Can Bayern Munich be stopped in the Bundesliga?
BERLIN (AP) — Despite injuries to captain Philipp Lahm, striker Mario Mandzukic and winger Franck Ribery, Bayern Munich is expected to rack up another win against Eintracht Braunschweig in one of the most lop-sided meetings in the Bundesliga for years on Saturday. Bayern’s players cost 128 times more than the promoted side’s (222.3 million euros vs. 1.73 million, according to Kicker magazine), while the league’s meanest defense (seven goals conceded) faces the most impotent attack (eight goals scored). Also Saturday, Borussia Dortmund visits Mainz and Bayer Leverkusen hopes to recover from humiliation at the hands of Manchester United with a victory over winless Nuremberg. Here are five things to know ahead of the Bundesliga’s 14th round of games:
Bayern’s 3-0 win at Dortmund last week seemed like a decisive blow in the title race only 13 rounds into the season. Dortmund, widely seen as the side most likely to challenge Pep Guardiola’s record-setting team, is already seven points adrift with its entire back four out through injury. Four points adrift, second-placed Bayer Leverkusen’s quality has been called into question by the 5-0 rout at home to Manchester United in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Bayern had no such issues, winning 3-1 at CSKA Moscow to eclipse Barcelona’s record of nine successive victories with its 10th.
In the Bundesliga, Bayern is unbeaten in 38 games — a record — with bottom side Eintracht Braunschweig visiting to come. Braunschweig, back in the top-flight after 28 years, has never won at Bayern in 18 games.
Dortmund aims to avoid another Champions League hangover after Tuesday’s 3-1 win at home over Napoli. Prior to last weekend’s defeat to Bayern, Juergen Klopp’s side’s two Bundesliga losses came after Champions League outings against Marseille and Arsenal. The Dortmund coach will be keen to avoid another — it would be a third-straight league loss — at former side Mainz. The 46-year-old Klopp spent seven and a half years as Mainz coach from 2001-08, following 11 years there as a player for the side (52 goals in 325 second division games).
Dortmund defender Manuel Friedrich will also be returning to the club where he started his professional career. The now 34-year-old Friedrich, signed at short-notice to cover Dortmund’s injury problems in defense, made his Mainz debut against Cottbus on Feb 26, 2000, when Klopp scored for a 1-0 win.
NORTHERN DERBY FOR YOUNGSTERS
Hamburger SV is looking to promising midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu to fill the gap left by injured talisman Rafael van der Vaart for Friday’s northern derby at Wolfsburg. Van der Vaart is sidelined by a ligament tear in his right ankle sustained while on international duty for the Netherlands. The injury allows the 19-year-old Calhanoglu to take on a more decisive role at Hamburg, something he did to good effect in the 3-1 win over Hannover last Sunday, when he also scored.
Wolfsburg, whose four-game winning run was brought to a halt by Nuremberg, will be with without suspended playmaker Diego, putting more pressure on the 19-year-old Maximilian Arnold to maintain his impressive start to the season. Arnold has chipped in four goals in seven appearances so far.
Stuttering Schalke hosts Stuttgart on Saturday needing a consistent run of form to dispel doubts over its prospects of finishing fourth and taking the last Champions League qualification place. Jens Keller’s side hasn’t been helped by injuries to decisive players in attack. Dutch striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar has been out since August, Julian Draxler could only play as a substitute in the 0-0 at Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League due to ’flu, while Leon Goretzka and Kevin-Prince Boateng didn’t play at all on Tuesday, the latter due to a worrying knee complaint.
Stuttgart is not doing any better with just one win from its last six games. “We’re a long way from putting everything under question,” said Stuttgart general manager Fredi Bobic. “We’re on the right path.”
Both Hannover and Eintracht Frankfurt are desperate for a win before their clash Sunday. Hannover has just two points from its last seven games, while Frankfurt hasn’t won any of its last eight.
“It seems there’s a curse on us,” said Frankfurt midfielder Sebastian Rode, whose side has slipped level with Freiburg in the relegation play-off place.
Hannover’s problems seem to stem from a lack of cohesion among the most expensively assembled squad in the club’s history. A lack of discipline has also cost the side dearly. Salif Sane’s sending off last weekend was Hannover’s fourth of the season, while 35 yellow cards make Mirko Slomka’s players the worst offenders from a fair-play perspective.
Hannover president Martin Kind has already backed Slomka to keep his job, even if there’s more disappointment against Frankfurt — always a worrying development.