Bayern poised to make history despite Atletico distraction

Bayern Munich holds a seven-point lead and with three games left, a win over Gladbach at Munich's Allianz Arena will confirm a fourth straight German league title, a feat no other team has achieved before.

Rafinha and Javi Martinez vie for the ball as Mehdi Benatia watches in a Bayern Munich training session.   -  REUTERS

Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich can become the first club to win a fourth consecutive Bundesliga title by beating Borussia Moenchengladbach on Saturday, amidst the distraction of its Champions League semi-final.

Bayern holds a seven-point lead and with three games left, a win over Gladbach at Munich's Allianz Arena will confirm a fourth straight German league title, a feat no other team has achieved before.

But Bayern is still smarting from Wednesday's 1-0 Champions League defeat at Atletico Madrid.

Guardiola has been criticised by the German media ("Has Pep mullered Bayern's final chances?', asked Bild"), plus ex-Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld ("the tactic didn't work"), for his selection. Thomas Müller, Bayern's top-scorer in Europe, and Franck Ribery both started on the bench leaving Bayern with it all to do in Tuesday's return leg in Munich.

Guardiola scoffed when asked if he would rest some of his stars against Gladbach.

"We still need another win, we only have a few days to prepare and then we face Atletico three days later," he said. "We have to win against Gladbach first."

In the wake of the Atletico defeat, only its fifth of the season, Bayern is feeling the pressure in its bid for a repeat of the 2013 treble.

"We would make a mistake if we quarrel now, I want to go to Milan," said chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge as the Champions League final will be held in the Italian city on May 28.

Guardiola is likely to start with Germany's World Cup winner Mario Götze up front against Gladbach. Defender Jerome Boateng could well play his first minutes since suffering a groin injury in January.

Having beaten Munich 3-1 at Borussia Park in December, Gladbach is chasing a rare home-and-away double but will be without US international Fabian Johnson, who has a leg injury.

Should Gladbach shock Bayern, Borussia Dortmund will look to delay the Munich title party with victory over last season's runners up VfL Wolfsburg at the Signal Iduna Park.

Dortmund is set to lose its third star player to Bayern in three years after captain and defender Mats Hummels announced he wants to join the Bavarian giants next season. Dortmund has said it will accept only "an exceptional offer" for the World Cup-winner, who has a market value of 32 million euros ($36.32m).

Should he leave with a year left on his contract, Hummels will follow Götze, who left for Bayern in 2013 for 37m euros, and striker Robert Lewandowski, who signed on a free transfer in 2014.

Dortmund has won its last three games by a 3-0 scoreline and has already qualified for the Champions League.

Despite reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League, Wolfsburg have lost its Bundesliga bite in 2016 and is now 10th, six points away from the European places. Its 2-0 defeat to Augsburg last Saturday meant it has dropped 16 points in its previous six games.

Bayer Leverkusen could take a big step towards a direct Champions League berth when it hosts fellow European aspirant Hertha Berlin on Saturday. Leverkusen has won its last six, conceding just two goals in the process, and could secure its place in the Champions League's group stage with a win.

Fourth-placed Hertha has not won since March.

There will be a crunch clash on Monday in the relegation battle when Werder Bremen hosts VfB Stuttgart. Stuttgart, which is 15th, is only two points clear of Werder and a win would see Bremen climb out of the relegation play-off spot with two games left.

"We're fully aware of how crucial this game is. We're going to do all we can to claim the points, I can guarantee that," said Bremen's Senegal international Papy Djilobodji.



Fixtures

Augsburg v Cologne, Bayern Munich v Borussia Mönchengladbach, Borussia Dortmund v VfL Wolfsburg, Hanover 96 v Schalke, Hoffenheim v Ingolstadt, Mainz v Hamburg, Darmstadt v E. Frankfurt, Bayer Leverkusen v Hertha Berlin, Werder Bremen v VfB Stuttgart.

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