Bay­ern un­der pres­sure for ‘elec­tric’ show­down

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Bay­ern Mu­nich face an acid test of their sta­tus as Bun­desliga lead­ers in to­mor­row’s crunch show­down when they host se­cond-placed RB Leipzig, who know they have noth­ing to lose.

The Bavar­ian giants have won the Bun­desliga ti­tle at a can­ter in each of the last four sea­sons, but Leipzig, who were only founded in 2009, have torn up the form book in their first sea­son in Ger­many’s top flight.

Just like Bay­ern, they have won 11 of their 15 league games, with three wins and a sin­gle de­feat. Both clubs have 36 points, but Mu­nich are top on goal dif­fer­ence. A shock 10 de­feat to In­gol­stadt ten days ago is the only blot on Leipzig’s record hav­ing so far beaten the likes of Dort­mund, Lev­erkusen, Schalke and now Hertha Ber­lin, following Satur­day’s 2-0 home win.

“Quick, com­pact and greedy-they are the best op­po­nent we have faced so far,” was Hertha coach Pal Dar­dai’s ap­praisal of Leipzig, who had gone a record 13 matches un­beaten at the start of their de­but Bun­desliga sea­son.

The Bun­desliga breaks for win­ter af­ter this round of mid-week matches and the Al­lianz Arena show­down is the stand­out tie. Hav­ing led for three weeks un­til early De­cem­ber, Leipzig knocked Bay­ern off the sum­mit for 24 hours af­ter their im­pres­sive win over Hertha be­fore Mu­nich’s 1-0 vic­tory at bot­tom side Darm­stadt put them top again on Sun­day.

“We’re proud to have a game on Wed­nes­day against Bay­ern Mu­nich which will elec­trify the whole of Ger­many and will cer­tainly in­spire across the bor­ders,” said Leipzig’s Aus­trian coach Ralph Hasen­huettl.

Last month, Bay­ern’s pres­i­dent Uli Hoe­ness dubbed Leipzig their “se­cond en­emy” in Ger­many along­side Borus­sia Dort­mund be­fore with­draw­ing the com­ment, but the Bavar­i­ans clearly feel threat­ened by Leipzig. RB are one of the few Ger­man clubs who have deep pock­ets like Bay­ern with the fi­nan­cial weight of Aus­trian drinks giants Red Bull be­hind them.

Their team has an av­er­age age of just over 23 and there is lit­tle fear ahead of their his­toric first Bun­desliga match against Bay­ern. “We want to, we can, but we don’t have to,” said de­fender Ste­fan Il­sanker when asked about the pres­sure to win in Mu­nich.

Leipzig are set to be with­out in­jured de­fen­sive mid­fielder Naby Keita (thigh) and de­fender Mar­cel Hal­sten­berg (hip), but Leipzig’s young guns are rel­ish­ing the test of their mettle.

“The an­tic­i­pa­tion is huge. We’ll put ev­ery­thing into it and I can hardly wait,” said cen­tre-back Willi Or­ban, who scored against Hertha. Cen­tre-backs Or­ban and Il­sanker will be tasked with con­tain­ing Bay­ern’s Thomas Mueller and Robert Le­wandowski, while Leipzig’s top scorer Timo Werner, who has nine league goals, will face Ger­many’s Mats Hum­mels. Bay­ern will be miss­ing his cen­tre­back part­ner Jerome Boateng, who needs a shoul­der op­er­a­tion.

Head coach Carlo Ancelotti says he al­ready knows his line-up and it’s more than likely Ar­jen Robben and Franck Ribery will start on the flanks.

While Leipzig im­pressed against Hertha, Bay­ern were lack­lus­tre in Sun­day’s 1-0 win at Darm­stadt which was set­tled by a su­perb goal from Dou­glas Costa.

“We took three very im­por­tant points, with­out which it would have been dif­fi­cult on Wed­nes­day against RB Leipzig,” said Bay­ern goal­keeper Manuel Neuer.

“But we can’t be sat­is­fied with the per­for­mance-that wasn’t FC Bay­ern to­day and Wed­nes­day will be a duel be­tween equals.”

An un­think­able de­feat would mean Bay­ern go into the win­ter break with the Ger­man me­dia in­evitably ask­ing all sorts of un­com­fort­able ques­tions of Ancelotti’s starstud­ded squad.—AFP

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