Borussia Dortmund hope to have Norwegian star Erling Haaland back for Sunday’s game with struggling Augsburg and could end the weekend with the gap between them and Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich down to three points.
Dortmund’s reason to be optimistic about this scenario is despite them being infuriatingly inconsistent this season, Bayern’s form has also faltered of late.
A shock 4-2 defeat by lowly VfL Bochum was followed by Bayern requiring a late equaliser in their Champions League last 16 first leg match with RB Salzburg, and a below par performance despite the 4-1 scoreline against bottom side Greuther Fuerth last weekend.
Dortmund go into Sunday’s game on the back of a 6-0 thumping of Borussia Moenchengladbach but typically in their campaign this term came days after being soundly beaten by Rangers in their Europa League play-off first leg clash.
Haaland missed Thursday’s second leg with the Scottish side — the fifth match he sat out due to his groin injury — despite returning to training with the reserves at the beginning of the week.
“He still needs a little more time,” explained Dortmund coach Marco Rose.
“He is trying to get back to full fitness, he is making huge efforts, but he is still a fair bit away from being 100%.
“His groin injury has improved a bit. He has to be 100% without pain to be able to play.”
The leaders face a potentially tricky trip on Saturday to mid-table Eintracht Frankfurt — although they have lost their last two — and without Thomas Mueller, who has contracted Covid-19 for a second time.
A positive bit of news for Bayern is Mueller’s fellow World Cup winning team-mate goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has returned to training after his knee operation but his deputy Sven Ullreich will continue in goal on Saturday.
One to watch: Benjamin Henrichs
The RB Leipzig right back celebrated his 25th birthday on Wednesday but his most important present arrived early when Domenico Tedesco replaced the sacked Jesse Marsch in December.
Henrichs has become a fixture in the side since then playing in 10 of their 11 matches as the club has enjoyed a resurgence in form.
“It is obvious that I have benefitted from the situation (Tedesco’s appointment),” he told Kicker in an interview published on Thursday.
Henrich’s new found zest reflects the manner in which Tedesco has engineered a recovery in the team’s fortunes, they have risen to fourth in the table which is good enough for a Champions League place.
“The new coach has given us fresh impetus,” said Henrich.
“At the outset of his arrival we got results, but now we are beginning to play well. The more time we spend with the coach, the more we absorb his philosophy, and I believe that is clear for all to see.”
48: the number of headed goals by Bayern Munich’s Polish star Robert Lewandowski in the Bundesliga, equalling the record set by Claudio Pizzarro, which has been in place since the statistic came into existence (1998/99).
16: Another record that Lewandowski could break soon, goals scored away from home in a single season. He has 16 to his name, one off the record jointly held by Timo Werner (2019/2020 RB Leipzig) and Jupp Heynckes (1973/74 Borussia Moenchengladbach).