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Darmstadt aim to upend Bayern on Neuer’s comeback

Darmstadt face Bayern Munich on Saturday. Photo: Thomas Kienzle / AFP

Bundesliga minnows Darmstadt will be out to spoil Manuel Neuer’s potential return from injury when they face champions Bayern Munich on Saturday.

Bayern keeper Neuer, a World Cup winner with Germany in 2014, has been out of action since December 2022 after breaking his leg while skiing, but could make a long-awaited return to action against Darmstadt this weekend.

Neuer, 37, is eyeing a spot in Germany’s squad for Euro 2024 on home soil.

The reigning champions, who eased past Galatasaray 3-1 in the Champions League on Tuesday, are expected to have little trouble against promoted Darmstadt as they look to keep the heat on league leaders Bayer Leverkusen.

Yet Darmstadt defender Matej Maglica said Wednesday that his side intend to be the party poopers if Neuer does make his comeback. 

“It’s not so much about spoiling anything for anyone. Manu has been injured for a long time, and Germany needs him for the Euros. But of course we want to score goals and pick up points for ourselves,” Maglica told German media.

Bayern coach Thomas Tuchel refused to confirm in midweek whether Neuer or his understudy Sven Ulreich would start on Saturday.

Yet the veteran keeper has now been back in training for two months and it seems only a matter of time before he returns to action.

“We hope he is back against Darmstadt because he is one of the best goalkeepers in history and he can really help us with his experience and quality,” said Bayern defender Matthijs de Ligt on Tuesday.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga, Borussia Dortmund — buoyed by a 1-0 win at Newcastle United in the Champions League on Wednesday — travel to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Last year’s surprise package Union Berlin meanwhile look to end their miserable run of form away at Werder Bremen. 

Union, who sensationally secured Champions League qualification with a fourth-place finish last season, have seen their fairytale turn into a nightmare in recent weeks. 

Their Champions League defeat to Napoli on Tuesday was their ninth straight loss in all competitions, a run which has left them just two points adrift of the bottom three in the league.

The run of form has led to question marks over coach Urs Fischer’s future, though Union midfielder Rani Khedira was quick to back his boss this week.

“We need him and he needs us. We will get out of this situation together,” he said.

One to watch: Leonardo Bonucci (Union Berlin)

If there is one player who sums up Union’s current misery, it is 2021 European champion Leonardo Bonucci.

Bonucci’s transfer to Union surprised the football world in August, but the 36-year-old Italian has played only a bit part role in recent games as the Berliners have struggled to shake off the autumn blues.

After he was left on the bench for the second game in a row against Napoli, Bonucci was forced to deny rumours that he had clashed with coach Urs Fischer.

“Once again, I am reading made-up stories about myself,” the defender wrote on Instagram. 

“I have always respected my coaches’ decisions. We all want to get out of this situation, but every individual has to put himself in the service of the team,” he added.

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