The question on everyone’s lips following the last round of Bundesliga action is whether this season will turn into a carbon copy of last term – a two horse race between five-time champions Bayern Munich and upstart challengers RB Leipzig.
Leipzig face Bayer test
In-form Leipzig may have won five of their last six Bundesliga games, the only defeat coming at Bayern, but they face a stern test of their title credentials this weekend with a trip to an improving Bayer Leverkusen, who are themselves unbeaten in seven games in all competitions.
The Red Bulls will be boosted by the return of Jean-Kevin Augustin, Dayot Upamecano, Ibrahima Konaté and Diego Demme as they seek a repeat of last season’s 3-2 win at the BayArena. Timo Werner, fresh from another goal for Germany in their midweek draw with France, will provide the threat up front for the visitors, while Emil Forsberg will also be on a high following Sweden’s qualification for the World Cup.
While blessed up front, Leipzig also have a strong defence, with French centre-back Upamecano emerging as a real talent. Saturday’s game will test his mettle to the fullest as the Bayer front trio of Kevin Volland (six goals), Leon Bailey and Julian Brandt (four each) have been in tip-top form this season.
With so much attacking talent on show, it would be no surprise if Saturday turns into another goal fest in Leverkusen.
Lewy licking his lips
At the top, a well rested Robert Lewandowski is likely to return for Bayern Munich following a slight thigh injury, not that Augsburg will be too happy about it. Bayern’s southern neighbours are one of several Bundesliga clubs that Lewy has a phenomenal record against and the Polish striker will no doubt be itching to add to his already impressive tally against the Bavarians.
Lewandowski has a remarkable 16 goals in just 12 games (for both Bayern and Dortmund) against Augsburg including a hat-trick and two assists in a 6-0 victory the last time Bayern hosted Manuel Baum’s men, who must already be having nightmares ahead of Saturday.
Can Bremen handle Hannover?
At the other end of the table, strugglers Werder Bremen will continue to try and turn around their season when they host high-flying Hannover in Sunday’s match.
Former reserve coach Florian Kohfeldt will take charge of the Green and Whites for the second time after leading Bremen to a narrow defeat against Eintracht Frankfurt on his debut as interim boss.
Kohfeldt has been given six games, until the Bundesliga’s winter break, to engineer a turnaround in form for the River Islanders. Bremen looked much more up for the fight against Frankfurt and the return to fitness of last season’s top scorer Max Kruse, out since September with a broken collarbone, could give Bremen a timely boost as Kohfeldt’s side go in search of that elusive first win of the season.
Hannover, meanwhile will be keen to get back on the winning track following defeat to Leipzig last time out. The promoted side have started well, fired by the goals of Martin Harnik, who just happens to be a childhood teammate of Kruse’s. The two remain good friends to this day, but there will be no love lost between the duo come Sunday as they hunt the goals that could give their respective sides a crucial win.