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BERLIN (AP) — With Borussia Dortmund's Bundesliga challenge fading, Leipzig has emerged as Bayern Munich's biggest threat to a domestic double.
Leipzig can stop Bayern clinching a record-extending seventh straight Bundesliga title on Saturday, two weeks before the sides meet again in the German Cup final.
"We want to show Bayern already on Saturday that we have a top team," says Leipzig sporting director Ralf Rangnick, who is filling in as coach this season. "We'd like to win both games."
Third-placed Leipzig is already assured of Champions League football after another solid season in Germany's top flight. Julian Nagelsmann is arriving from Hoffenheim to take over as coach.
Leipzig has enjoyed remarkable success since its formation in 2009, when Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz bought a local fifth-tier team, SSV Markranstaedt, rebranded it, and financed its steady promotion through the lower leagues. The club finished runner-up in its debut Bundesliga season in 2017.
Leipzig can claim its first title with a cup final win over Bayern in Berlin on May 25, six days after the 10th anniversary of its founding date.
Saturday's game is a warm-up of sorts for German soccer's showpiece, though Bayern can clinch the Bundesliga title with a game to spare with a win in Leipzig. It would be the 12th successive league title for Bayern on the road. The Bavarian powerhouse hasn't secured the title in Munich since 2000.
"We have two match balls and we'll try to take the first one in Leipzig," Bayern coach Niko Kovac says. "But we're not talking about just anyone. We're talking about a very, very good opponent."
Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is still out with a muscle fiber tear in his left calf, while midfielder Javi Martinez is also out, due to a calf injury suffered in training. James Rodriguez was back in team training on Thursday following his calf injury.
Second-placed Dortmund, which is four points behind, hosts Fortuna Duesseldorf at the same time and must win and count on a favor from Leipzig to keep alive its dwindling hopes. Dortmund squandered a two-goal lead and drew 2-2 at Werder Bremen last weekend, while it lost at home to Schalke 4-2 the weekend before that.
Leipzig has lost only once at home this year — to Dortmund 1-0 — and it hasn't lost across all competitions for 17 games. Only Bayern, with 38, has claimed more points in the second half of the Bundesliga than Leipzig's 34.
Leipzig midfielder Kevin Kampl, who is suspended due to an accumulation of yellow cards, would like the Bundesliga title race to go to the final day of the season.
"As a former Dortmund player and a fan of the club since kindergarten I'd be happy," Kampl tells Sport Bild magazine. "You're always especially happy to beat Bayern because it's the best team in Germany."
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