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Five Talking Points Ahead Of The Bundesliga Weekend

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The Bundesliga powers on this weekend as we enter the final five matchdays of what has been a quite extraordinary season.

Bayern Munich are closing in on their eighth consecutive championship but there’s plenty still to play for as scramble for Champions League places hots up and the relegation battle rages on.

Sportsmail sets up another packed weekend schedule with five things to watch.

Bayern with one final high hurdle to clear

Imagine the Bundesliga title race as that bonkers steeplechase race at the Olympics.

Bayern Munich have rounded the final bend in the lead and cleared that last tricky water jump successfully by winning away at closest challengers Borussia Dortmund.

Now they’re entering the final straight with a substantial lead but have one more hurdle left to clear with the finish line and yet more glory within their sights.

That hurdle is a trip to in-form Bayer Leverkusen this Saturday afternoon, the toughest of their five remaining fixtures. Clear it with their seven-point advantage in tact and the title is as good as won.

Borussia Dortmund and neutrals everywhere will be hoping Leverkusen, themselves fighting to finish in the Champions League places, can win and breathe life back into the title race.

Don’t forget that Leverkusen did manage to win 2-1 at the Allianz Arena back in November, just after Hansi Flick took over, but this Bayern are a totally different proposition.

Four wins out of four since the restart have meant it’s business as usual at the top of the Bundesliga.

Leipzig’s Timo Werner has been in the headlines this week over his £53million move to Chelsea, but it’s Robert Lewandowski who leads him in the Bundesliga scoring charts by 29 to 25.

Lewandowski has already scored more times at this stage of the season than in any of his previous Bundesliga seasons and some are excitedly chattering about whether he might match or break Gerd Muller’s record 40 goals in 1971-72.

Bayern have also netted 86 league goals this season – another record – and so a century is well within their sights.

Leverkusen will be difficult to beat, however, regardless of the proliferation of away victories since the restart behind closed doors.

They have won three of their four games since coming back and have several key players in form, not least Kai Havertz, who has recovered from a knock in last weekend’s win over Freiburg.

Leverkusen have won their last two meeting with Bayern but they’ve never won three in a row and you have to say that Flick’s side are playing with the scent of blood in their nostrils.

Can in-form Hertha shock Dortmund?

You can add Hertha Berlin to Bayern and Leverkusen on the list of teams in form since German football returned.

Completely revitalised under manager Bruno Labbadia, 54, who took charge during the season suspension, Hertha have won three out of four to put themselves in European contention.

Sitting ninth, they are just four points off Wolfsburg in sixth place, good enough to qualify for the Europa League. Indeed, seventh may suffice if Bayern and Leverkusen win their German Cup semi-finals next week.

Labbadia hasn’t been afraid to restore Hertha’s experienced old heads to the team, bringing some much-needed stability and reliability, and the embarrassment of Jurgen Klinsmann’s 76 days at the helm earlier in the season now seems a distant dream.

Former Manchester City player Javairo Dilrosun found the net in last weekend’s win over Augsburg, the 21-year-old Dutchman starting to show us what he can do.

But the acid test of Labbadia’s progress will come at Dortmund on Saturday night, where Jadon Sancho will surely be given another start after his first career hat-trick at Paderborn.

The young Englishman was on top of his game as he took his sensational season tallies to 17 goals and 16 assists as Dortmund kept alive their dwindling title hopes with a 6-1 win.

They simply cannot afford to drop points here with seven to make up and just 15 to play for in the title race but Hertha will present a much tougher prospect than often in the past.

Can Werner whet Chelsea appetites?

Timo Werner has certainly dominated headlines in the past 24 hours as the RB Leipzig forward moves closer to joining Chelsea for £53million.

There will certainly be more English eyes than usual trained on the German striker as he takes to the field against Paderborn on Saturday afternoon.

And with Leipzig’s opponents sitting bottom of the table, there’s every chance Werner will bang in a few more goals to excite Chelsea fans.

Leipzig’s title chances may have faded but they need all three points to strengthen their grip on Champions League football next season, while Werner, enjoying his best ever scoring season, will continue his chase of Lewandowski in the scorers’ charts.

Two draws since the resumption ended any hopes of Julian Nagelsmann’s team chasing down Bayern but when it’s clicked, the goals have flowed. Leipzig impressed in winning 4-2 at Cologne on Monday night.

Paderborn aren’t mathematically relegated yet but it’s just a matter of time. They will want to avoid the kind of six-goal drubbing they suffered against Dortmund last time out.

Can Gladbach steal a march?

The Bundesliga weekend kicks off on Friday night with an intriguing meeting of Freiburg and Borussia Monchengladbach.

At certain points earlier in the season, it looked as though Freiburg might be able to challenge for the top four, and even now their Europa League push is faltering after four winless games since the restart.

A 1-0 home defeat to Leverkusen last time out inflicted another dent in those aspirations but Christian Streich’s side remain four points off sixth place if they can find their form again.

However, things aren’t set to get any easier against a Gladbach side eager to firm up their grip on a Champions League spot and then put their feet up for the weekend.

With French duo Marcus Thuram and Alassane Plea in great form since the restart, Gladbach have won two and drawn one of their quartet of games.

Both Plea and Thuram are neck and neck on 10 Bundesliga goals for Gladbach this season, but Plea is one of just four players in Europe’s leading five leagues to have 10 or more goals and assists this season. The others are Sancho, Serge Gnabry at Bayern and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

Another crucial weekend at the bottom

While Paderborn are almost certainly heading back to the 2. Bundesliga at the end of the season, it’s anyone’s guess who will be joining them.

Second bottom Werder Bremen were unable to capitalise on their midweek game in hand, losing 3-0 to Eintracht Frankfurt to remain three points adrift of safety.

Bremen host Wolfsburg on Sunday afternoon, 22 hours after Fortuna Dusseldorf, who are a place and two points above them in the relegation play-off spot, welcome Hoffenheim.

Meanwhile Mainz, teetering just above Dusseldorf, make the trip to Frankfurt on Saturday afternoon as they continue to frantically tread water.

Uwe Rosler’s Dusseldorf must put last weekend’s heavy, if not entirely unexpected, 5-0 loss at Bayern behind them because their form prior to that had been positive.

But Bremen had also picked up, beating Schalke prior to their midweek setback. Mainz, meanwhile, have collected just two points from 12 since coming back and are worried.

Intriguingly, if Bremen finished in the relegation play-off spot, they could come up against rivals Hamburg, currently third in the 2. Bundesliga, and that would be one hell of a contest.

 

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