Bundesliga preview: Bayern's monopoly at risk after rare slip in form
Berlin, Feb 3, 2023 (AFP) - Winless in the Bundesliga in 2023, Bayern Munich travel to in-form Wolfsburg knowing they could be as low as third by the time they kick-off on Sunday.
Normally several points clear at this stage in the season, Bayern have several challengers nipping at their heels.
Four teams - Union Berlin, RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund, and Freiburg - are within three points of first-placed Bayern.
Despite a midweek 4-0 thrashing of Mainz in the German Cup, three consecutive 1-1 draws in the league drew accusations that the perennial German champions were in the midst of a crisis.
"There are worse crises," manager Julian Nagelsmann said, telling the media "generally I find the word 'crisis' pretty hard."
"We haven't got the results we wanted or that we should. We need to change that on Sunday in the Bundesliga, otherwise the lead we have (on the others) will be gone."
"It's not a crisis. We just haven't got the right results."
Nagelsmann praised his side's "aggression" against Mainz, saying "we will also need that on Sunday in Wolfsburg to secure the three points."
Bayern face an in-form Wolfsburg, who have lost just twice in their past 13 matches.
Those two losses, however, have come in the club's past two games, including a surprise 2-1 defeat away at Werder Bremen and elimination from the German Cup by the same scoreline at Union Berlin.
Prior to the midweek defeat in Berlin, Wolfsburg manager Niko Kovac drew the ire of football fans in the Bavarian capital by saying "at the moment I feel it's easier to play in Munich than in Berlin".
Kovac, who coached Bayern to a league and cup double in 2018-19 but was sacked the following season, tried to row back on the comments after the Union match.
When asked if his observation was a provocation, Kovac said "it's difficult to win in Berlin, it's also difficult to beat Bayern Munich at home," adding that the Bavarians are the "strongest team in the league on the road."
One to watch: Timo Werner
RB Leipzig's excellent recent form - a run of nine wins in their past 10 competitive games - is all the more impressive when the injury-enforced absences of star forwards Timo Werner and Christopher Nkunku are taken into account.
While Nkunku remains on the treatment table, Werner has scored twice in his past three games.
Despite some difficult moments - he was caught offside four times in Leipzig's 3-1 German Cup win over Hoffenheim on Wednesday, along with kicking the ball into his own face while trying to score from point blank range - Werner got Leipzig's final goal to put the match beyond doubt.
After the game, manager Marco Rose criticized the handful of fans who whistled and groaned Werner's mistakes, saying fans "should try and make an effort to help each player on the field feel good."
Werner, who celebrated his late goal by cupping his ear in the direction of the home fans, returned from an unhappy spell at Chelsea in August with a point to prove.
Leipzig, in third place and just two points from leaders Bayern Munich, will hope the Germany striker remains motivated as they push for their first-ever Bundesliga title.
260: The number of days between Sebastien Haller's last competitive start and his most recent, in Dortmund's 2-0 away win over Leverkusen last Sunday. In Thursday's press conference, Dortmund coach Edin Terzic likened the returned Haller to a "winter transfer" coup for the fourth-placed side.
17: RB Leipzig are unbeaten in 17 matches, the last four of which without injured star forward and top scorer Nkunku.
10: Last in the table, Schalke have just 10 points from 18 matches this season. The traditional German football behemoth has picked up just four points from its past 12 games in the league.
78: Bayern's historical win percentage against Wolfsburg, their best record against any team in the league.
- Augsburg vs. Bayer Leverkusen
- Borussia Dortmund vs. Freiburg
- Union Berlin vs. Mainz
- Koln vs. RB Leipzig
- Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Hertha Berlin
- Bochum vs. Hoffenheim
- Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Schalke
- Stuttgart vs. Werder Bremen
- Wolfsburg vs. Bayern Munich