BERLIN - Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann has blamed a lack of energy for his side's stuttering Bundesliga form, bristling at suggestions the six-time Champions League winners are missing departed striker Robert Lewandowski.
After an explosive start to the season which saw them score 20 goals in their opening four competitive matches, two consecutive 1-1 league draws against Borussia Monchengladbach and Union Berlin see Bayern occupy an unfamiliar third spot in the table.
Bayern remain overwhelming favourites to win their 11th consecutive Bundesliga title this season, but the Champions League remains their true yardstick, after a disappointing quarter-final exit to Villarreal last season.
While Lewandowski's replacement Sadio Mane has scored three goals in five Bundesliga matches since arriving in the summer, Nagelsmann said his side were lacking "energy" rather than the departed Pole and drew both games despite a "proliferation" of chances.
"Against Gladbach, we had 31 shots on goal - I think that's creative enough," Nagelsmann said ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash with Inter Milan.
"How many goals have we scored? (Our goal difference) is plus 14, I think."
Nagelsmann said his side would be able to break down the defence of last year's Serie A champions Inter provided they recaptured the energy they brought in the opening league matches.
"Our energy level needs to be the same as before," Nagelsmann said in reference to his team's draw in the German capital.
"We were not 100 per cent awake in our heads in certain situations."
Not only did Lewandowski, who has scored five goals in four La Liga games since joining Barcelona, topped the Bundesliga scoring chart in six out of his eight seasons at the club, he also had a knack of scoring crucial goals in close games to give Bayern narrow victories.
Mane, who had a track record of scoring big goals in important matches for Liverpool including when his opening goal helped eliminate Bayern in the Reds' Champions League-winning season in 2018-19, has so far scored his goals only in games when Munich has won by at least five goals.
Worryingly for Bayern, their opponents on Wednesday are also known for employing similar defensive tactics to Gladbach and Berlin.
"Inter play a bit differently (to Berlin)," Nagelsmann said, keeping his cards close to his chest.
"There are similarities, but I won't go into that now otherwise they may do something different."
Former Juventus defender Matthijs de Ligt, who played three seasons in Serie A including Inter's championship year, suggested the Nerazzurri may not have as much tactical flexibility as his manager expects.
"Inter are a difficult opponent. They have a team with a lot of experience and physically very strong players," said de Ligt.
"They always play the same way, in a 3-5-2 system."
Domestically, Inter's much-vaunted defence has failed to keep pace with its reputation this season, with the 19-time Serie A winners having conceded eight goals in five games - the highest in the top 12 of the league table.
Inter will welcome Bayern to the San Siro after a painful 3-2 defeat by bitter rivals and current Italian champions AC Milian, which manager Simone Inzaghi blamed on "a half-hour blackout in which we conceded twice".
While Bayern have few injury woes, Inter will be missing their talismanic striker Romelu Lukaku, who is out with a thigh injury.
Inzaghi however welcomed the challenge, promising the three-time Champions League winners would showcase their European pedigree on the big stage.
"It will be a very difficult game for which we will prepare as best we can. We're challenging one of the strongest teams in Europe, but we're Inter and we will play like (Inter)." AFP