Bayern urged to 'wake up' as in-form Frankfurt looms
After a second-successive 1-1 draw on Tuesday, Bayern Munich sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic it was "high time we flicked the switch", warning "the title is at stake".
A loss when Bayern host Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday would see the Eagles climb within two points of the 31-time Bundesliga title winners, while blowing the league wide open for the chasing pack.
While calling out forward Serge Gnabry for an "amateurish" mid-season jaunt to Paris Fashion Week, Salihamidzic said Bayern need to "wake up now".
"We can prepare well for (Frankfurt) in the next few days, (we must) burn it into our heads how important the game is."
The shift in reckoning may seem dramatic considering Bayern won 6-1 in Frankfurt in the season's opening fixture in August. It is however a credit to the Eagles' continued development under manager Oliver Glasner this season.
Half a season later, Frankfurt have lost just once early October in all competitions. They sit third in the league and have made it through to the Champions League knockouts at their first attempt.
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A sure sign that the reigning Europa League champions have Bayern worried came on Sunday's edition of German TV institution Doppelpass, when Frankfurt became the target of former club boss Uli Hoeness' pre-match mind games.
Hoeness praised Saturday's opponents, saying the club had "made the greatest progress of any club (in Germany) in the last 12 to 18 months" while adding Bayern had "thought about bringing back" star midfielder Mario Goetze, just before the 2014 World Cup winner signed with Frankfurt in 2022, but opted against it.
Goetze, plucked from then rival Borussia Dortmund in 2013, had a largely unhappy three-year spell in the Bavarian capital.
He returned to Dortmund in 2016, before moving to Dutch side PSV Eindhoven on a free in 2020.
While it would be generous to say that Eintracht have the wood on Bayern, they have won two of their past four games against the all-conquering Bavarians and were one of only two teams to win in Munich in the league last season.
Frankfurt's 3-1 win in the 2018 German Cup final was only the fourth time Bayern have lost in the showpiece event, having won it on 20 occasions.
Frankfurt however missed a golden chance to close the gap with Bayern to three points on Wednesday, drawing 1-1 at Freiburg.
Coach Glasner warned his side "I don't believe it's going to get any easier in Munich."
"They play with brutal speed and they are also very strong with headers."
One to watch: Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund)
Borussia Dortmund and USA forward Gio Reyna endured a disappointing World Cup on a personal and professional level, but has rebounded in the best possible way in 2023.
Reyna has come off the bench to score the winner in both of his side's last two fixtures, helping Dortmund narrow the gap to table-topping Bayern Munich from nine to five points.
Dortmund manager Edin Terzic said Reyna, who missed much of the last two seasons with a series of injuries, has had a "difficult time on a mental level" but welcomed his blistering start to the year.
For his part, a patient Reyna said after his heroics on Wednesday "I want to start, that's clear" but explained "I don't think about it that much. My chance will come, if I keep working hard in training."
6 - Bayer Leverkusen missed six straight penalties, before Burkinabe defender Edmund Tapsoba scored from the spot in Wednesday's 2-0 win over Bochum.
4 - Hertha Berlin have lost their last four matches in all competitions against 'little brother' Union Berlin.
33 points - Halfway through the season, Union sit second on the table with 33 points, just three shy of leaders Bayern. Notoriously stoic Union manager Urs Fischer promised to have "a small beer" to celebrate the milestone.
Fixtures (all times 1430 GMT unless otherwise stated)
RB Leipzig v Stuttgart (1930)
Freiburg v Augsburg, Mainz v Bochum, Hoffenheim v Borussia Moenchengladbach, Hertha Berlin v Union Berlin, Werder Bremen v Wolfsburg, Bayern Munich v Eintracht Frankfurt (1730)
Schalke v Cologne, Bayer Leverkusen v Borussia Dortmund (1630)