BERLIN: Bundesliga powers Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund had imagined their seasons differently at this point in the season.
The German champions are not heading comfortably to a record-breaking 10th consecutive league crown and instead are one point ahead of Dortmund after 12 laps.
Bayern suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to Augsburg last week amid a string of coronavirus cases at the club that have excluded nearly half a dozen players.
The Bavarians are without Joshua Kimmich and Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting infected while Serge Gnabry, Jamal Musiala and Michael Cuisance have gone into isolation for a week due to contact with an infected person.
Defenders Niklas Suele and Josip Stanisic emerged from their own Covid-19 quarantine as late as Wednesday.
But the club, facing the humble Arminia Bielefeld on Saturday, is still struggling to cope with the fallout from the Covid-19 cases with some players, including German international Kimmich, refusing to be vaccinated.
The midfielder had already entered a week-long consecutive quarantine before testing positive on Wednesday, further frustrating club bosses who said they would drop the wages of unvaccinated players who self-isolate, according to the laws of the Bavarian state.
While Bielefeld should be relatively easy opponents, Bayern need to pull themselves together in time for next week’s big game against second-placed Dortmund, which will go a long way in deciding who takes the top of the winter break standings in December. .
But the Ruhr Valley faces its share of challenges.
The absence of injured striker Erling Haaland left a gaping hole in the attack, contributing to the roller coaster form of Dortmund which culminated with exiting the Champions League group stage on Wednesday after a 3 loss. -1 against Sporting Lisbon.
Despite dominating for much of the game, Dortmund were vulnerable at the back and showed little attacking spirit.
The elimination has been a blow to new coach Marco Rose, who is already in the spotlight for his team’s unstable defensive operation this season and their lingering mistakes.
“It was a clear goal for us to still be in all competitions in the new year. But the Champions League is now over and it’s a setback,” Rose said.
“Right now it’s too easy to score against us. We have work to do to become more ruthless and consistent.”
Dortmund will face VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday with Wolves unbeaten in three league games under new coach Florian Kohfeldt.
They will look to build on their national run and bounce back from their Champions League loss to Sevilla. – Reuters