Bayern Munich v Lazio: Muller to work his magic
Bayern Munich crushed Lazio in Rome, and Kevin Hatchard expects another eye-catching win from the Champions League holders.
Flick's future is dominating the discourse
It may seem absurd for a coach to think about walking away from one of the biggest jobs in world football, especially after winning six trophies in the space of a year, but there is a possibility that Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick may leave the club this summer to replace Joachim Löw as the coach of Germany.
A deepening rift between Flick and Bayern's sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic is causing consternation behind the scenes, and a summer move for Flick to the Nationalmannschaft might suit all parties, especially if Bayern can recruit RB Leipzig's coaching wunderkind Julian Nagelsmann as Flick's successor.
Regardless of what happens at the season's end, Bayern are focused on retaining the Bundesliga and the Champions League. At the weekend they swept aside Werder Bremen 3-1, and Leipzig's draw against Eintracht Frankfurt extended Bayern's lead in the title race to four points. Thomas Müller played a starring role, setting up the first two goals, and like Flick, he may also soon be returning to the national team picture.
Robert Lewandowski bundled in the third, and is now level with Schalke legend Klaus Fischer when it comes to career goals in the Bundesliga. The legendary Gerd Müller is the last player on the list for Lewandowski to catch.
Bayern still aren't quite at their brilliant best, but they are brutally punishing opposition errors, just as they did when they hammered Lazio 4-1 in the first leg of this tie. The return from injury of Serge Gnabry has given them another wide option in attack, and the midfield axis of Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka is operating in premium condition.
The defensive sloppiness is the only concern - Bayern have only kept five Bundesliga clean sheets all season.
Douglas Costa and Corentin Tolisso are definitely out, while David Alaba missed the weekend's game and is a doubt. Thomas Müller and Benjamin Pavard missed the first leg because of COVID-19, but both are expected to start here. Despite the 4-1 advantage, Flick will select a strong side and take no risks.
Lazio keen to overcome stage-fright
It's been a long time since Lazio were in the Champions League's knockout phase, and having nearly blown it on Matchday Six against Club Brugge (the Belgians nearly knocked the Roman side out with a late winner), their inexperience and big-stage jitters overwhelmed them against Bayern in the Italian capital.
Mateo Musacchio's disastrous backpass gifted Robert Lewandowski the opener, no-one got close enough to Jamal Musiala for the second goal, two defenders took each other out in the build-up to the third, and the fourth was an own goal. For a team who have impressed so often in Serie A under coach Simone Inzaghi, this was a calamitous display.
Since that defeat, Lazio have lost two of their three league matches, and they needed a late Felipe Caicedo winner to overcome struggling Crotone 3-2 at the weekend. Lazio have now leaked 11 goals in their last four matches. At the other end, star striker Ciro Immobile has gone six games without a goal, his worst run since 2019.
Inzaghi has a decision to make between Musacchio and Wesley Hoedt at centre-back, while Manuel Lazzari is out because of injury.
Back Lewy to sparkle in exciting win
Bayern outclassed Lazio in the first leg, and there's no reason they won't be able to do so again. Flick's men tend to reserve their best displays for this competition, and they'll want to send a message ahead of the quarter-finals. Lazio are in poor form, and they know this is a tie that can't be salvaged.
Back a treble of Bayern to win, Over 2.5 Goals and Robert Lewandowski to score on the Sportsbook's Same Game Multi at 2.03.
That might seem a lot of ifs and buts for a price of just above evens, but Bayern have won all but one of their UCL games this season, and five of those seven matches have featured at least three goals. As for the Lewandowski part of the bet, the Pole has scored in 18 of his last 22 outings.
Architect Müller to keep on creating
Thomas Müller broke the single-season record for Bundesliga assists last season (he registered 21) and he has already racked up 13 in this campaign. He has looked razor-sharp since returning to the team after COVID-19, and I'll back him to register at least one assist at 2.4 on the Sportsbook.
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