Bayern Munich face Heidenheim on Saturday as the promoted side have the uneviable task of trying to stop the momentum of the side already vying with Bayer Leverkusen for this season’s Bundesliga title.
Bayern and a skliful Bayer Leverkusen side coached by former Real Madrid and Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso head into the weekend as the only remaining unbeaten teams in the league.
Leverkusen, who host struggling Union Berlin on Sunday, head the table with 28 of a possible 30 points, two clear of Bayern in second, with third-placed Stuttgart already five points further back.
Leverkusen only dropped points against Bayern, with the sides playing out a pulsating 2-2 draw in Munich in September.
Bayern come into their game after qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League thanks to a 2-1 win against Galatasaray on Wednesday thanks to a Harry Kane double. But the victory came at a price with the loss of forward Jamal Musiala with a hamstring injury.
Any doubts that the leading duo are a cut above were laid to rest on the past weekend, with each of the chasing pack — Stuttgart, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig — suffering dispiriting losses.
Stuttgart slipped to a 2-0 defeat to Heidenheim, their second-straight defeat since losing talisman Serhou Guirassy to injury.
Dortmund again received their biannual thumping by Bayern, losing 4-0 at home to tear up their unbeaten record.
German Cup holders RB Leipzig were unusually flat, going down 2-0 at last-placed Mainz, allowing the home side their first win of the season.
Leverkusen midfielder Granit Xhaka, who joined from Arsenal in the summer, told Sportbild on Wednesday his “young side had the hunger to achieve something big” this season.
The captain of Switzerland however reminded his team “no team has ever won the title after 10 matchdays”.
That is an experience Xhaka knows too well after his Arsenal side were overtaken by Man City having led for much of last year’s Premier League season.
“We decide where we are at the end of the season. We need to win all of our games — and then other teams can do whatever they like,” Xhaka said.
Xhaka’s men take on Union Berlin at home on Sunday. The omens for Union Berlin, who are stuck in deep slump, are not good — Leverkusen won this fixture 5-0 last season.
While five-time runners up Leverkusen may be dreaming of a first-ever Bundesliga title, champions Bayern are just holding out for a rest.
Thomas Tuchel’s side have managed to keep pace with Leverkusen despite a mounting injury list, added to by Musiala, who is likely to be sidelined for several weeks with a hamstring injury.
Speaking after beating Galatasaray, Tuchel said he hoped his side could beat Heidenheim and get to the international break unscathed.
The break “is sensational” from a coach’s perspective, Tuchel said.
“You can take a couple of days holiday without a guilty conscience,” Tuchel said, clearly feeling more secure than his predecessor Julian Nagelsmann, who was fired while on a ski holiday during an international break in March.
Midfielder Julian Brandt has been Borussia Dortmund’s creative spark this season, finally delivering consistently on his potential after showing glimpses throughout his career.
Prior to Dortmund’s 4-0 thumping by Bayern on Saturday, Brandt had scored or assisted in eight straight league matches.
Brandt called on his teammates to toughen up after the Bayern loss and stood by his words as Dortmund beat Newcastle 2-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday, scoring the match-sealing goal late in the game.
The 27-year-old praised teammate Karim Adeyemi’s “sensational” pass before the goal and lauded his teammates for “not falling in a hole” after the Bayern demolition.
15 in 10: Harry Kane has scored 15 goals in 10 league games for Bayern this season.
14 in eight: Stuttgart’s Serhou Guirassy, who may return from injury in Saturday’s match with Borussia Dortmund, just trails the England captain with 14 in eight.
38: Bayern have 38 goals after 10 games, a Bundesliga record. 23 of those have come from either Kane or Leroy Sane.