Bayern Munich started 2022 with a nine-point Bundesliga lead over second-placed Borussia Dortmund, but that could be cut to just three when they travel to high-flying Cologne on Saturday.

Knowing a victory will put more pressure on the nine-time champions after a dramatic first weekend of the year, Dortmund host Freiburg in the Friday fixture.

A Bayern squad decimated by coronavirus infections and other absentees lost 2-1 at home to Borussia M? nchengladbach and Dortmund turned a 2-0 deficit at Eintracht Frankfurt into a late 3-2 win to take advantage.

Bayern has said several players, including goalkeeper captain Manuel Neuer, defender Dayot Upamecano and winger Leroy Sane had resumed training. Still, it is not yet known who will be available for the game. Coach Julian Nagelsmann previously said, however, he was “not currently expecting many returnees who’ll be in contention for the starting eleven.”

Cologne is on a three-game winning run which has lifted them to sixth in the table but has lost the last eight against Bayern and has not beaten the Munich giants since 2011.”We go into every game to win it – also against Bayern,” striker Mark Uth told the Express newspaper. “It will naturally be difficult, and we have to have a perfect day.”

Unlike most at Cologne, Uth knows what it’s like to beat Bayern, having scored a double in Hoffenheim’s 2-0 win over the champions in 2017. He has five goals overall against the Munich outfit.” Against Bayern, it is always easy for me!” he joked. “I don’t know why it works quite well for me against Bayern.”But I’d like to score fewer goals and win more often.”

Dortmund’s task is not a simple one against fourth-placed Freiburg, who enjoys a dream season under coach Christian Streich. The opportunity to close in on Bayern, though, cannot be passed up if they are to maintain their outside title hopes.” On Friday, we have the next chance against Freiburg, and then we will see in which direction we are heading,” said coach Marco Rose.

Saturday also sees a direct European duel when third-placed Hoffenheim visit Union Berlin, seventh, while there is a meeting crisis clubs when Wolfsburg, 14th, host Hertha Berlin, 13th.VfB Stuttgart v RB Leipzig and Mainz v Bochum are also scheduled before Gladbach v Bayer Leverkusen in the late kick-off. On Sunday, the focus is the battle survival when second-last Arminia Bielefeld welcomes bottom side Greuther Fürth and Augsburg, host Frankfurt in the play-off place.