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Back to Bundesliga for Timo Werner after big week

BERLIN (AP) — Timo Werner will return to the Bundesliga with Leipzig on Friday after the most momentous week of his short career. The 21-year-old Germany striker was verbally abused by fans chanting Nazi slogans during his team's World Cup qualifier in the Czech Republic on Friday, then feted as a hero in his hometown of Stuttgart as he scored twice in the country's rout of Norway on Monday.

It took the young forward's tally to six goals in eight games for Germany, leading to suggestions this week that Germany had finally found the goal-getter it had been looking for since the retirement of Miroslav Klose. Werner is hard-working, strong, clinical, quick and determined. It leads to goals.

"Timo hurts the opponent a lot and is very difficult to defend against because he has this unbelievable draw to the goal and this speed," Germany coach Joachim Loew said after the forward's latest performance. "He's always running across and deep. I hope he keeps it up. These runs are nearly impossible to stop for the opponent."

Werner has been something of a divisive figure for fans since earning a penalty with a blatant dive and then scoring it in Leipzig's win over visiting Schalke last season. He apologized after the game, but it didn't stop his popularity from taking a hit, exacerbated by the fact he plays for Leipzig, arguably the league's most hated club.

He was frequently abused at rival stadiums - a convenient figure to boo for fans frustrated by Leipzig's commercial background and success. Loew said the jeers and whistles Werner faced from "so-called fans" in Prague was "beyond embarrassing."

"He once made a mistake and he also admitted it. He's incredibly professional, plays with joy and commitment for his country," Loew said. Loew blasted the fans' lack of respect, but there was no lack of it in Stuttgart on Monday, when supporters held placards and chanted Werner's name.

"I got goose-bumps when I heard that," said Germany teammate Mario Gomez, another player to come through the ranks at Stuttgart before departing for bigger things. Werner joined his hometown club when he was 6 and went on to become its youngest league player and scorer. He became the youngest player to score twice in a Bundesliga game when, at 17 and 249 days, he did it against Freiburg. And he became the youngest to reach 50 Bundesliga appearances before his 19th birthday.

Six goals and four assists weren't enough to prevent Stuttgart's relegation in 2016, however, and Werner was snapped up by newly promoted Leipzig. He scored 21 goals to help propel Leipzig to second place in its debut Bundesliga season. It was only a matter of time before he was called up for Germany. He made his senior debut in a friendly against England last March.

With Champions League soccer for Leipzig this season, Werner will get the chance to bring his prowess in front of goal to a greater audience. Facing Hamburger SV on Friday, Werner hopes to help Leipzig avenge its surprise 3-0 loss at home to the same team last February. In the previous meeting in Hamburg, Werner came on as a substitute, scored two goals and earned a penalty in Leipzig's 4-0 victory.

Hamburg goalkeeper Christian Mathenia said he had "huge respect" for Werner, and he warned his own supporters against whistling the Leipzig forward. "He wouldn't let himself be affected by it," Mathenia said. "It would only make him stronger."

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