In-form Bayern out to 'boss' Leipzig in Bundesliga showdown
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After getting a mid-week "wake-up call" in the German Cup, Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich are relishing the chance to prove their might in a top-of-the-table clash at home to RB Leipzig on Sunday.
Bayern's sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic insists the defending champions want to show nearest rivals Leipzig "who is the boss" at Munich's Allianz Area.
Salihamidzic said the hosts are embracing "the role of favourites", adding that Leipzig had been "weakened a bit" by poor results.
Bayern swept to the top of the table last weekend for the first time since October and have won their last eight games.
However, Hoffenheim found plenty of space to attack in Wednesday's German Cup third-round tie as Bayern conceded two goals in the final 10 minutes as a comfortable 4-1 lead became a nervy 4-3 victory.
"Perhaps it's quite good to realise before the Leipzig game, that things won't simply work of their own accord," admitted Bayern midfielder Joshua Kimmich.
Head coach Hansi Flick called the narrow win a "wake-up call".
Leipzig, who spent more than a month over Christmas top of the table, have had cold water poured on their title aspirations in recent weeks.
A shock 2-0 loss at Eintracht Frankfurt a fortnight ago cost them a four-point lead. Then Bayern went a point ahead at the top after Leipzig's 2-2 draw at home to Borussia Moenchengladbach last Saturday.
Another loss at Frankfurt in mid-week, when top-scoring striker Timo Werner and playmaker Emil Forsberg both started on the bench, saw Leipzig dumped them out of the German Cup.
"Leipzig will want to show a reaction," Kimmich said.
Sunday's clash will also see the league's leading scorer Robert Lewandowski, who has 22 goals in 20 games, go head-to-head with his nearest rival Werner, who is on 20.
Before Bayern and Leipzig slug it out, third-placed Borussia Dortmund could go top on Saturday with a win at Bayer Leverkusen.
Erling Braut Haaland, 19, has a record eight goals in his first four games for Dortmund, who were knocked out of the German Cup in midweek when they went down 3-2 at Werder Bremen.
Sports director Michael Zorc slammed the team for playing "listlessly, comfortably and slowly".
Haaland has yet to play a full 90 minutes for Dortmund as he works his way back to full fitness after a knee injury in December.
One to watch: Thomas Mueller
Lewandowski is making the headlines with 35 goals in 29 games after scoring two more in Wednesday's cup win against Hoffenheim.
However, a big factor is the space and chances being created behind him by Mueller, who has seven goals and nine assists in the 14 games since Flick replaced Niko Kovac as head coach in November.
Mueller's form has sparked debate in Germany over whether head coach Joachim Loew should recall the player for Euro 2020 despite telling the 30-year-old last March that his international career is over.
180 - The minutes Haaland has needed to score eight goals in four games for Dortmund.
22 - The goals Lewandowski has scored in 22 league games. Only Gerd Mueller, in the 1972/73 season, has ever scored as many goals in the same number of games.
17 - The age of Dortmund midfielder Giovanni Reyna, who scored his first goal for the club in Tuesday's cup defeat at Bremen when he beat two defenders and curled his shot into the top corner.
44 - The goals Lewandowski and Mueller have scored between them for Bayern in all competitions this season.
Fixtures (all times 1430 GMT unless stated)
Eintracht Frankfurt v Augsburg (1930)
Wolfsburg v Fortuna Duesseldorf, Werder Bremen v Union Berlin, Hertha Berlin v Mainz, Freiburg v Hoffenheim, Schalke v Paderborn, Bayer Leverkusen v Borussia Dortmund (1730)
Borussia Moenchengladbach v Cologne, Bayern Munich v RB Leipzig (1700)
© 2020 AFP