Created on 2020-02-08 at 18:04 PM
First versus second: it doesn't get bigger than this! In the closing fixture of Bundesliga Matchday 21, new leaders Bayern Munich host nearest challengers RB Leipzig (live ticker from 18:00 CET on fcbayern.com) – and it's not just among the fans that there's huge excitement. "Everyone's fired up for it and can hardly wait," described Hansi Flick ahead of the match.
Bayern have really hit their stride lately and go into this match with great confidence following eight successive wins in all competitions. "Our winning run reassures me. It says something about us," said captain Manuel Neuer on Wednesday evening after the DFB Cup success (4-3) over Hoffenheim. Neuer and Co have just one aim on Sunday: staying top and extending their lead over Leipzig to four points. "We know what kind of opponents we're facing, but we're at home and want to win the game. We'll give everything," stated sporting director Hasan Salihamidžić.
In contrast, the Red Bulls have faltered somewhat since the winter break. Before Tuesday's cup exit at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt (1-3), RB had taken just one point from their previous two Bundesliga games. That dip in form comes at a bad time for the Saxony side, but Bayern boss Flick is not letting himself be deceived by it. "They're a top team. Regardless of the last few games, they possess enormous quality," said the 54-year-old. His opposite number Julian Nagelsmann is also not unsettled by recent results. "We're doing everything to get back on track," said the 32-year-old tactician, adding: "The role as pursuers might suit us in the match against Bayern."
Kingsley Coman has declared himself fit in a timely boost for Flick, who confirmed that the Frenchman will be in the squad. Lucas Hernández, who returned to the squad against Hoffenheim in midweek, is also "making good progress" according to his coach and is likewise in contention for the meeting with the Saxons. Therefore, only the recovering Niklas Süle (ACL) and Javi Martínez (muscle injury) as well as recent casualty Ivan Perišić (ankle fracture) will be absent for the record champions.
What the coaches say
Hansi Flick: "Leipzig have shown this season what quality they have. Particularly in attack, they have very good players who function very well as both a team and individuals, and are capable of winning one-on-one situations. I expect them to try their luck going forward. They have immense quality in the final third if you give them the space."
Julian Nagelsmann (RB Leipzig): "Bayern have gone back to their old selves. They're defending proactively and bravely against the ball. They're also incredibly aggressive in their counter-pressing and force you to make mistakes. We need a 100 per cent performance on Sunday and even that is not enough sometimes, so we hope Bayern aren't quite at their best."
Catch up on what Hansi Flick had to say in Friday's pre-match press conference:
Bayern guarantee goals this season: they're the only Bundesliga team to have netted at least once on every matchday this term. One man who's played a big part in that is Robert Lewandowski, who's racked up an incredible 22 goals in 20 matches, equalling Gerd Müller's record from the 1972/73 season.
There are more interesting facts and stats on the match here: