Berlin (dpa) – RB Leipzig and Borussia Moenchengladbach are in a race to close the year top of the table this weekend before the Bundesliga goes into its winter break.
Leaders Leipzig, level with Moenchengladbach on 34 points but with a superior goal difference, welcome on-form Augsburg on Saturday ahead of Gladbach’s game at Hertha Berlin later in the day.
Champions Bayern Munich, in third place on 30 points, meanwhile follow-up their last gasp 3-1 win at Freiburg on Wednesday with a home match against Wolfsburg.
Fourth-place Borussia Dortmund, also on 30 points, open the weekend programme with a trip Friday evening to Hoffenheim, while Schalke meet Freiburg Saturday in an encounter between the sides fifth and sixth.
Leipzig’s run of six victories came to an end in 3-3 draw at Dortmund on Tuesday, but the point felt like a win after trailing 2-0 at half-time.
The so-called “Herbstmeister” – autumn champions – title beckons for the first time for Julian Nagelsmann’s side.
Striker Timo Werner, who scored twice to take his tally to 18 for the season, said: “If we beat Augsburg on Saturday, we’re autumn champions. That’s something special for us.”
Leipzig could be tested by Augsburg, who have picked themselves up after a difficult start to the season, and are now 10th after a 3-0 victory over Fortuna Dusseldorf was their sixth game without defeat.
Gladbach enjoyed a seventh straight Bundesliga home win with a 2-0 defeat of bottom side Paderborn on Wednesday to keep them on track ahead of Saturday’s match against Hertha.
“It was an important win after back-to-back defeats (in league and Europa League),” coach Marco Rose said.
“We deserved the victory with our second-half performance and were able to give our fans another home win for Christmas. Now it’s about kicking on in Berlin.”
Hertha meanwhile be aiming to close the year with a third straight victory, which has given the club some breathing space near the bottom of the table.
Coach Juergen Klinsmann, who now has seven points in his first four games in charge, said: “We are really happy with the situation. It looked completely different a few weeks ago.”
And forward Pascal Koepke said: “You can see that the coaching staff have a great plan for us and we’re happy it got us the three points today.
“On Saturday we want to cap off a great week with a win to make it three in a row before we go on holiday.”
After two goals in stoppage time gave Bayern Munich a 3-1 win at Freiburg, the record champions will be aiming to end the year with interim coach Hansi Flick at least in third spot, with eighth-placed Wolfsburg the visitors.
“Of course we had a bit of luck, but it feels so good to return with a 3-1 win,” Flick said of the Freiburg win.
“The lads have contested many matches, it’s clear we’re exhausted. We must regenerate now to be fit against Wolfsburg on Saturday.”
In a key game at the lower end of the table, Cologne are out for a third consecutive win when they meet Werder Bremen, who have dropped to third last after crashing 5-0 at home to Mainz, a fifth defeat in six games.
Mainz now greet Bayer Leverkusen, while in fixtures on Sunday, Eintracht Frankfurt, who are now six matches without a win, visit Paderborn, and second last Fortuna Dusseldorf – who have one point and one goal scored from their last five games – greet Union Berlin.