Franck Ribery warned Bayern Munich face a tricky test at Bayer Leverkusen on Friday as they resume their march towards a sixth straight Bundesliga title following the German winter break.
Jupp Heynckes’s team are 11 points clear of second-place Schalke but Leverkusen, who are two points further back in fourth, are unbeaten in 14 matches dating back to September under ex-Dortmund coach Heiko Herrlich.
Bayern rounded out 2017 with six successive wins in all competitions, surging into the new year firmly on course to retain their title after a brief wobble that cost Carlo Ancelotti his job in September.
But Leverkusen are looking to become only the third club after Hoffenheim and Borussia Moenchengladbach to beat Bayern in the league this season.
With six goals and four assists, Leverkusen’s outstanding player in the first half of the season was 20-year-old Jamaican winger Leon Bailey, who has thrived since joining from Belgian club Genk last January.
Both Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski and defender Mats Hummels are recovering from knee and groin injuries respectively, while right-back Joshua Kimmich has a cold.
Leverkusen warmed up for Bayern with a 2-2 draw in a friendly against third-tier Preussen Muenster as Argentina striker Lucas Alario netted both goals following his recovery from a groin injury.
Bayern stepped up their preparations with a 5-3 win over third-division Grossaspach on Tuesday when veteran winger Franck Ribery, 34, scored three goals in a starring display.
“It will be tough at Leverkusen and we will have to give our all to win there,” said the Frenchman.
Ribery and Arjen Robben are out of contract at the end of the season, but both hope to be offered an extension in the coming months.
“I have five months left and there are always many options,” said Ribery.