Bayern in top gear ahead of decisive April

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Bayern in top gear ahead of decisive April
Bayern Munich.
Shukriya Pakistan

BERLIN: Bayern Munich face high-fliers Hoffenheim away on Tuesday as the runaway German league leaders look to carry their high-tempo football into two key Bundesliga fixtures within four days.

After thumping Augsburg 6-0 on Saturday, Bayern are unbeaten in their last 20 games dating back to November, but play third-placed Hoffenheim then host arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund, who are fourth, on Saturday.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side are 13 points clear at the top of the table, but only managed a 1-1 draw at home to Hoffenheim when the teams met in November in Munich.

The Bavarians have a gruelling fixture list of nine games in 29 days in April, including playing Real Madrid home and away in their mouth-watering Champions League quarter-final.

Ancelotti is set to rotate against Hoffenheim with only Manuel Neuer and Douglas Costa sidelined, while Javi Martinez and Xabi Alonso are available again having served one-match suspensions.

“Nothing will be given to us there,” warned Thomas Mueller ahead of the Hoffenheim clash.

“We are playing good opponents every three or four days, so we want to go there and put in a good performance.

“April will be a hot month for us, let’s see how we come through the fire.”

Bayern are in top form.

Robert Lewandowski netted his fourth Bayern hat-trick this season in the drubbing of Augsburg and also set up Thiago Alcantara and Mueller in an outstanding display.

The Bavarians are hungry to repeat their 2013 Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup treble and April will be an acid test — they finish the month with a Cup semi-final at home to Dortmund.

Hoffenheim have ambitions of their own under 29-year-old Julian Nagelsmann, the youngest coach in Bundesliga history.

They are looking to qualify for the Champions League next season for the first time in the club’s history and are eager to once more test themselves against star-studded Bayern.

“This will be an exciting game and we will be brave,” promised Nagelsmann, “but we have to hope that Bayern don’t have their best day.”

With Neuer sidelined after foot surgery, Bayern’s stand-in goalkeeper Sven Ulreich will face a Hoffenheim attack led by Sandro Wagner, who will play despite dislocating a finger in Friday’s 3-1 win at Hertha Berlin.

Also on Tuesday, Dortmund host resurgent Hamburg with captain Marcel Schmelzer struggling with a back problem he picked up in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Schalke.

Hamburg are only just clear of the relegation places, but are unbeaten in their last four league games after Lewis Holtby scored their 92nd-minute winner in Saturday’s 2-1 victory against Cologne.

Midweek fixtures (all times 1800 GMT)

Tuesday

Borussia Dortmund v Hamburg, Cologne v Eintracht Frankfurt, Werder Bremen v Schalke, Hoffenheim v Bayern Munich

Wednesday

Borussia Moenchengladbach v Hertha Berlin, Mainz v RB Leipzig, VfL Wolfsburg v Freiburg, Augsburg v Ingolstadt, Darmstadt v Bayer Leverkusen

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