- Associated Press - Thursday, December 17, 2015

BERLIN (AP) - Bayern Munich fans could be forgiven for overlooking the last Bundesliga game of the year, such is the commotion over the club’s off-field issues.

Bayern visits Hannover on Saturday, and attention has been focused on Pep Guardiola’s future as coach, as well as the latest injury blow that has again strained his relationship with team doctors.

Hannover is fighting relegation after a dismal opening half to the season, and an upset over the league leader would provide a welcome boost before the winter break.

Borussia Dortmund, five points behind Bayern in second place, visits Cologne at the same time, but has been careful not to declare a title challenge despite recently cutting the gap from eight points.

Bayern will lead at the halfway stage no matter what happens.

Here are some things to know about the 17th round:

___

PEP PACKED? Bayern has been dogged by the question of Guardiola’s future, and it seems the former Barcelona coach has decided to limit his stay to the three years he signed for after taking over Jupp Heynckes’ treble-winning side in 2013.

Madrid-based sports paper Marca reported on Wednesday that Guardiola has informed Bayern of his intention to leave, and on Thursday it said the club agreed on a three-year deal with Carlo Ancelotti to replace him.

Ancelotti was Bayern great Franz Beckenbauer’s preferred candidate if Guardiola did not extend his contract.

German magazines Kicker and Sport Bild also reported that Guardiola was leaving.

Guardiola led Bayern to the Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup in 2013, a German league and cup double in 2014, and another Bundesliga title in 2015, but Champions League success has so far eluded him.

INSULT TO INJURY: Kicker reports that ongoing issues with Bayern’s medical staff contributed toward Guardiola’s decision to leave.

Franck Ribery, who recently returned from nine months out with an ankle injury, has been ruled out for another eight weeks with a muscle tear from the Champions League win at Dinamo Zagreb, the magazine said on Thursday. It said Guardiola holds team doctor Volker Braun responsible.

Bayern’s injury list already included Arjen Robben, David Alaba, Mario Goetze, Douglas Costa, Mehdi Benatia, and Juan Bernat. Philipp Lahm was expected to be the next confirmed to miss the trip to Hannover with a muscle injury from the German Cup win over Darmstadt.

Braun reportedly denied responsibility for Ribery’s injury, and instead blamed Guardiola for rushing players back.

Guardiola fell out with Braun’s predecessor, Hans-Wilhelm Mueller-Wohlfahrt, in similar circumstances last April. Mueller-Wohlfahrt quit after 38 years at the club.

DILIGENT DORTMUND: Dortmund has been quietly going about its business and appears to have overcome a mini-slump thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s goals and the fine form of Ilkay Gundogan and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Bundesliga top-scorer Aubameyang has 18 in 16 games, and he scored again on Wednesday in a 2-0 German Cup win at Augsburg.

Marco Reus will miss the trip to Cologne with a groin injury. Cologne has only one win from its last eight games.

FRANKFURT FALLING: After a promising start to the season, it’s all been going wrong for Eintracht Frankfurt. Four defeats in succession, including a painful derby loss at home to Darmstadt, and six games without a win have left the side teetering above the relegation zone.

Frankfurt sports director Bruno Huebner has promised winter signings.

Frankfurt hosts Werder Bremen, which is just a point ahead of Frankfurt.

HAHOHE HERTHA: Hertha Berlin’s unlikely march to third place is grabbing attention for the capital’s unglamorous club.

Coach Pal Dardai has turned the side from a collection of disgruntled egos into one where players are willing to run and fight for the collective good.

He’s also turned the side into an incredibly efficient one. Hertha had nine attempts on goal compared to Darmstadt’s 10 last weekend and still managed to win 4-0. There were no shots on goal against Hoffenheim but the side won 1-0 thanks to an own goal.

The club chant “HaHoHe, Hertha BSC” has received a popularity boost as fans make the most of it while they can. A win at home over Mainz on Sunday will ensure they can truly let go for the festive season.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide