Nagelsmann out with COVID-19 as Bayern hope for packed house
Berlin, Oct 22, 2021 (AFP) - Bayern Munich hope for full stands at the Allianz Arena for the first time in more than 18 months when the Bundesliga leaders host Hoffenheim on Saturday with head coach Julian Nagelsmann again sidelined by Covid-19.
The relaxing of regulations in Bavaria means that for the first time since the pandemic hit Germany in March 2020, Bayern could welcome a sell-out home crowd of 75,000.
Tickets are however still available and supporters need to be fully vaccinated or show a negative Covid-19 test result.
"The boys are really happy to be able to play in an emotionally charged Allianz Arena again, that gives them extra motivation," said Bayern president Herbert Hainer this week.
"The excitement within the team for full stands is huge - as it is in the whole club."
However, Nagelsmann, also missed Wednesday's 4-0 win at Benfica.
The 34-year-old is isolating at home after testing positive for coronavirus despite being fully vaccinated and could be away for up to two weeks.
In his absence, assistant coaches Xaver Zembrod and Dino Toppmoeller will be passing on his instructions.
"It's not like that when Julian isn't there, I'll be the boss and make my own decisions," said Toppmoeller, who stepped in for Nagelsmann in Lisbon during the half-time team talk and post-match interviews.
Nagelsmann will be deciding tactics and substitutions via a radio link. "You don't make changes yourself there," Toppmoeller confirmed.
Bayern responded to losing 2-1 at home to Frankfurt in early October - their first home Bundesliga defeat for nearly two years - by flooring Leverkusen 5-1 in the Bundesliga before thrashing Benfica in Europe.
Hoffenheim have tripped Bayern up twice in recent seasons, handing out a 4-1 thrashing in Sinsheim in September 2020 after claiming a 2-1 win at the Allianz Arena in October 2019.
Borussia Dortmund, who are second in the table and a point behind Bayern, will lick their wounds at Arminia Bielefeld on Saturday after a 4-0 midweek mauling at Ajax.
Dortmund were handed their heaviest Champions League defeat in Amsterdam thanks to a performance their coach Marco Rose described as "crap" as defensive frailties were brutally exposed.
Bielefeld can expect a backlash as Rose vowed to "work on everything" for the next two weeks until Dortmund play the Dutch champions again on November 3.
Rose celebrated the biggest win of his coaching career at Bielefeld in April where his former club Borussia Moenchengladbach romped to a 5-0 win.
Fourth-placed Freiburg, the only club still unbeaten in Germany's top-flight, hunt their first win at Wolfsburg in three years on Saturday.
Third-placed Leverkusen look to bounce back from last weekend's drubbing at home to Bayern at struggling neighbours Cologne on Sunday having won all of the last three Rhineland derbies.
One to watch: Chris Richards
The US international has the chance to show parent club Bayern Munich what he has learnt on loan at Hoffenheim.
The 21-year-old has nailed down a centre-back berth in Sinsheim this season.
He told magazine Kicker he asked to be loaned to Hoffenheim on advice of Bayern boss Nagelsmann, "who said I needed to go where I could play regularly, make mistakes and learn from them immediately. It's the best way."
Hoffenheim boss Sebastian Hoeness, who previously coached Richards when the pair worked together at Bayern's reserves, describes the tough-tackling defender as "quick, eager to learn and very ambitious".
10 - home wins for Bayern against Hoffenheim in Munich, where Saturday's guests have only ever won once at the Allianz Arena.
10 - matches Richards has played for Bayern in all competitions since his 2018 transfer from FC Dallas.
Four - league games in which Bielefeld have failed to score against Saturday's visitors Dortmund.
Fixtures (times 1330GMT unless stated)
Mainz v Augsburg (1830)
Arminia Bielefeld v Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich v Hoffenheim, Wolfsburg v Freiburg, RB Leipzig v Greuther Fuerth, Hertha Berlin v Borussia Moenchengladbach (1630)
Cologne v Bayer Leverkusen, Stuttgart v Union Berlin (1530), Bochum v Eintracht Frankfurt (1730)