Borussia Dortmund lead a posse of Bundesliga teams under-fire Bayern Munich extend their four-match winless streak.
Back-to-back league defeats mean Bayern, Bundesliga champions for each of the last six years, sit just sixth in Germany’s top flight, four points away from Dortmund in top spot.
“There is tension at the top of the table – we haven’t had that for a long time,” said Michael Preetz, team manager at fifth-placed Hertha Berlin, who last month claimed their first win over Bayern since 2009.
On Friday, Bayern’s head coach Niko Kovac calmly explained how his team must “stick to our guns” at mid-table Wolfsburg on Saturday and improve the finishing which has deserted them in recent defeats.
The pressure building at Bayern erupted on Friday when club chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and president Uli Hoeness launched an extraordinarily heated attack on the German media.
The Bayern pair slammed the “shameful, disrespectful” criticism of Bayern’s stars – mainly captain Manuel Neuer, wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, and Kovac – in recent weeks after defeats to Hertha Berlin and Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Current league leaders Dortmund host Bayern away in three weeks in what is shaping up to be a showdown.
“Dortmund are a threat,” admitted Bayern winger Arjen Robben. “With the others, we have to see how long they can keep it up.
“If we were top with a lead of five points, boredom would be the topic.”
As star-studded Bayern wobble, the teams above them – Dortmund, Werder Bremen, Hertha Berlin, Gladbach and RB Leipzig – hope to take advantage.
Bremen are at Schalke in Saturday night’s top game. On Sunday, Hertha and Gladbach can consolidate their top five spots at home to Freiburg and Mainz respectively.
League leaders Dortmund are at bottom side Stuttgart on Saturday with Spain striker Paco Alcacer in incredible form with nine goals in his last five games.
However, Dortmund coach Lucien Favre has injury woes in defence with Manuel Akanji out with a hip problem and wing back Marcel Schmelzer struggling with a knee problem.
Meanwhile, Wolfsburg are hoping to add to Bayern’s woes.
“The current situation is extraordinary for Bayern,” said Wolfsburg coach Bruno Labbadia, a former Bayern player.
“You know what it’s like when they don’t win two games — now it’s four.
“They are still dangerous, but you have to also see that you can take points against such a top team — we want that too.”
Bayern’s slump has dramatically altered the situation in the Bundesliga table — three weeks ago, the German media were reporting the title race was already over when Bayern won the first seven games.
While Bayern’s rivals prosper, Kovac is puzzled as to exactly why things have gone wrong for his team.
“You can’t always explain well why things happen in football”, said the 47-year-old.
“We have made too many mistakes recently, which led to goals.
“We didn’t take our chances, while our opponents took theirs, ice cold.”