Bayern Munich travel to Inter Milan in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday night, with Sadio Mane just one of the reasons the reigning record German champions should be confident of victory ahead of their trip to Italy.
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1. Bayern’s Mane Man
Mane has settled into life at the Allianz Arena with real gusto; scoring in the Supercup victory over RB Leipzig, celebrating with fans at the final whistle of the club’s Matchday 1 demolition of Eintracht Frankfurt and posting some serious numbers in his opening weeks with the club. Having added a goal on his DFB Cup debut last week to strikes on his Supercup and Bundesliga bows, you’d back Mane to similarly mark his first Champions League appearance for Bayern by finding the back of the net.
While Bayern supporters will look to their 2019 UCL winner for inspiration, Inter’s faithful may well be wistful over the absence of their own star summer signing. Romelu Lukaku, who helped the Nerazzurri become champions of Italy in 2021, returned to the club on loan to great fanfare in pre-season and also marked his second Inter debut with a goal. He has since picked up a muscle injury, however, that will keep him out of the visit of Bayern.
Watch: World Star: Sadio Mane
2. The power of the collective
The arrival of Mane was a response to Robert Lewandowski’s departure after a stellar stint at Bayern and outside observers pondered loudly whether the club could replace the Pole’s goals. “We lost a striker who scored more than 50 goals, we have to compensate for that,” acknowledged head coach Julian Nagelsmann in pre-season. “I think there could be or there will be solutions to compensate that… I think our movement will be really dangerous. I’m looking forward to see the new Bayern Munich after Lewy.”
Those comments raised a few eyebrows at the time, but Nagelsmann has been proven right and Bayern are as entertaining as they were before, if not more so. They’ve already scored 26 goals across six games in all competitions this season and hit five in wins over Leipzig and Viktoria Cologne, while putting six past Eintracht and going one better in the 7-0 destruction of Bochum – all those results coming away from home. There have been 12 different scorers in that time and, while Mane leads the way on five goals, Jamal Musiala has struck just as many as his Senegal teammate, and Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane have three apiece in all comps. This may just be the most potent Bayern attack in history.
Watch: Bayern Analysis: Fantastic Four Up Front
3. Rock-solid at the back
While Mane & Co. have taken the headlines for their goalscoring exploits, Bayern’s defense has been exemplary as well. Any suggestion that Leipzig’s three goals in the Supercup may have exposed a leaky backline have been wafted away by Nagelsmann’s team conceding just twice in their five games since.
With two league concessions thus far, Bayern currently boasts the best defensive record in the league. Captain Manuel Neuer has set the tone by keeping out 85 percent of the shots he has faced this term as the legendary goalkeeper has collected two clean sheets from four matches. Bayern’s defense also contains a man with inside knowledge of Wednesday’s opponents in the form of Matthijs de Ligt, who collected two clean sheets and four wins from seven appearances for Juventus against Inter during his spell in Serie A.
Manuel Neuer has helped Bayern produce the best defensive record of the season so far. – DFL
4. Bayern’s record start
By scoring 15 goals and conceding just once as they chalked up three commanding victories from their first three Bundesliga outings of 2022/23, Bayern made a record-breaking start to the season. Only Yann Sommer’s own record-setting 19 saves in the 1-1 draw with Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 4 denied the Bavarians from further extending that record, while the cup destruction of Viktoria showed an emphatic regaining of their touch in front of goal.
The secret to this uptick in their own remarkable output? “The way we train – it’s a high, high, high level,” Mane explained after the Bochum victory. “The intensity we put in the training – everything we do with intensity and I think it pays off because we work very hard in training. I think we have a very, very good coach and the ideas he has are just incredible, so it’s very difficult for the other team to cope with us.” The coach added himself: “The energy that’s in the team at the moment, the atmosphere within the squad, everyone is pulling for each other… And it’s very, very enjoyable.”
Watch: How Bayern made their record start to the season
5. Perfect in Milan
Bayern have found Milan a tough place to travel in previous years and have never beaten Inter’s city rivals AC away from home. In three attempts, they have lost twice and drawn once. But while Bayern will be happy it’s Inter that hosts them at the Giuseppe Meazza this week, the home side should be far less excited for the return of their upcoming German opposition.
That’s because Bayern have won on each of their previous three trips to Inter. Their first was a 3-1 last-16 second-leg UEFA Cup victory in the 1988/89 season, which was followed by a 2-0 Bayern win in Group B of the 2006/07 Champions League competition. Bayern also picked up a 1-0 first-leg win in the last-16 of the 2010/11 edition and Thomas Müller is the sole survivor of that fixture in contention to feature this time around. It was a result that brought redemption for losing to Inter in the UCL final the previous year and Bayern will be hoping to add a fourth successive away victory to the list when the two teams meet this week.