Thomas Mueller

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Bayern takes swipe at Germany coach over dropped players

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich took a swipe at Germany coach Joachim Loew on Wednesday for the manner and timing of his move to prematurely end the international careers of three of the club’s players.

Thomas Muller, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels were all informed Tuesday that they were no longer in Loew’s plans, part of an ongoing shake-up following Germany’s woeful performance at last year’s World Cup.

[ MORE: Real-Ajax recap | Ajax reacts ]

“Basically we do not comment on the sporting decisions of the national coach, but we find the timing and circumstances of the announcement of this decision to the players and the public to be questionable,” Bayern said in a statement.

Bayern also pointed out that Germany’s last game was on Nov. 19 and “the fact the players and public were informed around three months later” before games against Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga and Liverpool in the Champions League “irritates us.”

Loew, however, is expected to name his squad for the team’s next matches in the coming days.

Bayern also paid tribute to its players’ achievements with Germany. All three helped the country win the World Cup in 2014.

More AP German soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/Bundesliga and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Germany axes World Cup winners Muller, Boateng, Hummels

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BERLIN (AP) In a continuing shake-up of Germany’s national team following its woeful World Cup campaign, coach Joachim Low on Tuesday axed the experienced trio of Thomas Muller, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels from his future plans – paving the way for a new generation of players to take over.

The decision – which caught many by surprise – represents a calculated gamble by Low, who is counting on younger players to fill the void the three Bayern Munich players will leave.

Muller scored 38 goals in 100 appearances for Germany and has been a mainstay since finishing joint-top scorer at the 2010 World Cup. Hummels and fellow central defender Boateng have 70 and 74 appearances, respectively, and formed the backbone of the team’s defense for years.

All three helped Germany win the World Cup in 2014 but now have to pay the price for the team’s botched title defense in Russia, where it was eliminated in the group stage.

“We want to give the team a new look. I am convinced that this is the right step,” Low said. “The youngsters coming through will have the room they need to grow. Now it’s up to them to take on responsibility.”

Boateng, though, said he would have liked to continue playing for Germany.

“Low told me in a straightforward conversation today that I will not continue to be a part of the Germany team because he wants to offer the stage to young players and give the team a new face,” Boateng wrote on Twitter. “I personally am convinced that I can still play at the highest level and I will show that in future. … I’d have wished for a different type of farewell for us.”

Low, who avoided being fired after the tournament in Russia, was backed by German soccer federation president Reinhard Grindel and team manager Oliver Bierhoff.

Grindel said the changes come at “the right time” and Bierhoff hailed “a new beginning for the squad.”

Grindel himself has also weathered the post-World Cup fallout, despite being heavily criticized for his handling of the media storm that was caused by midfielders Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan posing for photos in London with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan before the tournament.

It led to both players being subjected to abuse from fans and Ozil’s retirement from internationals after the tournament amid accusations of racism. Ozil said he had been made a scapegoat for the World Cup debacle and was particularly scathing of Grindel for adding fuel to the fire.

The national team shake-up has also seen Low drop Sami Khedira, Sebastian Rudy and Kevin Trapp, while striker Mario Gomez retired.

The forced retirements for Muller, Hummels and Boateng mean just four players are left from the World Cup-winning side of 2014 – Toni Kroos, Manuel Neuer, Matthias Ginter and Julian Draxler. It remains to be seen if Mario Gotze or Shkodran Mustafi return.

Players like Niklas Sule, Jonathan Tah, Thilo Kehrer, Antonio Rudiger or Ginter will be expected to fill the void in defense, while Draxler, Timo Werner, Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane, Julian Brandt and Kai Havertz will shoulder the attacking responsibilities.

More surprises could come on Friday when Loew announces his squad for the upcoming friendly against Serbia on March 20 in Wolfsburg and the first European qualifier against the Netherlands in Amsterdam four days later.

More AP German soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/Bundesliga and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Mueller’s UCL appeal denied; ban upheld v. Liverpool

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Liverpool have been handed a significant boost to their UEFA Champions League hopes, in the form of Thomas Mueller’s two-game European suspension being upheld on Monday.

[ MORE: Liverpool suffer PL title slip-up in draw at West Ham ]

The Bayern Munich star was handed his ban after he was sent off in the 75th minute of his side’s group-stage finale against Ajax. Mueller earned the first straight red card of his career for kicking Ajax defender Nicolas Tagliafico in the head. Mueller insisted after the game that he didn’t intentionally kick his opponent.

“No, no, of course I didn’t mean to do it. It wasn’t intentional.”

Bayern appealed the ban ahead of this month’s round-of-16 tie, but UEFA’s Appeals Senate confirmed the 29-year-old German international will most both legs against the current Premier League leaders.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from Liverpool’s draw with West Ham ]

Mueller was always going to miss the first leg at Anfield (Feb. 19), but Bayern had hoped he would be ruled eligible for the return leg at the Allianz Arena on March 13.

Real’s Modric on Bayern feeling unlucky: “That’s their problem”

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Bayern Munich produced far more chances than visiting Real Madrid in Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg in Germany, but lost 2-1 at the Allianz Arena.

Franck Ribery butchered an open shot at goal, Robert Lewandowski beat Keylor Navas but didn’t score late, and Thomas Mueller missed getting contact on a shot inside the six.

[ MORE: Bayern 1-2 Real Madrid ]

It was that kind of day, and Mueller is baffled that his team did not finish more than Joshua Kimmich’s opener.

“Everybody is wondering why this game is 1-2 for Madrid,” Mueller reportedly said. “We still cannot believe it.”

The quote comes from BeIN Sport’s Tancredi Palmeri, who has a stinging rebuke from Real Madrid maestro Luka Modric.

Real wasn’t great on Wednesday, but also limited their big mistakes to one: Marcelo’s lapse of judgment which helped Kimmich to open the scoring for Bayern Munich.

The hosts had a huge giveaway from Rafinha on the match-winner, and backup backstop Sven Ulreich didn’t have a phenomenal day on either goal. Throw in Arjen Robben’s injury requiring an 8th minute substitution, and Bayern did not have much good fortune on the day.

This one, though, doesn’t seem over, even with the tie moving to the Bernabeu.

Bundesliga: Bayern’s title march continues with 4-0 win (video)

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BERLIN (AP) Bayern Munich moved to a huge 20-point lead in the Bundesliga with only nine rounds left after a 4-0 win at Freiburg on Sunday, while Cologne’s slim hopes of survival took a hit.

Two goals in three minutes set Bayern on course for its 20th win in 25 games, leaving it just a matter of time before the Bavarian powerhouse wraps up its record-extending sixth consecutive title.

Jupp Heynckes’ side showed that last weekend’s draw at home to Hertha Berlin was only a temporary scare after a 15-game winning streak.

Thomas Mueller was at the heart of Bayern’s first goal after 24 minutes in which either side could have scored. The Bayern forward’s cross came back off Freiburg defender Caglar Soyuncu’s heel, and Mueller reacted quickly to send the ball back, where it ricocheted off Soyuncu and goalkeeper Alexander Schwolow to go in.

Corentin Tolisso then hammered a brilliant shot from around 30 meters (yards) inside the top right corner.

Sandro Wagner, playing in place of the rested Robert Lewandowski, killed any notion of a contest early in the second half after being set up by Mueller.

Mueller crowned his performance with the fourth goal — a half-volley to Joshua Kimmich’s corner at the near post — with just over 20 minutes remaining.

Cologne’s chances of an unlikely escape from relegation were hit as Stuttgart came from behind to win 3-2 on an afternoon to forget for goalkeeper Timo Horn.

Veteran striker Claudio Pizarro fired Cologne into an early lead and his side went on to dominate the first half.

Yuya Osako, who had sent Pizarro through, thought he’d scored himself toward the end of the half after Vincent Koziello managed to get the ball from goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler. But the video referee concluded the Hannover `keeper had the ball under control and the goal was disallowed.

It went from bad to worse for Cologne just before the break. Mario Gomez equalized against the run of play, and then scored again when Horn let his harmless shot slip through his arms. Stuttgart forward Daniel Ginczek consoled the Cologne `keeper.

“I’m not making any excuses. It’s a ball that a goalkeeper should get. It’s brutal, especially after such a good first half,” Horn said.

Andreas Beck made it 3-1 early in the second half, shooting inside the far post from a difficult angle, when again Horn looked far from impressive.

Cologne struggled to create chances afterward as Stuttgart sat back and defended, though Milos Jojic got the home fans going again when he scored late with a fine free kick.

Stuttgart held on, however, to climb to ninth with its fourth successive win under new coach Tayfun Korkut, who is unbeaten in five.

Home fans shouted Horn’s name after the game to show their support.

“That’s a huge gesture from the fans and one I’m grateful for,” the goalkeeper said.

Cologne remains bottom with just four wins, eight points from safety.