Winless in the Bundesliga in 2023, Bayern Munich travels to in-form Wolfsburg knowing it could be as low as third by the time the two teams kick off on Sunday.
Normally several points clear at this stage in the season, several challengers are nipping at Bayern’s heels. Four teams — Union Berlin, RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund and Freiburg — are within three points of first-placed Bayern. Despite a midweek 4-0 thrashing of Mainz in the German Cup, three consecutive 1-1 draws in the league drew accusations that the perennial German champion was in the midst of a crisis.
“There are worse crises,” manager Julian Nagelsmann said, telling the media “generally I find the word ‘crisis’ pretty hard.”
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“We haven’t got the results we wanted or that we should (and) we need to change that on Sunday in the Bundesliga, otherwise the lead we have (on the others) will be gone. It’s not a crisis, we just haven’t got the right results.”
Nagelsmann praised his side’s “aggression” against Mainz, saying “we will also need that on Sunday in Wolfsburg to secure the three points.”
Bayern faces an in-form Wolfsburg, which has lost just twice in its past 13 matches. Those two losses, however, have come in the club’s past two games, including a surprise 2-1 defeat away at Werder Bremen and elimination from the German Cup by the same scoreline at Union Berlin.
Prior to the midweek defeat in Berlin, Wolfsburg manager Niko Kovac drew the ire of football fans in the Bavarian capital by saying “at the moment I feel it’s easier to play in Munich than in Berlin.”
Kovac, who coached Bayern to a league and cup double in 2018-19 but was sacked the following season, tried to row back on the comments after the Union match. When asked if his observation was a provocation, Kovac said “it’s difficult to win in Berlin, it’s also difficult to beat Bayern Munich at home,” adding that the Bavarians are the “strongest team in the league on the road.”
One to watch: Timo Werner (RB Leipzig)
RB Leipzig’s excellent recent form — nine wins in their past 10 competitive games — is all the more impressive when the injury-enforced absences of star forwards Timo Werner and Christopher Nkunku are taken into account.
While Nkunku remains on the treatment table, Werner has scored twice in his past three games.
Despite some difficult moments — he was caught offside four times in Leipzig’s 3-1 German Cup win over Hoffenheim on Wednesday, along with kicking the ball into his own face while trying to score from point blank range — Werner got Leipzig’s final goal to put the match beyond doubt.
After the game, manager Marco Rose criticised the handful of fans who whistled and groaned Werner’s mistakes, saying fans “should try and make an effort to help each player on the field feel good.”
Werner, who celebrated his late goal by cupping his ear in the direction of the home fans, returned from an unhappy spell at Chelsea in August with a point to prove.
Leipzig, in third place and just two points from leaders Bayern Munich, will hope the Germany striker remains motivated as the side pushes for their first ever Bundesliga title.