Bayern deny ‘crisis’, host Leverkusen
Faltering Bayern Munich hope to break their second mini winless streak this season when they host Bayer Leverkusen today to launch their counterattack on top spot in Germany. For the first time since September 2015, second-placed Bayern do not top the table at the start of a weekend of Bundesliga fixtures. Having won the Bundesliga title in each of the last four seasons, things are currently not going Bayern’s way. New leaders RB Leipzig, who are at Freiburg on Friday, are on a record run and yet to taste defeat in their first 11 league games to leave them three points clear of Bayern.
Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhuettl acknowledged their 3-2 win at Leverkusen last Friday, to put them top, stirred up a wasps’ nest “so of course there is some buzzing” in Bayern. Following their home draw with Hoffenheim, narrow defeat at Borussia Dortmund and 3-2 loss at Russia’s Rostov in the Champions League on Wednesday, Bayern are wobbling. This is the second time the Bavarian giants have gone three games without a win since Carlo Ancelotti took charge at the start of the season. Poor defending was at the root of their problem in Rostov. The tension around the defending German champions is clear, especially as the Rostov defeat ended their hopes of winning their Champions League group.
“It’s useless to make a circus out of things now,” fumed chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge after the loss in Rostov. “We have to do things better, especially in today’s next game against Bayer Leverkusen.” Captain Philipp Lahm denies Bayern are in crisis, but “at he moment we are a bit careless and making too many mistakes. “We don’t seem to know that our opponents can also score and will punish our mistakes,” he added, bemused. Bayern are waiting on the fitness of defender Jerome Boateng.
The Germany centre-back suffered a thigh injury in Rostov and was criticized by Rummenigge for a poor display, but the whole Bayern defense is currently shaky. Having served time in jail for tax evasion, Uli Hoeness is set to be re-elected as Bayern president. The out-spoken Hoeness wants to put Bayern back on the attack and the 64-year-old will have plenty to say if results do not improve. Leverkusen are buoyed from their midweek Champions League draw at CSKA Moscow which means they progress at the expense to the last 16 at the expense of Tottenham Hotspur. The sides drew 0-0 in Leverkusen in February on their previous meeting and it is four years since Bayer last poached a win in Munich.
Third-placed Dortmund are at Eintracht Frankfurt having welcomed back Germany winger Marco Reus, who led the scoring in their record 8-4 drubbing of Legia Warsaw on Tuesday. Coach Thomas Tuchel, who made nine changes for the side which beat Bayern, has a few defensive frailties to fix. Antony Modeste, the league’s joint top scorer with 12 goals alongside Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, will look to add to his tally for fourth-placed Cologne against. Augsburg. Fifth-placed Hoffenheim, who along with RB Leipzig, are still unbeaten this season, are at Borussia Moenchengladbach, who are 13th. Gladbach held Manchester City to a 1-1 draw on Wednesday which ended their Champions League hopes and booked their passage into the Europa League. —AFP