Borussia Dortmund visit bottom side Paderborn on Sunday with uncertainty surrounding the future of coach Lucien Favre after Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat by Bayern Munich left their Bundesliga title dreams in tatters.
Favre and Dortmund were forced to deny rumours that he is set to resign, and face Paderborn attempting to at least keep some pressure on reigning champions Bayern, who sit seven points clear with six matches remaining.
Second-placed Dortmund may also have to make do without Erling Haaland, after the teenage sensation was injured against Bayern, reportedly in an accidental collision with the referee.
Swiss Favre was forced to clarify comments made on Tuesday when he said he would “talk about it (his future) in a few weeks”, saying the following day that he was not “giving up at all”.
Several German newspapers have suggested Favre is set to leave at the end of the season, with Niko Kovac, who was sacked by Bayern last year, reported to be his likely successor.
“We are certainly not having a coaching debate,” Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc insisted to Sport1.
“Lucien must have expressed himself misleadingly in a moment immediately after the game.”
Barring an unlikely late-season collapse from Bayern, it will be the second straight season that Favre’s Dortmund have pushed their rivals close in the title race before ultimately coming up short.
Dortmund led for much of the campaign last term but stumbled late to finish two points off the pace.
“We said before the season that we wanted to play for the title again,” added Zorc.
“We didn’t manage to be better than Bayern. Now we can be disappointed, take a deep breath, and then set a new goal for Sunday. Full focus is on second place.”
Dortmund will be confident of getting back on track against a Paderborn side who are rooted to the foot of the table, eight points adrift of the relegation play-off spot, despite three consecutive draws since the Bundesliga resumed following the coronavirus lockdown.
“We mustn’t talk of a miracle because there are still 18 points to be won,” said Paderborn coach Steffen Baumgart.
“As long as it’s still mathematically possible we have to give it everything we’ve got.”
Bayern’s ‘big step’
Bayern are now firmly on track for a record-extending eighth straight title and on Saturday host a Fortuna Duesseldorf side who boosted their survival hopes with a 2-1 midweek win against free-falling Schalke.
“We set out to take a big step (against Dortmund). We succeeded. We showed a lot of determination,” said Bayern coach Hansi Flick.
5 Home wins in the 27 matches behind closed doors since the league returned.
5 Shots by Haaland without scoring against Bayern. He had previously scored 10 goals from 21 attempts on goal in the Bundesliga.
45 Goals in Bayer Leverkusen’s last 11 league matches, an average of 4.09 goals per game.
Freiburg v Bayer Leverkusen (10.30pm)
Hertha Berlin v Augsburg, Mainz v Hoffenheim, Schalke v Werder Bremen, Wolfsburg v Eintracht Frankfurt (all 5.30pm), Bayern Munich v Fortuna Duesseldorf (8.30pm)
Borussia Moenchengladbach v Union Berlin (5.30pm), Paderborn v Borussia Dortmund (8pm)