BERLIN, April 14 ― Four matches after taking over from Julian Nagelsmann amid talks of a treble, only one title remains realistically within reach for new Bayern Munich manager Thomas Tuchel.
Knocked out of the German Cup by Freiburg, Bayern were thrashed 3-0 by Manchester City in a Champions League quarter final first leg, leaving them a mountain to climb in Wednesday’s return leg in Munich.
A season without a trophy would be a disaster ― and could even prove fatal for some of the Bayern brass ― and the Bundesliga is their last realistic chance of a title.
The news on Thursday of Sadio Mane’s one-match suspension after a physical altercation left teammate Leroy Sane with a bloody lip has only added to Tuchel’s worries.
Two points ahead of Borussia Dortmund with seven matches remaining, Bayern host 14th-placed Hoffenheim on Saturday.
Despite their lowly table placing, Hoffenheim are on the up under American manager Pellegrino ‘Rino’ Matarazzo.
The American took over in February with the club in danger of a first ever relegation, but Hoffenheim are now on a three-match winning streak ― their longest since August.
Rino has form at Bayern’s Allianz Arena, having come away with two 2-2 draws in his last two matches there, while in charge of previous club Stuttgart.
Hoffenheim midfielder Christoph Baumgartner said on Thursday he “expects a team that want to make up for the 3-0 defeat.”
“If you’re not awake in Munich, if you don’t fight back, they will crush you.”
After the City defeat, Bayern defender Matthijs de Ligt said “we need to stick together”, keeping focus on the “big game against Hoffenheim on Saturday.”
Dortmund, Bayern’s challengers in the title race, take on Rino’s ex-club Stuttgart, who are also experiencing a late-season bounce ― and doing so under former Hoffenheim manager Sebastian Hoeness.
In two matches under Hoeness, Stuttgart were victorious in their German Cup quarter final against Nuremberg and won a crucial relegation match against Schalke on Sunday.
Dortmund manager Edin Terzic said on Thursday “Stuttgart are not a typical team fighting against relegation.”
“They enjoy a lot of possession and have been unlucky to lose several games by close margins.
“It won’t be an easy game for us.”
One to watch: Jeremie Frimpong (Bayer Leverkusen)
Former Man City and Celtic wingback Jeremie Frimpong has had his best season to date under manager Xabi Alonso, as Bayer Leverkusen put together an unlikely run at the Champions League places.
Leverkusen were in the relegation spots after Alonso took over but now sit sixth – five points off fourth, with seven matches remaining.
Frimpong, 22, won the domestic treble with Celtic in 2019-20 before moving to Leverkusen in January 2021.
The Dutch defender has scored eight league goals this season, more than his past three seasons combined (five), has also chipped in a club-high nine assists in all competitions for Leverkusen this season.
5 ― With just five points on the road this season, Hertha Berlin are the league’s least successful away side. Their opponents in Friday’s relegation battle, Schalke, have claimed 13 at home ― the worst home record in the league.
7 ― Leverkusen have won seven in a row in all competitions, equalling their longest winning streak since being promoted in 1979.
1 ― Stuttgart have won one from their last eight against Dortmund ― a 5-1 thrashing in December 2020 which saw then manager Lucien Favre sacked.
Fixtures (all times 1330 GMT unless otherwise stated)
Schalke v Hertha Berlin (1830 GMT)
Cologne v Mainz, Stuttgart v Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich v Hoffenheim, RB Leipzig v Augsburg, Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Moenchengladbach (1630 GMT)
Werder Bremen v Freiburg, Union Berlin v Bochum (1530 GMT), Wolfsburg v Bayer Leverkusen (1730 GMT) ― AFP