Berlin (AFP) – Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich host in-form Freiburg on Sunday under pressure to bounce back from consecutive defeats including their shock midweek German Cup exit.
Freiburg are on a club record five-game winning streak in the league while Bayern are licking their wounds after crashing out of the German Cup to second-division Holstein Kiel in a penalty shoot-out.
It was the first time for 20 years that Bayern have exited the cup in the second round to a club outside the Bundesliga and ends any potential repeat of last year’s treble haul.
The shock defeat left Bayern coach Hansi Flick insisting the European champions “must do better” having also thrown away a two-goal lead in last Friday’s 3-2 league loss at Moenchengaldbach.
“We must be more compact in defence and protect the central midfield better,” Flick said.
Working as a TV pundit, former Bayern midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger has criticised the tactic of defending high up the pitch, which has led to three of the last five goals Munich have conceded.
“It’s unnecessary in my eyes, then you shouldn’t complain if your opponent plays the ball right” behind the defence, Schweinsteiger stated.
Despite defeat at Gladbach, Bayern keep their two-point lead in the table as Borussia Dortmund were the only top six club to win last weekend with a 3-1 victory at second-placed RB Leipzig.
Erling Braut Haaland scored twice at Leipzig to prove he is over a hip injury, while England winger Jadon Sancho has now scored in his last two games.
At home to Mainz on Saturday, fourth-placed Dortmund are without Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel, who could be sidelined for months by a torn Achilles tendon.
In his absence, Emre Can is expected to partner Thomas Delaney in the defensive midfield.
After wins over top-six clubs Wolfsburg and Leipzig, Dortmund want a home win over bottom side Mainz to help trim the five-point gap behind Bayern.
“It was a very good step in Leipzig, but it won’t do us any good if we don’t build on it,” said Dortmund coach Edin Terzic.
Leipzig want to be the first team this season to win at Wolfsburg on Saturday.
“Whether Bayern are currently weak or not has no effect on us,” said Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann.
“After defeat against Dortmund, we want to keep our good position in the league – that is only possible with a win,” he added.
Third-placed Bayer Leverkusen are at Union Berlin on Friday without new signing Timothy Fosu-Mensah as the ex-Manchester United defender is quarantined after completing his transfer from the UK.
One to watch: Matthew Hoppe
The Schalke teenager became the first American to score a Bundesliga hat-trick in last Saturday’s 4-0 win at Hoffenheim.
The win lifted Schalke off the bottom of the table, but they are six points short of escaping the bottom three.
On Sunday, Schalke are away to Eintracht Frankfurt, who have signed Luka Jovic on loan back from Real Madrid after struggling to adapt in Spain.
Likewise, Schalke are reportedly in talks with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, 37, who they want to sign on loan from Ajax after scoring 126 goals in 240 appearances for the Royal Blues from 2010-17.
21 – minutes 19-year-old Hoppe needed to complete his hat-trick against Hoffenheim on only his fifth Bundesliga appearance.
24 – league goals Bayern have conceded this season, more than any other top six club.
25 – Bundesliga goals Luka Jovic scored in 54 games for Frankfurt before signing a six-year contract with Real Madrid last year in a transfer reportedly worth 60 million euros ($73 million).
Fixtures (all times 1430GMT unless stated)
Union Berlin v Bayer Leverkusen (1930)
Borussia Dortmund v Mainz 05, Hoffenheim v Arminia Bielefeld, VfL Wolfsburg v RB Leipzig, Cologne v Hertha Berlin, Werder Bremen v Augsburg, VfB Stuttgart v Borussia Moenchengladbach (1730)
Bayern Munich v Freiburg, Eintracht Frankfurt v Schalke (1700)
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