Bay­ern un­der pres­sure for ‘big­gest chal­lenge’

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

BER­LIN: Bun­desliga lead­ers Bay­ern Mu­nich face a stern chal­lenge to their place at the top of the ta­ble this week­end when Carlo Ancelotti’s Bavar­ian giants play Borus­sia Dort­mund away to­day.

Bay­ern could be knocked from top spot even be­fore kick-off if sec­ond-placed RB Leipzig pick up a point at Bayer Lev­erkusen on Fri­day night to ex­tend their un­beaten record to 11 matches.

But all eyes will be on Dort­mund, where the Ger­man league’ s top two strike rs Bo rus­sia’ s Pierre-Em erick Aubameyang and Bay­ern’s Robert Le­wandowski-will go headto-head. Fifth-placed Dort­mund are six points be­hind Bay­ern in what prom­ises to be a bat­tle royal and be­tween them, Aubameyang and Le­wandowski have scored 18 league goals.

“It’s not just the fans who look for­ward to this game, but the play­ers as well,” said Bay­ern’s Ger­many for­ward Thomas Mueller. “It’s the best game of the year, be­cause it’s the hard­est to win. “It’s the big­gest chal­lenge.” The bat­tle of Ger­many’s top two teams has been dubbed ‘Der Klas­siker’ by the Ger­man me­dia in re­cent years, but Dort­mund’s last league win over Bay­ern­home or away-was more than two years ago.

CLAS­SIC SHOW­DOWN

Nev­er­the­less, hosts Dort­mund are ea­ger for their first win over the Bavar­i­ans at Sig­nal Iduna Park since April 2012. Both sides have stars with a point to prove against their for­mer club. Bay­ern’s Ger­many de­fender Mats Hum­mels can ex­pect to face a ca­coph­ony of whis­tles and jeers ev­ery time the exDort­mund cap­tain touches the ball. “If we lose then lots of teams, in­clud­ing Dort­mund, will be very close be­hind us (in the ta­ble),” said Hum­mels. Mario Goetze, who spent the last three sea­sons in Mu­nich, will lead Dort­mund’s at­tack while de­fen­sive mid­fielder Se­bas­tian Rode is hop­ing for a start against ex-club Bay­ern. Dort­mund winger Marco Reus could make his first start of the sea­son af­ter a groin in­jury while Bay­ern have had both de­fender Jerome Boateng and winger Franck Ribery back in train­ing af­ter knocks.

Dutch winger Ar­jen Robben has been given the all clear af­ter com­plain­ing of a sore thigh in the Nether­lands’ 3-1 win over Lux­em­bourg to­mor­row in a World Cup qual­i­fier. But Bay­ern are wait­ing to hear if Ar­turo Vi­dal is fit af­ter the Chile mid­fielder played in a mid-week World Cup qual­i­fier while car­ry­ing an in­jury-de­spite re­quests not to do so from Bay­ern’s chair­man Karl-Heinz Rum­menigge.

“Best not to ask,” Vi­dal told re­porters af­ter hurt­ing his thigh dur­ing Chile’s 3-1 win over Uruguay, hav­ing also re­turned from in­ter­na­tional duty in Oc­to­ber with an an­kle in­jury.

Else­where, third-placed Hof­fen­heim, un­der Ju­lian Nagels­mann, the youngest coach in Bun­desliga his­tory at 29, are at home to bot­tom side Ham­burg on Sun­day.

Hof­fen­heim are un­beaten this sea­son and have caused op­po­nents all man­ner of prob­lems with a solid 3-5-2 for­ma­tion. They held Bay­ern to a 1-1 draw last time out while Ham­burg have yet to win a game this sea­son.

Borus­sia Moenchenglad­bach have failed to win any of their last five games and they face Cologne on Sat­ur­day in the Rhineland derby.

Coach An­dre Schu­bert is un­der pres­sure and his side needs a con­fi­dence-boost­ing win for next Wed­nes­day’s Cham­pi­ons League clash at home to Manch­ester City with Gladbach cling­ing on to third place in Group C.

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