By John Bagratuni, dpa
Berlin (dpa) – Confident Bayern Munich host ailing RB Leipzig in a Bundesliga table-topper on Sunday which could set the tone for the rest of the season.
Seven-time reigning champions Bayern have won their last six league matches and returned to the top last weekend.
Leipzig were four points clear two weeks ago but just one point from the last two games has seen them slip behind Bayern.
Midweek cup matches have only further confirmed the trend.
Leipzig crashed 3-1 at Eintracht Frankfurt while Bayern beat Hoffenheim 4-3.
Munich can draw further confidence from having beaten Leipzig in all three previous Bundesliga meetings in Munich, without conceding a goal. The first season meeting in Leipzig ended 1-1.
They were also on fire against Hoffenheim, quickly leading 3-1, but like in their 3-1 league win at Mainz on the weekend then lacked intensity in the second half and almost allowed Hoffenheim to take the game into extra time.
“The way we played in the second half is something we’ll have to talk about,” coach Hansi Flick said, speaking of “a wake-up call for us.”
Midfielder Joshua Kimmich said: “Maybe it was quite good to realise ahead of the Leipzig game that it is not all easy but that we have to put in hard work on the pitch.”
Leipzig have lost their momentum lately but coach Julian Nagelsmann may be pleased about what he saw in Munich – a Bayern defence which didn’t always look good.
“The game in Munich will be different because Bayern won’t defend as deep as Frankfurt,” he said after the cup loss.
Ambitious Leipzig have the weapons such as Germany striker Timo Werner to hurt Munich but can’t afford to be as wasteful and at times careless as in recent games.
“At the moment, we’re not doing things the way we practice them in training,” Nagelsmann said.
Bayern have already shown this season what they are capable of at home against top teams – thrashing Borussia Dortmund 4-0 in autumn and Schalke 5-0 a fortnight ago.
Victory would send Bayern four points clear of Leipzig, and at least three points ahead overall, depending on how Dortmund and Borussia Moenchengladbach fare.
Dortmund are also licking their wounds after a 3-2 cup defeat at lowly Werder Bremen, and are without captain Marco Reus for at least four weeks with injury, as they travel to fifth-ranked Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday.
Coach Lucien Favre will be under pressure to field Erling Haaland from the start again as Dortmund only improved once the Norwegian, and 17-year-old super talent Giovanni Reyne, came on after the break and both scored against Bremen.
“We saw a lot of the ball but weren’t able to create very much with it. We have no-one to blame but ourselves,” forward Julian Brandt said after the cup exit.
Gladbach play a tricky regional derby in the other Sunday game against Cologne, who have won five of their last six games clear of the three-team danger zone.
Third-last Bremen and second-bottom Fortuna Dusseldorf meanwhile hope that mid-week cup wins will boost them in their fight against the drop.
Bremen face Union Berlin while Dusseldorf, 5-2 winners at third-tier Kaiserslautern, are at mid-table Wolfsburg.
Frankfurt kick off the action Friday with a mid-table match against Augsburg, and the other Saturday games are Hertha Berlin v Mainz, Freiburg v Hoffenheim and Schalke v bottom side Paderborn.