High-flying Bayern Munich adjust to life without Philipp Lahm
Runaway Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich need to adjust to life without captain Philipp Lahm when they host Hoffenheim on Saturday ahead of next week`s Champions League match at Manchester City.
Berlin: Runaway Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich need to adjust to life without captain Philipp Lahm when they host Hoffenheim on Saturday ahead of next week`s Champions League match at Manchester City.
The 31-year-old Lahm has been ruled out for the next three months after fracturing his ankle in training, depriving coach Pep Guardiola of one of his key assets, either at right-back or in the defensive midfield.
"I was shocked when I heard the news and we wish Philipp all the best, but there is no place for mourning or sentimentality," insisted Bayern`s director of sport Matthias Sammer.
"We need to shake it off and keep looking forward, some of the players in the wings now have the chance to prove themselves."
Bayern are unbeaten in their last 15 league matches and are four points clear at the top of the table, and Hoffenheim will serve as a dress rehearsal for Tuesday`s European clash in Manchester.
The Bavarians are already through to the Champions League knock-out stage and are confirmed group winners with two matches to spare.
Guardiola will need to reshuffle his defensive midfield alongside Xabi Alonso, but there are rumours Germany star Bastian Schweinsteiger could make his return from the knee injury which has kept him out since the World Cup final.
Bayern will have goalkeeper Manuel Neuer available after he missed Germany`s 1-0 friendly win over Spain on Tuesday with a knee strain.
Hoffenheim forced a 3-3 draw on their last league visit to the Allianz Arena in March and are fifth in the table.
But coach Markus Gisdol reads little into Bayern`s lengthy injury list with Javi Martinez, Thiago Alcantara, Holger Badstuber, plus both wing backs Lahm and David Alaba all injured.
"Bayern have the sort of squad where it doesn`t matter who plays," said Gisdol.
"If you lose 4-0, 5-0 or even 6-0 in Munich, that is completely normal."
Hoffenheim are looking to bounce back after losing their last two games, but have Brazil`s latest star in their ranks, forward Roberto Firmino, who scored the winner in a 2-1 friendly victory over Austria on Tuesday.
Bayern`s nearest rivals, second-placed Wolfsburg, are chasing a sixth consecutive victory at Schalke 04 on Saturday.
Belgium winger Kevin de Bruyne is in outstanding form, creating four goals in their last two matches.
Schalke are down to 11th in the table after some erratic form this season, but Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking, who has seen all of their last three games live, is taking nothing for granted.
"I measure Schalke not on their 14 points and 11th ranking in the table, but on what they can achieve," he said.
At the other end of the table, 15th-placed Borussia Dortmund are set to welcome back Germany winger Marco Reus after an ankle injury as they attempt to pull clear of the relegation places against Paderborn.
Reus missed Germany`s recent internationals, but should return as Dortmund look to prove their 1-0 win over third-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach, which broke their five-match losing streak, was no fluke.
"We know about the difficulty of the game, but we also see the chances that it possesses for us," said Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp.
He is without injured midfielders Nuri Sahin, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Oliver Kirch in Paderborn, while Sokratis Papastathopoulos is suspended and fellow centre-back Mats Hummels is also on the injury list.
Werder Bremen`s caretaker coach Viktor Skripnik is looking for his third straight win in Sunday`s north German derby when his side are at Hamburg with both teams in the bottom three.
Fixtures (all times 1430 GMT unless stated)
Bayern Munich v Hoffenheim, Schalke v Wolfsburg, Borussia Moenchengladbach v Eintracht Frankfurt, Mainz v Freiburg, Hanover 96 v Bayer Leverkusen, Paderborn v Borussia Dortmund, Cologne v Hertha Berlin (1730)
Hamburg v Werder Bremen, VfB Stuttgart v Augsburg (1630)