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Bundesliga race heats up as strikers set sites on Mueller’s mark

Photo credit: AFP.

Photo credit: AFP.

While the Bundesliga title-race may be lacking drama, the battle between hot-shot strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Robert Lewandowski to finish as top-scorer looks set to enthrall fans until the season’s end.

Bayern Munich remain on course to become the first club to win the Bundesliga for a fourth year running after Lewandowski scored twice in Friday’s 2-1 win at Hamburg to leave his side eight points clear. The Poland international has 17 goals in his 17 league games, but is still one short of Aubameyang, who has scored 18 times in 18 matches for second-placed Borussia Dortmund.

A huge 16-point gulf separates Bayern from third-placed Hertha Berlin with Dortmund directly in the middle.

Photo credit: AFP

Photo credit: AFP

Aubameyang failed to find the net in Saturday’s 3-1 win at Borussia Moechengladbach — only the fifth league game this season he has failed to score in — but he has still scored 27 goals in all competitions. His tally so far means that, at the same stage of the season, he has scored exactly the same amount as the legendary Gerd Mueller did in 1971/72 on his way to hitting a league-record 40 goals.

SEE MORE: The case for Aubameyang, not Lewandowski, as the Bundesliga’s top striker.

Both Aubameyang, Africa’s player of the year for 2015, and Lewandowski have doubted Mueller’s record will ever fall. And despite intense interest from English clubs in the January transfer window, the Gabon star is not leaving Dortmund any time soon.

“We don’t worry ourselves for a second about the departure of Aubameyang. It’s not up for debate,” said Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel, with four years still to run on his striker’s contract.

“He is a benchmark for us and we have a lot planned for him.”

As ex-Germany captain Lothar Matthaeus suggested to Sky on Saturday, England’s top clubs would have to fork out at least 100 million euros to lure Aubameyang to the Premier League.

None of Aubameyang’s four shots on goal found the net at Gladbach’s Borussia Park on a rare below-par evening of frustration for the 26-year-old.

“We put in a good performance, even if I am not happy with my own performance,” he said.

“In training, the day before, almost every shot went in, but it didn’t work out today.”

Aubameyang was signed by Dortmund from French club St Etienne in 2013 as a future replacement for Lewandowski, 27, who left for Bayern for the 2014/15 season.

Photo credit: AFP.

Photo credit: AFP.

– Personal crown –

Having set four new Bundesliga records last September by scoring five goals in nine crazy minutes of Bayern’s 5-1 rout of Wolfsburg, the ambitious Lewandowski wants silverware. The Bavarians have targeted the treble of Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup before Pep Guardiola leaves at the end of the season.

In addition, Lewandowski wants the personal crown as the league’s top scorer for the second time, having won it with Dortmund in 2013/14. He was superb in Hamburg, converting a first-half penalty after goalkeeper Rene Adler fouled Thomas Mueller, before helping home Mueller’s strike for the winner. That second goal was Lewandowski’s 50th goal for Bayern in a mere 76 competitive fixtures, and his 17 goals already equals his tally for the whole of last season.

While Aubameyang has first-class service from his wingers Marco Reus and Heinrikh Mkhitaryan at Dortmund, Lewandowski benefits from the superb support of Mueller. The Germany forward has 14 goals in 18 games this season, with six assists.

“We’ve played many games together and get along very well,” Lewandowski said about his partnership with Mueller, which has yielded 31 goals this season, 65 percent of all of Bayern’s goals.

“We don’t need to talk a lot, we both know how the other plays and where he’s running.”

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