Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich head to Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday looking for three points to steady the ship again after a turbulent week.
Bayern head to the Rhineland in rude health with an eight-point lead in the table, but there have been plenty of tensions off the field in the last five days.
On Monday, football’s worst kept secret was confirmed when coach Pep Guardiola announced he will take charge at Manchester City next season in a three-year deal reported to be worth more than £15 million ($21.5 million, 20 million euros) per year.
Despite chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge commenting last Sunday that “there is no quality on the market”, Bayern signed Germany international Serdar Tasci on Monday in a loan deal to cover their dearth of central defenders.
With Javi Martinez, Jerome Boateng and Medhi Benatia all sidelined, Holger Badstuber is their only fully fit centre-back.
Unfortunately, Tasci then suffered a concussion in his first training session on Wednesday — 48 hours after signing until June from Spartak Moscow — and will sit out the Leverkusen match.
Then magazine Sport Bild alleged midfielder Arturo Vidal was repeatedly drunk during Bayern’s January training camp in Qatar and both the club and player have said they will take legal action.
Bayern’s goalkeeper Manuel Neuer says the squad has blanked out the off-field turmoil and are focused solely on Leverkusen.
“The things which they try to stick on the team don’t affect us. I can only repeat that we stick together,” said Neuer.
Bayern has only won six of the last 13 games against Leverkusen, a poor return by their lofty standards, and Bayer beat the Bavarians 2-0 last May when last year’s league title was already won.
– ‘Chicharito on fire’ –
Leverkusen are unbeaten in their last six games, dating back to the start of December, and their ex-Manchester United striker Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez is knocking in goals for fun.
‘Chicharito’ has hit 13 goals in 16 league appearances while Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski has scored 19 goals in 19.
The Mexican striker has played in every league game since his arrival last August, and his second-half double in last Saturday’s 3-0 win over Hanover 96 left Leverkusen fourth in the table.
“Chicharito was really on fire in the last few minutes and that’s why you must never take a player like him off,” admitted Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt after Hernandez has forged a strong partnership alongside Germany striker Stefan Kiessling.
“He’s always capable of deciding a game on his own.”
Second plays third in the capital when Borussia Dortmund visit Hertha Berlin.
Third-placed Hertha are unbeaten in their last six games in all competitions and have lost just one of their last nine after their 2-0 loss at Bayern’s Allianz Arena in November.
Dortmund have won both of their games in 2016 and are ten points clear of Berlin.
Pal Dardai’s Hertha will need to try and stop Dortmund’s Gabon striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The hot-shot striker has scored 20 goals in 19 games, two ahead of Bayern legend Gerd Mueller at the same stage of the season when he scored the record of 40 goals in the 1971/72 campaign season.
“If I am honest, we only have a small chance of winning,” said Dardai, with a sell-out crowd of 74,500 expected in Berlin.
“But we’ll be playing for the win, and if so many of our fans come, we’ll want to go out to attack and not play with five at the back.”
Fixtures (all times Eastern)
Friday, February 5
Monchengladbach vs Werder Bremen, 2:30pm, FOX Sports 1 and FOX Soccer 2Go
Saturday, February 6
Hannover vs Mainz, 9:30am, FOX Soccer 2Go
Hertha Berlin vs Dortmund, 9:30am, FOX Sports 1 and FOX Soccer 2Go
Schalke vs Wolfsburg, 9:30am, FOX Sports 2 and FOX Soccer 2Go
Frankfurt vs Stuttgart, 9:30am, FOX Soccer 2Go
Ingolstadt vs Augsburg, 9:30am, FOX Soccer 2Go
Leverkusen vs Bayern Munich, 12:30pm, FOX and FOX Soccer 2Go
Sunday, February 7
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