Wednesday, December 11, 2019
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Bayern relish upcoming Arsenal challenge

Berlin: Manuel Neuer said holders Bayern Munich are relishing facing Arsenal in Wednesday’s Champions League last-16, first-leg clash after routing Freiburg to go 16 points clear in the Bundesliga.

Germany goalkeeper Neuer was barely bothered by Freiburg’s attack at Munich’s Allianz Arena on Saturday as Pep Guardiola’s champions extended their record unbeaten Bundesliga run to 46 matches with a 4-0 victory.

Guardiola rested several stars ahead of the trip to the Gunners’ Emirates Stadium, but still started with 10 internationals.

“We wanted to put in a good performance before the Arsenal game — now we’re looking forward to the Champions League,” said Neuer.

Brazil centre-back Dante opened the scoring when he headed home on 19 minutes, and Swiss Xherdan Shaqiri added the second on 34 minutes after a superb reverse pass from Claudio Pizarro fell into his path and he fired home.

The stocky Swiss then added his second just before the break, and veteran striker Pizarro added a fourth two minutes from time.

The game ended on a sour note for Shaqiri, though, as he went off with a torn hamstring and will miss the Arsenal match.

Guardiola praised his side for a ninth straight victory in all competitions dating back to December’s 3-2 defeat at home to Manchester City in the Champions League group stage.

“It is always difficult when the whole world says we have to win,” said the Spaniard.

“I am very happy, it is unbelievable how the players are always fully concentrated, regardless of what happens.

“We didn’t play particularly well this time, but we were serious.

“We only played well in the first 15, 20 minutes, but that’s three more points and one game less.”

Having won last season’s league title with a record six games to spare, Bayern are on course to have the German league title again confirmed early.

In contrast, second-placed Bayer Leverkusen, who host Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday, crashed to another home defeat when they lost 2-1 to Schalke 04.

Having suffered a shock 1-0 extra-time defeat at home to second-division Kaiserslautern on Wednesday in the German Cup quarter-finals, Leverkusen stumbled to their fifth defeat in their last seven games.

“I am very pleased with the way the team played today,” said Leverkusen boss Sami Hyypia, the ex-Liverpool centre-back.

“There was a huge difference with the way we played on Wednesday.

“I’d also be pleased if we played like that on Tuesday.

“The team has shown character, that was bad luck today and I feel for the team.”

With Sweden star Zlatan Ibrahimovic leading PSG’s attack, Laurent Blanc’s side are closing in on back-to-back French league titles and Leverkusen defender Philipp Wollscheid summed up the downbeat mood. “We just have to keep going. It’s a shitty feeling to lose, but we did ok,” said the 24-year-old Germany central defender.

“We have to get the game out of our legs and heads to focus on PSG.”