Pitchside

European Match of the Weekend: Bayern Munich v Bayer Leverkusen

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Bayern Munich have often been labelled as FC Hollywood and coach Pep Guardiola, still a relative newcomer in his first season at the club, may have started to discover why this week.

While club president Uli Hoeness went on trial for tax evasion this week and faces a possible jail sentence of up to ten years, sports director Matthias Sammer contrived to upset most of the other clubs in the Bundesliga by suggesting they should train harder.

Saturday's match at home to third-placed Bayer Leverkusen, which appears almost a formality given Bayern's run of 16 consecutive league wins, has taken a back seat to the off-field drama.

Sammer's comments led critics to question his influence in Bayern's treble winning campaign last season in a row that involved all sorts of personalities, ranging from former goalkeeper Oliver Kahn to current Borussia Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp.

"Maybe we are superior in quality and also in mentality right now," said 46-year-old former Germany midfielder Sammer, who makes a point of sitting on the Bayern bench at games, in a television interview. "Maybe the message to the other clubs is: Do they train every single day as if there were no tomorrow?"

Hanover 96 manager Dirk Dufner described the comments as a "cheek" and his Mainz 05 counterpart Christian Heidel, referring to Bayern's lavish spending, added: "If we could spend 130 million euros (£110m) on players, we would be champions without Matthias Sammer's advice."

Klopp, who had an angry touchline exchange with Sammer during a Bundesliga match last season, was even more outspoken.

"I find it very important in life that one recognises when one has been lucky," he said. "I don't know that Bayern would have got one point less without Sammer. If I were him, I'd thank God that someone had the idea of hiring me every time I walk into the Bayern training ground."

That in turn provoked more reaction from Bayern sympathisers including their former goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, who described Klopp's comment as "disrespectful and impertinent."

Franz Beckenbauer also chipped in: "I dare say that Bayern would not have achieved this kind of success without Matthias Sammer," the former West Germany captain and coach told Sky. "Matthias came to Bayern at just the right time, Bayern were seemingly dying."

However, Sammer's predecessor Christian Nerlinger, who left the club following the 2011/12 season, said he also deserved credit for Bayern's current success.

"Of course, I would like to have been there when we picked the fruit," he said, adding that it was under his stewardship that the likes of Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger established themselves. "(Previous coach) Jupp Heynckes called me after they won the Bundesliga and the Champions League last season and thanked me," he added. "Jupp is a great man."

Meanwhile, Bayern's players have been ducking questions about Hoeness. As his trial opened on Monday, Hoeness admitted to evading more than five times the 3.5m euros he had been charged with, around 18.5m, hoping his admission and apology would mitigate his punishment.

The judge was expected to rule on the case on Thursday, possibly passing sentence the same day.

Amid all this, Bayern, who have dropped only four points all season, have a 22-point lead at the top, are set to better last year's record when they wrapped up the title with six games to spare.

They could still win another treble, having reached the Champions League quarter-finals by completing a 3-1 aggregate win over Arsenal on Tuesday and the German Cup semi-finals.

OPTA HEAD-TO-HEAD STATS

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OPTA MATCH FACTS

- Bayern have only won one of their last four meetings with Leverkusen (D1 L2) – a 2-1 away win in March 2013. Against no other team have FCB collected as few points in that timeframe (with at least four games played).

- The last time Bayern dropped points in the top flight was in their 1-1 draw in Leverkusen on October 5th 2013. Their last Bundesliga defeat was a 2-1 loss to Bayer 04 on October 28th 2012.

- Bayern have won each of their last 16 Bundesliga matches and have now beaten their own record of 15 straight wins set in 2005.

- FCB haven’t lost any of their first 24 Bundesliga games this season (W22 D2) and have thus equalled the record start to a Bundesliga campaign set by Bayer Leverkusen in 2009/10.

- Bayern have scored at least four goals in each of their last four Bundesliga matches. No side has ever done the same in five successive games.

- After sitting second in the table during the winter break, Leverkusen are currently 13th in the table representing the second half of the season with just seven points from seven games.

- Bayer 04 were just four points behind league-leaders Bayern after matchday 15. That gap has since increased to 24 points.

- Bayern have won each of their first 12 home matches – only Bayern themselves in 1972/73 and Schalke in 1971/72 have achieved that feat before.

- With 72 goals scored after 24 games, Bayern have the best attack in Bundesliga history.

- Bayern have scored so often and allowed so few shots recently that they still wouldn’t have lost any of their last six Bundesliga games without a goalkeeper (W4 D2).

- Bernd Leno saved Szabolcs Huszti’s penalty in Hannover and has now kept out five of the six penalties he has faced this season. He has saved each of the last four penalties he has faced, meaning he already holds the Bundesliga record along with three other goalkeepers.

- Stefan Kiessling has scored or assisted just one goal in his last 10 Bundesliga matches (he scored in Leverkusen’s 2-1 win over Stuttgart).

EUROPEAN MATCHES COVERED LIVE ON SITE THIS WEEKEND

Saturday

Malaga v Real Madrid - 19:00

Atletico Madrid v Espanyol - 21:00

Sunday

Barcelona v Osasuna - 16:00

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