Berlin (AFP) – Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has warned misfiring Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich that they must rediscover their form against Schalke on Saturday following lacklustre back-to-back displays in 2017.
Bayern laboured to 2-1 league wins at both Freiburg and Werder Bremen in the last fortnight to stay three-points clear of RB Leipzig.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Bayern have failed to fire since flooring Leipzig 3-0 at home in December.
Neuer says the Bavarian giants must step up before their last 16, first leg, of the Champions League at home to Arsenal in two weeks — starting against his ex-club Schalke, who are 11th.
“We know we have important games ahead,” said Neuer, who was born in Gelsenkirchen.
“We’re determined to play better football and want to show it in our first home game of the year.”
Mid-table Schalke are struggling for form with just one win in their last six games with coach Markus Weinzierl under pressure.
“Schalke are standing with their backs against the wall. This is a dangerous match as, from Schalke’s point of view, a win over Bayern would make a lot of things good again,” warned Neuer.
Bayern could face their Germany defender Holger Badstuber, who is on loan to Schalke, but has been on the bench so far.
Bayern are set to welcome back captain Philipp Lahm and midfielder Arturo Vidal after injury, but are without defender Jerome Boateng (shoulder) and Franck Ribery (thigh).
– Tension in Dortmund –
Tensions will be high for Borussia Dortmund’s home clash against second-placed Leipzig.
Leipzig, who were only founded in 2009, are sponsored by Austrian energy drinks giants Red Bull.
Dortmund’s hardcore ‘Ultra’ supporters are planning protests during the match against the commercialism RB represent.
Leipzig’s chairman Oliver Mintzlaff has upped the ante by saying he is ‘not sad’ Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel turned Leipzig down in mid 2015.
At the start of the season, Dortmund’s CEO Hans-Jaochim Watzke described RB as ‘performing cans’, created to sell drinks, words he later had cause to regret as Dortmund lost 1-0 at Leipzig’s Red Bull Arena in September.
“If that was true, then 11 ‘cans’ beat 11 ‘bottles’, which in German (slang) means ‘someone who played poorly,” Leipzig’s director of sport Ralph Rangnick retorted in December.
Leipzig will be without top-scorer Timo Werner, who has netted 11 goals this season. He is laid low with flu, while coach Ralph Hasenhuettl has recovered after also contracting the virus.
Dortmund have told star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to tone down any talk of leaving in June after giving interviews when he said he may quit to take his career ‘to the next level’.
– Wolfsburg’s new recruits –
Having spent 33 million euros ($35.7m) on new recruits in January’s transfer window — the most in the Bundesliga — Wolfsburg are hoping to see some return at home to Cologne on Saturday to climb up from 14th.
Coach Valerien Ismael hopes to have ex-Fulham midfielder Ashkan Dejagah, who signed from Doha-based Al-Arabi, available if the necessary paperwork is done in time.
Wolfsburg also signed goal-scoring attacking midfielder Yunus Malli from Mainz, central midfielder Riechedly Bazoer from Ajax and France forward Paul-Georges Ntep, but stumbled to a 2-1 defeat at home to Augsburg last weekend.
Having been the last team in a European league to lose their unbeaten record with a 2-1 defeat at Leipzig last weekend, fifth-placed Hoffenheim host Mainz on Saturday.
Hoffenheim are without suspended striker Sandro Wagner, who was sent off at Leipzig, while Mainz’s new signing, ex-Barcelona forward Bojan Krkic could make his debut having signed on loan from Stoke City,
Fixtures (all times 1430 GMT unless stated)
Hamburg v Bayer Leverkusen (1930)
Bayern Munich v Schalke, Borussia Moenchengladbach v Freiburg, Hertha Berlin v Ingolstadt, Cologne v Wolfsburg, Hoffenheim v Mainz, Borussia Dotmund v RB Leipzig (1730)
Augsburg v Werder Bremen, Eintracht Frankfurt v Darmstadt (1630)
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