Dortmund hunt win at high-fliers Leipzig to rejoin title race


Berlin (AFP) – Borussia Dortmund are hunting a win at second-placed RB Leipzig on Saturday to get back in the Bundesliga title race while elsewhere two German league records could be equalled this weekend.

At the top of the table, Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick can claim 100 league points in his first 39 games if the league leaders win at Borussia Moenchengladbach on Friday.

Pep Guardiola is the only other Bundesliga coach to have reached the milestone in the same number of games after taking charge of Bayern in 2013.

At the other end of the table, bottom side Schalke could equal the league record of 31 games without victory if they lose or draw at home to Hoffenheim.

In Saturday night’s top match, Dortmund head to Leipzig in the “role of the hunter”, according to sports director Michael Zorc, chasing an away win to trim the eight-point gap behind leaders Bayern. 

A late Jadon Sancho goal sealed their 2-0 win at home to Wolfsburg last Sunday, but Dortmund are fourth after defeats to Stuttgart and Union Berlin in December dented their title hopes.

Dortmund must break their habit of conceding goals at set pieces which has drawn fierce internal criticism.

“Too often we haven’t played grown-up football and our style was bound to see us drop points,” Dortmund defender Mats Hummels fumed in Sport Bild, harsh criticism caretaker coach Edin Terzic regards as “legitimate and productive”.

Up front, Dortmund striker Erling Braut Haaland needs to finish his chances after the 20-year-old fired a blank last Sunday on his return after a hip injury.

Haaland’s 16-year-old understudy Youssoufa Moukoko is struggling with a knee injury.

Dortmund have lost five of their 14 games this season and Terzic can ill-afford to lose at Leipzig, 10 days before facing third-placed Bayer Leverkusen.

“The whole of January will set the tone for the rest of the Bundesliga season,” Terzic admits.

Leipzig are on a nine-match unbeaten run in the Bundesliga, including a thrilling 3-3 draw at Bayern last month, and their defence has only conceded nine league goals all season.

Their head coach Julian Nagelsmann is “already planning” the club’s first win over Dortmund since 2017, “because we’re brave enough, in a very good mood” and have home advantage.

Nagelsmann is missing several players as Christopher Nkunku aggravated an ankle injury in training, while new signing Dominik Szoboszlai is struggling with a groin problem.

One to watch: Taiwo Awoniyi

The Liverpool loanee has scored five goals in his last seven league games which has helped Union Berlin climb to fifth ahead of Saturday’s home game against Wolfsburg.

With Germany striker Max Kruse recovering from a knee injury, burly 23-year-old Awoniyi spearheaded Union’s attack by setting up team-mate Sheraldo Becker before tapping home to seal a 2-0 win at Werder Bremen last Saturday.  

The Nigerian international is making an impact at Union after seven loan moves in three different countries since joining Liverpool in 2015 after winning the African Under-20 Championships.

Key stats

19 – the league goals scored by Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski, who netted twice against Mainz last Sunday. Haaland is his nearest rival on 10 goals.

97 – the league points Flick has accumulated as Bayern Munich head coach in his first 38 games with 31 wins, four draws and three defeats since taking charge in November 2019. 

31 – Jadon Sancho’s goal against Wolfsburg was his 31st in the Bundeliga. The England winger turns 21 in March and no-one else has scored so many German league goals at such a young age.

Fixtures (all times 1430GMT unless stated)

Friday

Borussia Moenchengladbach v Bayern Munich (1930)

Saturday

Bayer Leverkusen v Werder Bremen, Freiburg v Cologne, Union Berlin v Wolfsburg, Schalke 04 v Hoffenheim, Mainz v Eintracht Frankfurt, RB Leipzig v Borussia Dortmund (1730) 

Sunday 

Augsburg v VfB Stuttgart, Arminia Bielefeld v Hertha Berlin (1700)

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