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Bayern, Leipzig prepare to clash with German title at stake

DÜSSELDORF, Germany (AP) — If there's ever a good time to play Leipzig, it's now. Timo Werner is in the midst of a three-game scoring drought — a drought by his standards, at least — and Leipzig has won only once in 2020, leaving the team one point behind Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga.

Sunday's visit to Bayern Munich may be the game which decides the German title. It will also be a battle between the Bundesliga's two top scorers, Werner with 20 goals and Robert Lewandowski with 22. Across Europe's top five leagues, only Lazio forward Ciro Immobile has scored more, with 25 goals.

Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann has a reputation for fighting fire with fire, trying to outscore opponents rather than hold them at bay. In its last 13 games in all competitions, Leipzig has conceded in all but one.

Recently, however, the balance between attack and defense has tipped. Werner has seemed subdued and the defense is fragile. Against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Saturday, Leipzig finished the first half trailing 2-0 and could easily have conceded more. Against the odds, Leipzig rescued a 2-2 draw, but only with help from Gladbach's own blunders. That was followed by a 3-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt in the German Cup on Tuesday.

All this would seem ideal for Bayern's bid to win its eighth straight German title. But it's not all rosy in Bavaria, either. Bayern's 4-3 win over Hoffenheim in the German Cup on Wednesday was marked by an own-goal from Jerome Boateng and nearly one from Benjamin Pavard, too. Two goals from Lewandowski should have finished off Hoffenheim, but its counterattacks unsettled the Bayern defense, allowing Mounas Dabbour to score twice and threaten extra time.

“On the one hand, it would have been a super sign if we had won 4-1 or 5-1 again before the Leipzig games,” Bayern defender Joshua Kimmich said in comments reported by the dpa agency. “But this also shows that it can go quickly in the other direction if we aren't playing at our maximum. Maybe it was really good ahead of the Leipzig game that we notice that it doesn't take care of itself.”

Bayern will also be without Croatia winger Ivan Perisic after he fractured an ankle in a training collision with teammate Alvaro Odriozola, on loan from Real Madrid. If Bayern and Leipzig draw, it would offer the challengers a chance to close the gap. Dortmund and Gladbach are three points behind Bayern, and two behind Leipzig.

Dortmund has a tricky game at local rival Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday, meaning no chance to relax after being knocked out of the German Cup on Tuesday by Werder Bremen. There were encouraging signs for Dortmund, however. Erling Haaland scored again in that 3-2 loss, making it eight goals from his first four Dortmund games, and midfielder Emre Can made his debut after arriving on loan from Juventus.

However, Dortmund's fragile defense was exposed again and has now conceded six goals in four games in 2020. Worse, Marco Reus is set to miss four weeks after picking up what the club called a "muscle injury" against Werder Bremen.

Gladbach has the easier match on Sunday. It will play Cologne, a team in 14th place despite a good run of form that includes a 4-0 rout of Freiburg last week.

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