Saturday Madness: Bayern Munich's rivals turn up heat on defending champions
Saturday afternoon lived up to its promise, with Bayern Munich's closest title challengers turning up the heat on the record champions.
The 3.30pm (CET) Saturday matches, a staple of German football, are usually full of action, and this weekend promised to be even more captivating. Since the three-points-for-a-win rule was introduced prior to the start of the 1995/96 season, the leaders' buffer over sixth had never been so small at this point in the campaign, and the pretenders did not disappoint on a dramatic afternoon...
Union (briefly) went top with a win
Never had Union Berlin led the Bundesliga at such an advanced stage of a season as they did back in November, when leading the way into Matchday 14. And thanks to a 2-1 win over Mainz, they returned to the summit - even if only for a night - on Matchday 19. Goals from Kevin Behrens and Jordan took Die Eisernen back above Bayern, putting the ball back in the record champions' court with a fourth straight win in 2023, equalling a club record for consecutive wins in the Bundesliga.
Watch: This is Union Berlin
That also extended a 100 per cent start to the new year for Union - a record matched only by Borussia Dortmund. Sebastien Haller netted his first Bundesliga goal in a 5-1 win over Freiburg which kept Edin Terzic's men three points behind Bayern, but there is no doubt the pressure is continuing to grow on the Bavarians in one of the tightest title tussles in recent history.
That win was a dent in Freiburg's own hopes, however, as they slipped to sixth - three points behind their conquerors - but Christian Streich was not the only disappointed coach on Super Saturday. Marco Rose was left frustrated as RB Leipzig were held to a goalless draw in Cologne, a result which saw them slip a place to fourth.
Watch: Dortmund hammer Freiburg
The point was nevertheless enough to hold off Frankfurt, whose 2-0 win over cellar dwellers Hertha Berlin lifted them above Freiburg and still very much in the hunt. Thirty-five points from 19 Bundesliga games is the Eagles' best-ever tally at this point in a season and they are unbeaten in their last seven league games, their best run under Oliver Glasner.
Watch: Frankfurt's clinical finishing
With six goals in his last six Bundesliga games, Randal Kolo Muani on Saturday became the first Bundesliga player to four goals in 2023, continuing his excellent recent form which also saw him catch the eye for France in the FIFA World Cup late last year.
Regardless of Bayern's win over Wolfsburg on Sunday, the top six sides in the Bundesliga remain packed together by just six points, and there is the prospect of plenty more changes at the top of the standings in the weeks to come.
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