Second-placed Bayern Munich are eager to stamp their authority on the Bundesliga with a win at current leaders Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday in their third top-of-the-table clash already this season.
Under their Dutch coach Peter Bosz, Leverkusen are the only club still unbeaten in the German league.
They are a point ahead of Bayern after Wednesday’s 4-0 thumping of Cologne. In contrast, Bayern needed two Robert Lewandowski goals and Manuel Neuer’s saves to see off Wolfsburg 2-1 in midweek having drawn their two previous games. Mounting injuries and a dense fixture list have taken their toll on Bayern who have looked jaded in recent weeks. Lewandowski, who won FIFA’s ‘The Best” award for player of the year on Thursday, says Saturday’s showdown gives Bayern the chance to shake off any fatigue in their final league game of 2020 before a two-week winter break.
“A lot of it is in the head, we just have to step on the gas, no matter how good Leverkusen are – we have to win the last game,” said Lewandowski, who has scored 18 goals in 17 games this season.
Having lifted the Champions League, German Cup, Bundesliga and UEFA Super Cup over the last 12 months, Bayern coach Hansi Flick wants to “finish a great 2020” with three away points. This is the third top-of-the-table clash Bayern have had recently, including their 3-2 win at Dortmund, who were then second, in November and 3-3 draw at home to Leipzig a fortnight ago.
Leverkusen were the last team to beat Bayern at home – in any competition – when Jamaica winger Leon Bailey scored twice in a 2-1 win at the Allianz Arena in late November 2019.
“Everyone is beatable,” insisted Leverkusen midfielder Nadiem Amiri. “You have to have a lot of heart, show a lot of will, we definitely have the quality.” His side shone with goals by Mitchell Weiser, Moussa Diaby, Patrik Schick and 17-year-old Florian Wirtz at Cologne, whose head coach Markus Gisdol insisted Leverkusen are currently “on a different level”.
Bosz says Leverkusen are “playing with confidence and a good feeling” but Bayern always provide a test for any rivals with title aspirations. Third-placed RB Leipzig, only a point behind Leverkusen, take on Cologne who are just above the relegation zone.
Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann says three points at home is “very, very important” in their final league match of 2020 to crown a year which saw them reach the Champions League semi-finals for the first time.
One to watch: Moussa Diaby
The France Under-21 winger was outstanding in Leverkusen’s thrashing of Cologne, smashing home an early goal and providing the cross for Patrik Schick to score Leverkusen’s third.
On Thursday, it was confirmed the 21-year-old has signed a contract extension which ties him to Leverkusen until 2025. He has scored 13 goals and created 14 more in 58 games since joining Leverkusen from Paris Saint-Germain last year.
2 – Leverkusen’s wins over Bayern in the last 10 games between the clubs, including home and away victories in 2019.
28 – Bottom side Schalke’s winless streak, dating back to January, leaving them three short of the unwanted league record before Saturday’s home match against Arminia Bielefeld.
251 – the Bundesliga goals Lewandowski has scored for Bayern and former club Borussia Dortmund. Only legend Gerd Mueller and Schalke striker Klaus Fischer have previously achieved the milestone of 250 league goals.
Fixtures (15:30 CET unless stated)
Union Berlin v Borussia Dortmund (20:30)
RB Leipzig v Cologne, Borussia Moenchengladbach v Hoffenheim, Schalke 04 v Arminia Bielefeld, Mainz 05 v Werder Bremen, Augsburg v Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayer Leverkusen v Bayern Munich (18:30)
Freiburg v Hertha Berlin, VfL Wolfsburg v VfB Stuttgart (18:00)