke players luck that they can stay in the league and that they can still turn the tide. Of course, I'll keep my fingers crossed for that."

Of his own team's display, which saw Bayern register a season-high 31 shots, Neuer said: "We improved and still had one or two more scoring chances. 

"We certainly would have signed for a 4-0 win beforehand."

Meanwhile, Muller's double took him to nine goals in 18 Bundesliga games this season, already beating his tally from the entirety of 2019-20.

The forward, who scored a clinical header in each half, echoed the thoughts of Flick in saying his side were slightly flattered by the margin of the scoreline.

"We neglected some aspects of our game," Muller said. "We besieged the opposing goal in the first half, played a few chances well, but the last action was missing.

"Overall, you noticed that when we increased the pace and played our game, we were always able to get ourselves into good final positions. 

"We have won all three games this week and made a giant leap forward in the table. That is what counts."

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