Bayern Munich applied pressure on the first matchday after the winter break, but they must follow suit this time. The match between league leaders Borussia Dortmund and Hannover was in full swing when the German record champions had already completed the final training session ahead of their first home match of the year against VfB Stuttgart (live in English on Sunday from 15.30 CET on our exclusive fcbayern.com ticker). Dortmund won 5-1 on Saturday afternoon, extending their lead to nine points overnight.
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“Now we’re under even more pressure to win every match,” Joshua Kimmich commented on Bayern’s role as hunters in the race for the title. “We mustn’t allow any more slip-ups, any more mistakes,” added the 23-year-old. Niko Kovac’ men lived up to their ambitions in an impressive manner recently, winning all of their last six league matches. The coach demanded to build on that against the Swabians: “We want to win the match, we want to keep up with them. We must apply pressure!”
Don’t underestimate Stuttgart
However, the 47-year-old issued a warning ahead of the match against the side lying 16th in the table. Stuttgart are not to be underestimated, they have “a good team and good players even if they don’t live up to their full potential at the moment,” said Kovac. Robert Lewandowski does not expect an “easy game” and expects VfB to focus mainly on defensive stability at the Allianz Arena: “They’ll try to pull all their players behind the ball and wait for counters,” said the Poland captain.
However, Bayern are confident they will win their first home match of the year. VfB are “a little battered” at the moment, which “might benefit us,” analysed Serge Gnabry: “If we approach the match with seriousness and get on with our game we’ll take the three points,” said the forward, who struggled with neuromuscular problems earlier this week. However, Gnabry reported fit for the duel with his former club. Only Jérôme Boateng, who had to scale back his training due to a cold, is rated doubtful for Sunday’s match. The match comes too early for convalescent trio Arjen Robben, Corentin Tolisso and Franck Ribéry.
Pavard misses out
Stuttgart hope to take something away from Munich despite their difficult situation and their barren run of three consecutive defeats. “Other teams have taken points there too,” said coach Markus Weinzierl, whose men have only taken 14 points and scored 14 goals in 18 Bundesliga matches. Both numbers are negative records in the club’s history.
“We go there with the task of rising above our role as underdogs, of turning in a good display and ideally taking points,” declared Weinzierl. The 44-year-old has winter signing Ozan Kabak at his disposal for the first time. Benjamin Pavard, who will join Bayern in summer, will miss the match with a thigh problem. Timo Baumgartl, who had to break off training with dizziness on Wednesday, is rated doubtful.