Berlin (AFP) – RB Leipzig can pile some timely pressure on Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich this weekend with coach Julian Nagelsmann indulging in mind games as his second-placed side aim to trim a five-point deficit.
Bayern are licking their wounds after the holders were knocked out of the Champions League by Paris Saint-Germain and on Saturday travel north to third-placed Wolfsburg with a depleted squad.
Star striker Robert Lewandowski is recovering from a knee injury, while Serge Gnabry remains quarantined after testing positive for Covid-19.
Leipzig host mid-table side Hoffenheim on Friday and Nagelsmann wants three points to put pressure on Bayern, whose opponents have conceded just 26 league goals this season — the Bundesliga’s second best defensive record behind Leipzig.
“Without question, the three points on Friday night are very important to put a bit of pressure on the leaders,” said Nagelsmann.
“A win would perhaps give us a little psychological advantage.”
There is friction behind the scenes at Bayern whose head coach Hansi Flick admitted this week he is mulling over his future amid simmering tensions with sports director Hasan Salihamidzic.
Nagelsmann said the unrest in Munich could play into the hands of Leipzig, who are near full strength with Yussuf Poulsen, Angelino, Lukas Klostermann and Tyler Adams back from injury.
“If it were extremely quiet with them (Bayern), it could be that they would be two or three” points clearer in the table, quipped Nagelsmann.
The 33-year-old poured cold water on claims by Lothar Matthaeus that Nagelsmann has already talked to Bayern about replacing Flick.
“There were, and are, no talks. I don’t know where he got the information from,” Nagelsmann said of Matthaeus’ claims.
Having conceded the title race when Leipzig lost at home to Bayern in early April, Nagelsmann now admits he may have spoken too soon.
Leipzig’s 4-1 romp at Bremen and Bayern’s draw at home to Union Berlin last weekend reduced the gap, but Nagelsmann stopped short of suggesting the title race is back on.
“I don’t want to put the brakes on any euphoria, but it is clear that we still want to become champions.”
At the other end of the table, Hertha Berlin head coach Pal Dardai, assistant coach Admir Hamzagic and Belgium striker Dodi Lukebakio are quarantined after testing positive for Covid-19.
The team has also been ordered into isolation until April 28 and can only leave their common quarters for matches and training.
Hertha are away to Mainz on Sunday with both teams battling to stay out of the relegation places.
Eintracht Frankfurt head coach Adi Huetter takes on his future employers Borussia Moenchengladbach on Saturday.
Despite steering Frankfurt to fourth and a potential Champions League debut next season, Huetter will leave to replace Marco Rose as head coach next season at Gladbach, who are four points from the European places.
News of Huetter’s departure triggered a clean out at Eintracht as sports director Fredi Bobic also announced he is leaving for Hertha Berlin in June.
One to watch: Jude Bellingham
Borussia Dortmund’s 17-year-old England midfielder became the second-youngest goalscorer in the knockout stages of the Champions League when he netted in Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat to Manchester City.
Having also claimed his first Bundesliga goal in last Saturday’s 3-2 win at Stuttgart, Bellingham was again outstanding despite Dortmund bowing out in the quarter-finals.
Expect him to boss the midfield on Sunday at Bremen, where Dortmund need a win to trim the seven-point gap between themselves and the Champions League places.
37 – Bayern’s Bundesliga wins over Wolfsburg.
13 – The number of games Wolfsburg have played at home this season, so far without defeat.
8 – The number of goals Wolfsburg have conceded at home in 2020/21.
Fixtures (all times 1330GMT unless stated)
RB Leipzig v Hoffenheim (1830)
Borussia Moenchengladbach v Eintracht Frankfurt, Wolfsburg v Bayern Munich, Freiburg v Schalke 04, Union Berlin v Stuttgart, Augsburg v Arminia Bielefeld, Bayer Leverkusen v Cologne (1630)
Borussia Dortmund v Werder Bremen, Mainz v Hertha Berlin (1600)
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