Flick puzzling over Bayern's Lewandowski problem

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Robert Lewandowski of FC Bayern Munich celebrates following his team's victory in the UEFA Champions League Final match between Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich at Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 23, 2020. (Photo by Julian Finney/UEFA via Xinhua)

How much quality is in Bayern Munich's squad without Robert Lewandowski? Enough to secure the Bavarians' ninth consecutive Bundesliga title and repeat last season's success in the UEFA Champions League?

Ahead of a crunch Bundesliga encounter against rivals RB Leipzig this Saturday and next week's Champions League quarterfinal first-leg tie against Paris Saint-Germain, the Bavarians are facing several crucial and unexpected questions.

The Poland captain is said to be sidelined for up to four weeks after suffering a knee injury in his country's World Cup qualifier against Andorra.

The Bundesliga clash against second-placed Leipzig will have a large say in deciding the destination of this season's title. In the Champions League, no less than last season's finalists PSG lie in wait.

Bayern coach Hansi Flick has to restructure his attacking line-up and might count on Joachim Low's strategy. The German national coach has had to do without a spearhead for a while, with his attacking players instead performing a job-sharing arrangement and regularly switching roles.

Bayern's Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane do the job upfront in addition to the Chelsea duo of Timo Werner and Kai Havertz.

Flick can also count on Kingsley Coman and Thomas Muller for his attacking options.

Never before have Bayern had to go so long without Lewandowski, whose previous longest spell out of the team was three weeks. A four-week break would mean the Pole missing seven games.

Since joining Bayern from Borussia Dortmund in 2014, Lewandowski has played 215 games of a possible 230 games, of which he started 200.

In Bayern's shirt this season, Lewandowski has fired off the most shots (110) in the Bundesliga, scoring against all but one of the 17 opposing teams.

Flick has to choose who can replace his leading striker best. Gnabry, Muller, and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting are available, while Sane and Coman would cover the flanks.

Having to replaced the suspended duo of Alphonso Davies and Jerome Boateng adds to Flick's woes. Lucas Hernandez and Niklas Sule are said to be the most likely options to fill in. However, Sule has just returned from injury and may be short of match fitness, with Javi Martinez an option if Sule cannot play.

Lewandowski spoke about a quick return and returning for the second leg against PSG on April 13.

Flick said he would take no risks, "as we want to avoid further injuries."

Changing the entire team's tactics seems more challenging considering Lewandowski's influence on Bayern's game. The Pole is not only the closest thing to a certain goalscorer, but has developed into an irreplaceable team player, creating spaces for teammates. 

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