Bayern Munich looking to get back to its best against local rival Augsburg

Thu, Jan 25, 2024
Soccer News (AP)

Bayern Munich looking to get back to its best against local rival Augsburg

DUESSELDORF, Germany (AP) - Two games without scoring don't add up to a goal drought, even for Harry Kane. Still, Bayern Munich is feeling the pressure.

In the immediate aftermath of Bayern's 1-0 win over Union Berlin in the Bundesliga on Wednesday, all eyes were on Union Berlin coach Nenad Bjelica, who was sent off for striking Bayern forward Leroy Sane and faces a lengthy ban.

That took attention away from another mediocre Bayern performance, hardly the resounding statement that was needed after Sunday's shock loss to Werder Bremen.

RaphaŽl Guerreiro's goal at least cut the gap to leader Bayer Leverkusen to four points, but Leverkusen and coach Xabi Alonso remain in control ahead of their game on Saturday at local rival Borussia Moenchengladbach.

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Kane was scoreless in back-to-back Bundesliga games for the first time since joining Bayern, though he was involved in the goal, hitting the post before Guerreiro scored off the rebound. With 22 goals and 16 games to go, Kane could yet challenge Robert Lewandowski's league-record 41 from the 2020-21 season.

A mounting injury list adds to the pressure on Bayern and coach Thomas Tuchel, who criticized his team's attitude in the Bremen loss, accusing them of playing as if they had a 10-point lead and a Champions League game to focus on. During Bayern's 11-year run of German titles, the Bundesliga has indeed sometimes seemed an afterthought compared to dreams of European glory. This season, Bayern needs to fight for every point.

Never mind that Bayern actually has seven more points that it did at the same stage of last season under Tuchel's predecessor, Julian Nagelsmann, or that the team is still averaging nearly three goals per game in the Bundesliga. Losing out on the Bundesliga title for the first time since 2012 would shake Bayern to its core.

Next up on Saturday is a visit to the Bundesliga's other Bavarian club, Augsburg, which is down in 10th place but specializes in upsetting Bayern, with wins in its last two home Bundesliga games against the champion.

Bayern will be without Dayot Upamecano, who tore a thigh muscle against Union and could miss several weeks. Eric Dier looked mostly comfortable as his replacement off the bench on his Bayern debut. Midfielder Joshua Kimmich had shoulder problems after the game and Konrad Laimer, nominally a midfielder but covering at right back, went off with an unspecified injury.

Depending on how serious those turn out to be, those injuries could put more focus on Bayern's ongoing search to sign players for more options at defensive midfielder and on the right side of defense, with a week to go until the transfer window closes.

Leverkusen, meanwhile, doesn't seem to be deterred by injuries - top scorer Victor Boniface will be out for weeks or even months with a thigh problem - or the absence of four players at the Africa Cup of Nations. Alonso has passionately celebrated winning goals in added time in Leverkusen's last two games but may hope to wrap up three points a little earlier against Gladbach.

Elsewhere, Stuttgart hosts Leipzig on Saturday with both teams chasing Champions League qualification but both having lost their opening two games of 2024. That means an opportunity for fifth-placed Borussia Dortmund, which has won both of its games without conceding since re-signing Jadon Sancho on loan from Manchester United. Dortmund is aiming to continue the good run on Sunday against local rival Bochum.

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