'No crisis' Bayern heads to Wolfsburg hunting first league win of 2023

Winless in the Bundesliga in 2023, Bayern Munich travel to in-form Wolfsburg knowing it could be as low as third place by kickoff time on Sunday. 

Normally several points clear at this stage in the season, several challengers are nipping at Bayern's heels. Four teams — Union Berlin, RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund and Freiburg — are within three points of league leader 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 champion was in the midst of a crisis.

"There is 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 {and} 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 team's "aggression” against Mainz, saying "we will also need that on Sunday in Wolfsburg to secure the three points."

Bayern faces an in-form Wolfsburg, which has lost just twice in its past 13 games. Those two losses however came in the club's past two games, including a surprising 2-1 defeat at Werder Bremen and then an elimination from the German Cup by the same scoreline at Union Berlin.

Prior to his team's midweek defeat in Berlin, Wolfsburg coach Niko Kovac drew the ire of soccer 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 is the "strongest team in the league on the road".

One to watch: Timo Werner (RB Leipzig)

RB Leipzig's excellent recent form— nine wins in its 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 sidelines, 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, Coach Marco Rose criticized the handful of fans that whistled and groaned at 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 behind Bayern Munich, will hope that the German striker remains motivated as the side pushes for its first ever Bundesliga title.

Friday: Augsburg vs Bayer Leverkusen
Saturday: Borussia Dortmund vs Freiburg, Union Berlin vs Mainz, Cologne vs RB Leipzig, Eintracht Frankfurt vs Hertha Berlin, Bochum vs Hoffenheim, Borussia Moenchengladbach vs Schalke
Sunday: Stuttgart vs Werder Bremen, Wolfsburg vs Bayern Munich
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© Agence France-Presse

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