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Fresh Haaland knock hampers Dortmund in title race


Berlin (AFP) – Erling Haaland is again an injury doubt for Dortmund before Saturday’s game against RB Leipzig with the hosts needing a win to stay in the Bundesliga title race and a capacity crowd expected for the first time in two years.

With seven games left, second-placed Dortmund need to end Leipzig’s six match unbeaten run to keep pace with runaway leaders Bayern Munich, who start the weekend six points clear.

Haaland has only just returned from a leg injury, but it is “very questionable” he will play Saturday due to an ankle knock after scoring twice in Norway’s 9-0 rout of Armenia on Tuesday.

“He’s twisted his ankle, the foot is swollen – fat and blue,” said Dortmund coach Marco Rose.

Haaland has scored twice in each of his three games for Dortmund against fourth-placed Leipzig, most recently in last May’s 4-1 German Cup final win.

For the first time since the pandemic hit Europe, Dortmund expect a capacity crowd of 81,000 at Signal Iduna Park.

“We can look forward to a great atmosphere and want to use that to our advantage,” said Rose.

Bayern were the last team to beat Leipzig, who have handed out 6-1 thrashings to both Greuther Fuerth and Hertha Berlin in recent weeks.

Leipzig head coach Domenico Tedesco expects Haaland to play.

“We plan for it and he will play – it’s a top game, for them and us.”

Bayern face a tricky away tie Saturday at Freiburg with the visitors waiting on the fitness of their star forward Robert Lewandowski.

He suffered a rib injury in Tuesday’s win over Sweden as Poland qualified for the World Cup.

“We have to see how the rib reacts,” Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann said Friday.

“I expect him to be in the squad and play, but we won’t take any risks,” insisted Nagelsmann with one eye on Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final, first leg at Villarreal.

Nagelsmann is set to be without Joshua Kimmich, as his wife is due to give birth, and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, who is sidelined by Covid.

However, Leon Goretkza could make his first appearance since December, while Niklas Suele is also fit again.

Like Leipzig, Freiburg are battling for a top four finish, which would mean a Champions League place next season. 

Bayern have drawn two of their last three away games at Freiburg in Germany’s Black Forest region.

“You can’t be afraid when a Bayern shirt comes at you,” said Freiburg head coach Christian Streich, who is demanding full focus from the hosts.

“Surf the wave, always have all the lights on – then something can happen.”

One to watch: Mark Flekken

Four days after playing for the Netherlands in their friendly 1-1 draw against the Germans, Freiburg’s goalkeeper will again face Bayern’s Germany stars on Saturday.

Thomas Mueller beat Flekken with a first-half shot in Amsterdam, but his Bayern and Germany team-mates Jamal Musiala and Leroy Sane were both denied by saves from Freiburg’s Dutch goalkeeper.

Freiburg defenders Nico Schlotterbeck and Christian Guenter also both played for Germany in Amsterdam.

“Those are nice experiences for the lads, but of course it’s not good for preparations to face Bayern,” said Streich who was relieved to get his three key players back fully fit.

Key stats

31 – the Bundesliga goals Lewandowski has scored in 27 games this season keeping him on course to be top scorer for the fifth straight season.

10 – the Bundesliga games Haaland has missed with injury this season for Dortmund out of 27.

One – RB Leipzig’s wins at Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park, plus three defeats and a draw, since their first Bundesliga season in 2016/17. 

Fixtures (all times 1330GMT unless stated)

Friday

Union Berlin v Cologne (1830)  

Saturday

Eintracht Frankfurt v Greuther Fuerth, Bayer Leverkusen v Hertha Berlin, Freiburg v Bayern Munich, Hoffenheim v VfL Bochum, Arminia Bielefeld v VfB Stuttgart, Borussia Dortmund v RB Leipzig (1630)

Sunday

Augsburg v VfL Wolfsburg, Borussia Moenchengladbach v Mainz (1530)

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