Bayern hosts Stuttgart, Dortmund faces Schalke in Bundesliga
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) Thomas Mueller is cementing his position as one of Bayern Munich’s key players with his versatility and an uncanny instinct for scoring.
Sometimes overlooked on a star-studded squad with Franck Robbery and Arjen Robben, among others, Mueller has been in outstanding form this season.
He has scored 10 goals in 11 Bundesliga matches and with his two in a 5-1 win over Arsenal on Wednesday, Mueller has become the club’s second most prolific scorer in European competitions.
His namesake, the great Gerd Mueller, is far ahead with 66, but with 32 goals Mueller has now passed Karl-Heinz Rummenigge on Bayern’s all-time list and is also far ahead of Ribery and Robben, who have 20 each.
Mueller’s latest scoring achievement came one day after Gerd’s 70th birthday. The club has revealed that Gerd Mueller has Alzeimer’s and has withdrawn from public.
”I worked with him when I was still an amateur and you can only tip your hat to what he’s done,” Mueller said.
Under former coach Louis van Gaal, Mueller became a regular, with the Dutchman saying, ”Mueller always plays.”
That wasn’t always the case under current coach Pep Guardiola, who has a deep squad and likes to rest players. Mueller likes to have the freedom of movement, to roam the field and poach goals.
One of the few Bavarians in a Bavarian club, Mueller’s outgoing personality makes him a favorite with the fans. His value to the club was underlined before the season, with Bayern reportedly rejecting a huge offer from Manchester United – now coached by Van Gaal – for Mueller.
Bayern, whose 10-match winning streak was ended last weekend by the 0-0 draw at Eintracht Frankfurt, next meets Stuttgart.
Here are some things to know about this weekend’s matches:
Stuttgart beat promoted Darmstadt 2-0 to finally lift itself from the relegation zone. But it could plunge right back in with a loss in Munich.
Stuttgart has been playing better than its results show and is the fourth-highest scoring team in the league despite converting only about 18 percent of its chances.
The bad news is that attacking midfielder Martin Harnik has a right-knee injury that could keep him out until the end of the year.
The good news is that speedy left wing Filip Kostic is back in training after a hamstring injury and should be ready to play in Munich.
THE RUHR DERBY
Borussia Dortmund used Bayern’s slip in Frankfurt to cut the gap to five points. It plays Schalke on Sunday in the 168th edition of the always emotional and often bad-tempered Ruhr Derby.
Led by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s 13 goals, Dortmund is the highest-scoring team in the league after Bayern (33). Schalke, on the other hand, only has 14 goals, although it is in fourth place.
Schalke’s revelation of the season has been teenager Leroy Sane, the son of former Bundesliga player and Senegal international Souleyman Sane.
Leroy Sane has four goals, which is more than the other two strikers, Klaas-Jan Huntelaaar (2) and Franco di Santo (0) combined.
Sane said his pre-season target was eight goals, but he looks well poised to surpass that.
LABBADIA AND DARMSTADT
Bruno Labbadia began both his playing and coaching careers in his native Darmstadt before moving on to bigger things.
That’s where he signed his first professional contract at 18 and that’s where he got his first coaching job, when Darmstadt was a fourth-tier club.
Darmstadt is now back in the Bundesliga despite its limited financial means and has started dropping after a good start.
Labbadia is now the coach of Hamburg and returns to his native city on Saturday.
When Hamburg and Darmstadt last faced off in the Bundesliga at the start of the 1980s, Hamburg finished as champion. That is unlikely to happen this season and Darmstadt will be seeking to avoid getting relegated again after only one season in the top tier.