Bundesliga: Leipzig hosts Bayern hoping to keep race 'exciting'

Bayern Munich manager Julian Nagelsmann admits he wants to stop the league getting "exciting again" with an away win at resurgent RB Leipzig on Friday.

Four points clear on top of the table, Bayern is hoping for a record-extending 11th straight Bundesliga title. Despite brave challenges from Freiburg, in second, and Union Berlin, the familiar failings of Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen have left Leipzig as Bayern's most likely challengers for the title. 

"If we win the game, a nine-point lead [ahead of third-placed RB Leipzig} would be a good cushion. If we should lose, it {the league} is very exciting again and then we will be under more pressure to act in the Bundesliga than if we were to win," Nagelsmann said on Wednesday. "So, it's an important game." 

The match pits Germany's two most in-form sides against each other in what has emerged as perhaps the biggest rivalry in the Bundesliga in recent seasons. Six of the teams' 12 league clashes against each other have come with the sides sitting first and second in the standings. 

While Bayern has lost only once in all competitions and is the strong favorite for both the title and Friday's clash. RB has lost just twice since local Leipzig lad Marco Rose took over as head coach in September. The Red Bulls' record at home is even more imposing, with six wins and one draw from seven league matches this season. Bayern has won five, drawn two and lost one of its eight games away from home.

Neither side will be at full strength however, with several key players missing. 

Bayern captain goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and defender Lucas Hernandez are both suffering from long-term injuries, while forward Sadio Mane will not be back until at least February. Leipzig captain goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi is also out long-term, while French forward Christopher Nkunku will not be back in time to face Bayern. 

Leipzig will however welcome back winger Timo Werner, who missed the World Cup with an ankle injury.

In an interview published Wednesday with Germany's Sportbild, Werner said Leipzig could "increase the pressure on Bayern, especially as we still have the return fixture. Before the winter break, we were at eye level with Bayern, in terms of the quality of our play."

Werner also said that his side needs to reach Bayern-like levels of consistency to mount a realistic challenge for the title this season.

"A win would point us in the right direction, but what is more important than beating Bayern is to be consistent afterwards. The title will be decided in games against teams with other things to worry about."

One to watch: Sebastien Haller

Borussia Dortmund striker Sebastien Haller is likely to make his first competitive appearance for the club at home vs Augsburg on Sunday after fighting back from testicular cancer.

Haller was diagnosed just days after signing for Dortmund in the summer of 2022 and spent the rest of the year receiving treatment, including four rounds of chemotherapy and two operations. 

After coming on as a late substitute in a friendly against Fortuna Duesseldorf in January, Haller said he wanted to "give the coach no option" but to pick him. He made good on that promise in his next match, scoring three goals in eight minutes when subbed on at half-time in a friendly against Basel on Friday, proving that his return to the field was more than just sentimental.

Dortmund resumes the season in sixth place, nine points adrift of league leader Bayern.

Friday: RB Leipzig vs. Bayern Munich
Saturday: Eintracht Frankfurt vs Schalke, Bochum vs. Hertha Berlin, Union Berlin vs. Hoffenheim, Wolfsburg vs. Freiburg, Stuttgart vs. Mainz, Cologne vs. Werder Bremen
Sunday: Borussia Dortmund vs. Augsburg, Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Bayer Leverkusen


© Agence France-Presse

1 comment about "Bundesliga: Leipzig hosts Bayern hoping to keep race 'exciting'".
  1. R2 Dad, January 19, 2023 at 5:31 p.m.

    This just means Bayern will now be harvesting Leipzig's best players instead of Dortmund's. The Bundesliga is still entertaining to watch, but pretty predictable. Can 50+1 be tweaked to improve the league?

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