After a season that promised so much, Bayern Munich have been sent packing from two Cup competitions in the space of eight days and Carlo Ancelotti’s side are determined to take a step closer to the league title when they travel to VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday.
A Bayern win combined with defeat for second-placed RB Leipzig against relegation candidates Ingolstadt would give them an unassailable 11-point lead with three games remaining.
After crashing out of the Champions League quarter-finals to Real Madrid and then losing to Borussia Dortmund in Wednesday’s German Cup last four, the feel-good factor from Ancelotti’s first season in charge has largely dissipated.
Bayern are without a win in their last five matches in all competitions.
They have drawn their last two league games and won just one of their last four, seeing a 13-point lead a few weeks ago shrink to eight with four games left.
“After wasting our chances against Dortmund and having gone out of the Cup we want to make sure of an early Bundesliga title with a win at Wolfsburg,” Bayern defender Mats Hummels said.
“It is going to be a difficult game for us mentally but we want to do everything possible not to let any excitement back into the title race.”
Ancelotti has his work cut out to get his team in the right frame of mind. What could have been a brilliant treble-winning season may quickly turn into a nervous title run-in.
“It’s too early to talk about the overall season,” said the Italian. “We have four games and we are fighting to win the Bundesliga. Of course we are disappointed to go out of the Cup. It was an important competition.
“We have to focus on the next game and try to win the Bundesliga as soon as possible.”
Wolfsburg will be no pushovers though, with the 2009 champions hovering a point above the relegation playoff spot.
Coach Andries Jonker, a former Bayern interim manager, rested nine players early this week to keep his team fresh for the relegation battle and closed off Thursday’s training to the public and media ahead of their big game.
Promoted Leipzig, in second place on 62 points, can make sure of an automatic Champions League spot next season with a win over visitors Ingolstadt.
Borussia Dortmund, in third (56 points), host European hopefuls Cologne while Hoffenheim, in fourth (55 points), entertain German Cup finalists Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday.