DÜSSELDORF, Germany (NWN) — Just one point separates Bundesliga title contenders. Bayern Munich look beatable. Erling Haaland is back and scoring for Borussia Dortmund.
Normally this would have made for a mouthwatering “classicar”, but still the biggest sport of German football seen by the coronavirus.
Dortmund have canceled all 67,000 tickets sold for Saturday’s game against Bayern, the club said ahead of tough new restrictions expected on crowds at sporting events. Some tickets may be reissued if it is confirmed that fans can attend at a reduced capacity.
Germany was already grappling with a sharp rise in virus cases in recent weeks over concerns about a new variant. The Bundesliga had its first empty stadium of the season in Leipzig last week, and more will follow.
Even if a smaller crowd is allowed on Saturday, it will rob the classicists of much of the energy generated by Dortmund’s famous “Yellow Wall” of vocal fans. Dortmund have won all seven home games since the crowd was allowed back.
Former Bayern midfielder and World Cup winner Lothar Mathhaus for Germany said on Thursday: “We see how Dortmund perform over the past weeks with fans, and how they perform without fans (last season) and it’s a There’s a big difference.” “This team needs fans behind (them), especially in tough conditions.”
For Bayern to finish nine consecutive Bundesliga titles, Dortmund need all the help they can get after a few months of sometimes spectacular but wildly inconsistent.
Haaland won last week after suffering a hip hamstring injury in a 3-1 win over Wolfsburg for his 50th Bundesliga goal in 50 games, making him the fastest player to reach that milestone. His fitness to play the full game against an intense team like Bayern remains in doubt.
This win over Wolfsburg was notable for Dortmund to recover after conceding an opening goal. Too often, when things go wrong quickly for Dortmund, they go terribly wrong. Dortmund crashed out of the Champions League after losing 4-0 and 3-1 to Ajax and then lost 3-1 at Sporting Lisbon last week, where the team fell apart after left-winger Rafael Guerreiro was injured in the warm-up .
Bayern expects it to be worse than a squad deepening crisis sparked by virus cases. Bayern lost their last league game 2–1 to Augsburg. Before a narrow victory over inferior opposition on 19 November, Dynamo 2–1 at Kiev and then 1–0 against Armenia Bielefeld last week.
“Each team has its own problems as they are ahead in the Bundesliga, but in another way, the performance of both teams was not very good, especially in the last weeks,” said Mathaus.
Coach Julian Nagelsmann would generally consider using recent games to give Robert Lewandowski some rest before the classics. He couldn’t because backup Eric Maxim Chopo-Moting is in isolation, first as a contact with a positive case, then after testing positive. For the virus itself. The cases focused on a group of unaffiliated players in the Bayern squad, including midfielder Joshua Kimmich, who also tested positive.
While the football world debates whether Lewandowski deserved the Ballon d’Or ahead of Lionel Messi, the Polish striker has played every minute of Bayern’s last nine matches going back in October.
The pressure on the squad eased slightly after defender Niklas Sule and forwards Serge Gnabry and Jamal Musiala ended their separation period.
Dortmund will be without Thorgan Hazard after his positive test for the virus, while Jude Bellingham is suspected of a knee injury. American attacking midfielder Gio Reyna has returned to training after last playing on September 2 with a hamstring injury, but is not expected to be fit to face Bayern.
This virus is giving tough competition to other teams as well. Leipzig remains without its infected American coach Jesse Marsh as it tours Union Berlin on Friday. Five Leipzig players were also in isolation.
Marsh says he apologized to striker Brian Brobe after substituting the Dutch player two minutes before halftime in a 3-1 loss to Bayer Leverkusen last week. This was widely seen as an embarrassment for Brobie, who joined Ajax off-season and has yet to score for Leipzig.
Freiburg surprised many with their quick start to the season and are still fourth in the Champions League, but have lost their last three league games. Visiting troubled Borussia Monchengladbach on Sunday offers a chance to turn that race around.
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