Bayern look to tighten grip on fifth straight title

BERLIN: Bayern Munich travel to Freiburg on Friday as the Bundesliga leaders, but the champions know they must kick it up a notch following the winter break if they are to earn a record-extending fifth straight title.

Bayern secured top spot going into the break in December with a 3-0 win over second-placed RB Leipzig, although Carlo Ancelotti's team have looked less dominant than in past seasons.

"We want to win the first game and set a marker early," winger Arjen Robben, who this week extended his contract to 2018, said. "We have to get into our rhythm quickly."

"I believe we will get better. We can all keep saying it but what we need to do is show it," said the Dutchman. "We are looking good and things are positive for us so the league can now start."

However, the Bavarians' expensive back line still needed some fine-tuning in the winter training camp in Qatar, with the partnership of Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng, hampered by injuries, yet to hit top form.

Up front, fans have also not yet seen as many goal floods as in past seasons. Thomas Mueller, who scored 20 times in the previous campaign, has managed just one goal so far this season.

While Ancelotti's style may be less exciting than predecessor Pep Guardiola's, his team is still delivering results and in the running for every competition, having also advanced to the knockout stage of the Champions League.

"In the first half of the season we can still make some mistakes," Ancelotti said. "But that cannot happen in the second half."

He said their hard work during their Qatar camp earlier this month would pay off.

"This training helped us to be better for the rest of the season," Ancelotti said. "I think we are now even stronger than before."

Promoted Leipzig, on 36 points, three behind Bayern, will be without suspended forward Emil Forsberg, who has scored five goals and set up another eight, when they take on fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.

Eintracht have lost just once in their last 10 league matches to climb to 29 points, one behind Hertha Berlin, who travel to Bayer Leverkusen.

Borussia Dortmund take on Werder Bremen and need a win if they are to maintain any real title chances, with Thomas Tuchel's team having slipped to sixth, already 12 points off the top.