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Bundesliga: Bayern face title hurdle in Leipzig

May 11, 2019

Bayern Munich will be crowned Bundesliga champions for the seventh straight year if they win in Leipzig on Saturday. But that will be no easy task, and Borussia Dortmund are waiting to capitalize on any Bayern slip-up.

Bayern Munich players celebrate after scoring
Image: Imago Images/DeFodi

Bayern Munich will have wished that their final two games of a turbulent season were against more-forgiving opponents. The defending champions travel to face an RB Leipzig side who have lost only once at home in the league this season, back in January, when Borussia Dortmund beat them 1-0 in a tight game. Then Bayern host an Eintracht Frankfurt side who are still eyeing the Bundesliga's fourth Champions League place. Whatever happens, it won't be straightforward for Bayern.

The good news for Bayern is that Leipzig have a poor record against them, and further good news for the visitors is that the Bundesliga's best defense will be without its commanding focal point. Center-back Dayot Upamecano will miss the game through injury. Bayern's success in this game could hinge on whether they take full advantage of that, and that responsibility will fall on a likely front four of Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry and Thomas Müller, spearheaded by Robert Lewandowski.

Bayern have a few problems of their own though. Manuel Neuer has a calf problem and Javi Martinez has been suffering with shin splints, meaning both are certain to miss out. Thiago Alcantara has struggled in recent games for Bayern and Corentin Tolisso probably won't be risked in such a crucial game, given how long he's been sidelined.

With Leipzig's stubborn defense and Bayern's stop-start form, this has all the makings of a tense, low-scoring affair. A draw would be enough for Bayern if Dortmund lose, but a win is the only result that can avert this title race from going down to the final day, regardless of Dortmund's result.

Fussball Bundesliga l Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Dortmund l Tor 0:1
Christian Pulisic scored against Bremen last weekend, only his third Bundesliga goal of the season.Image: Reuters/F. Bimmer

Dortmund still alive

The odds may be stacked against them following their 2-2 draw in Bremen last weekend, but Borussia Dortmund could be right back in the title race if results go their way on Saturday. In order to take this absorbing title race to the final day, Dortmund simply need to better Bayern's result in Leipzig.

Dortmund are expected to win this game quite comfortably, but there are a few factors that suggest it may not be as straightforward as it seems on paper. Düsseldorf were the side who derailed Dortmund's title challenge just before Christmas, when a 2-1 win stunned the then league leaders and inflicted their first league defeat of the season. That encounter will be fresh in the minds of both coaches.

There's also the more immediate concern of the double suspension of Marco Reus and Marius Wolf and the continuing injuries to Dan-Axel Zagadou and Achraf Hakimi, who will be sidelined for the season. Dortmund's forward line could be further hamstrung if Jadon Sancho misses out, with the 19-year-old Englishman set to face a late fitness test.

Race for fourth heating up

Bayer Leverkusen could lay down a marker to Eintracht Frankfurt when Peter Bosz's side host Schalke in their final home game of the season. Schalke have just appointed David Wagner as the permanent successor to Domenico Tedesco, but the former Huddersfield Town coach will only be a spectator for this one, with his role commencing next season.

Bundesliga 31. Spieltag | FC Augsburg vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen | Peter Bosz
Peter Bosz's Leverkusen have the chance to put the pressure on Frankfurt in the race for fourth.Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Hoppe

Schalke may be secure from the drop but it's been a desperately disappointing campaign for the side who finished second last season — and now they have to face a Leverkusen side that scored six goals in the opening 36 minutes against their direct top four rivals Eintracht Frankfurt last weekend.

Leverkusen were utterly brilliant and, as an attacking force, more of the same is most certainly a possibility. Kai Havertz and Julian Brandt are in scintillating form and Leverkusen are playing like a side that know they have the momentum going into these crucial final games.

Eintracht Frankfurt, meanwhile, are running out of steam at the worst possible time. A superb performance against Chelsea on Thursday ultimately ended in defeat, and the 120 minutes in London will have taken a physical toll on the players. They play in the final Bundesliga game of the weekend, against Mainz, which is a game that Frankfurt would have won easily a few weeks ago. But Mainz were excellent against RB Leipzig last weekend and will not give Frankfurt an easy ride.

Elsewhere, the relegation battle could also reach a conclusion this weekend. Stuttgart look all but certain to end the season in the play-off place. They will relegate Hannover if they get a point against Wolfsburg, a result that would effectively send Nuremberg down too.