BERLIN, Germany, Feb 17 – After thrashing Arsenal in mid-week, leaders Bayern Munich return to Bundesliga business at Hertha Berlin on Saturday with captain Philipp Lahm backing Thomas Mueller to return to form.
Bayern head to the capital with a seven-point lead in Germany’s top flight and one foot in the Champions League’s quarter-finals after hammering Arsenal 5-1 in Wednesday’s last 16, first-leg.
Carlo Ancelotti opted for Thiago Alcantara instead of Mueller to run Bayern’s attack against the Gunners.
The attacking midfielder scored two goals in a display his coach hailed as ‘perfect’.
Germany star Mueller was left on the bench but still managed to come on and score Bayern’s fifth goal in his four minutes on the pitch — after Thiago presented him with a simple tap-in.
It had been 999 minutes since he had previously netted for Bayern.
Ancelotti is set to rotate his squad with Mueller poised to make the starting line-up at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium.
Lahm says home-grown Germany star Mueller is working tirelessly to rekindle his form.
“He has a place in every team,” Lahm told Kicker.
“It’s unbelievable the way he trains every day, he always looks forward and pushes, regardless of whether he plays from the start or not.
“It’s just a question of time until he finds his form.”
All of their six closest rivals lost last weekend and Berlin is a happy hunting ground for the Bavarians.
They won the Bundesliga title there with a record seven games to spare in March 2014, and have been victorious in their last 11 games against Hertha.
Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer could record his 100th clean sheet in the league playing a team that has not scored against Bayern in their last five meetings.
Having been as high as third this year, Hertha are down to sixth after winning just two of their last seven league games.
Hertha striker Vedad Ibisevic is set to play despite an ankle knock.
Second-placed RB Leipzig are at Borussia Moenchengladbach on Sunday looking to bounce back from defeats in their last two games.
Gladbach are on a roll and up to tenth after last week’s 3-2 comeback win against Bayer Leverkusen, when they fought back from two goals down.
There is a seven point gap behind Leipzig in the table, but the Saxons are wobbling.
Their defence was badly caught out in their 3-0 home loss to Hamburg, their first home defeat this season, which came on the back of a 1-0 defeat at Dortmund.
Centre-back Willi Orban is suspended while striker Yussuf Poulsen is out for the coming weeks with a leg injury.
Fourth-placed Borussia Dortmund will host Wolfsburg on Saturday with their iconic south stand empty.
The club will lock fans out as part of a German FA (DFB) punishment after hooligans attacked RB Leipzig fans, including families, two weeks ago.
Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is struggling for form after his howler in Tuesday’s 1-0 Champions League defeat at Benfica.
The striker missed four clear chances, including a second-half penalty and was hauled off with an hour gone in Portugal.
The league’s top scorer, with 17 goals this season, admitted having had a “black day” and has scored just one goal in five games since returning from Africa Cup of Nations duty with Gabon.
Coach Thomas Tuchel will want to see an improved Dortmund performance after last Saturday’s shock 2-1 defeat at bottom side Darmstad and the mid-week loss at Benfica.
Third-placed Eintracht Frankfurt host strugglers Ingolstadt looking to equal their club record with a fourth straight clean sheet.
Ex-Bayern midfielder Niko Kovac has taken Frankfurt from last season’s relegation candidates — they only stayed up by winning a play-off — to the verge of a Champions League place for next season.
Fixtures (all times 1430 GMT unless stated)
Augsburg v Bayer Leverkusen (1930)
Borussia Dortmund v Wolfsburg, Mainz v Werder Bremen, Hertha Berlin v Bayern Munich, Hoffenheim v Darmstadt, Eintracht Frankfurt v Ingolstadt, Hamburg v Freiburg (1730)
Borussia Moenchengladbach v RB Leipzig, Cologne v Schalke 04 (1630)