- Associated Press - Thursday, February 4, 2016

BERLIN (AP) - Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola’s departure for Manchester City at the end of the season seems to have disrupted the sense of harmony around the club.

Sporting director Matthias Sammer and chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge criticized a media report that called Arturo Vidal’s professionalism at the training camp in Qatar into question.

Rummenigge said the story was “as malicious as it is untrue.”

Sammer also hit out against recent criticism of Guardiola and asked the media to give “a little more respect because of the incredible work he’s delivered for German football.”

Amid all the negative headlines, Bayern has a very healthy lead in the Bundesliga after dropping points in only two games all season.

This weekend, Bayern and Borussia Dortmund will face stern tests.

Bayern, which leads Dortmund by eight points, travels to Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday after Dortmund visits third-place Hertha Berlin. Hertha is 10 points behind Dortmund and already exceeding expectations for the season.

Borussia Moenchengladbach hosts relegation-threatened Werder Bremen to get the 20th round of games underway Friday.

Here are some things to know about this weekend’s matches:

___

INJURY CURSE

Bayern’s injury problems have contributed to the sense of angst at the club.

On Wednesday, new signing Serdar Tasci had a suspected concussion after a head injury in his first training session when he collided with a teammate.

The former Germany defender was a surprise addition to the squad on the last day of the winter transfer window to help cover the absences of Spain international Javi Martinez and Germany defender Jerome Boateng.

Martinez is sidelined after surgery to remove damaged cartilage in his left knee, while Boateng is out for several months with a groin injury.

“It’s a little bit unlucky,” Sammer said of the latest injury blow, adding the defensive injury situation was getting “uncontrollable” and that Tasci was signed as “we wanted to halfway control the uncontrollable.”

___

HEALTHY HERTHA

Hertha is in good health ahead of Dortmund’s visit.

Despite starting 2016 with two draws, the home side is confident it can frustrate the league’s best attack and maintain its place in the last automatic qualification place for the Champions League.

Pal Dardai prides his side on a mean defense. In 16 homes games under the Hungarian coach, Hertha has kept the opponents scoreless.

However, Dortmund has 52 goals in 19 games and boasts league top-scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (20 goals) up front.

“Dortmund has a top team with real quality but every team has both strengths and weaknesses,” Dardai said. “We’ll stick to our plan and have to try and make the most of our chances in the game.”

___

EVERGREEN PIZARRO

Borussia Moenchengladbach’s fine start under new coach Andre Schubert is quickly fading from memory.

Schubert’s side has lost five of its last six competitive games, including both league games this year.

Bremen has been showing signs of improvement, beating Schalke away in its first game after the winter break and following up with a 3-3 draw at home against Hertha, thanks to two goals from Peru striker Claudio Pizarro.

Pizarro is on the verge of making his 400th Bundesliga appearance. The 37-year-old forward is the league’s all-time leading foreign scorer with 181 goals, including 94 for Bremen.

___

RELEGATION CANDIDATES

The relegation battle is heating up with seven points separating the bottom seven sides.

Bremen, with 19 points in the relegation playoff place, is only two points behind four teams with 21 - Stuttgart, Darmstadt, Eintracht Frankfurt and Augsburg.

Stuttgart visits Frankfurt for what is sure to be a nervy encounter Saturday, Augsburg travels to Ingolstadt the same day and Darmstadt visits second-from-last Hoffenheim (14 points) on Sunday.

Last-place Hannover (also 14 points) hosts Mainz on Saturday.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide