RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann insisted his side must "stay on the gas pedal" despite closing within two points of Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich.

Leipzig defeated Hertha Berlin 2-0 on the road on Sunday, capitalising on leaders Bayern's 2-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.

Bayern also dropped points last week following their return from the Club World Cup in Qatar, drawing 3-3 with Arminia Bielefeld, meaning the margin at the top has been cut from seven to two points within a week, offering renewed title hope for Naglesmann's side.

However, the 33-year-old German maintained the hard work has only just begun for Leipzig, who have finished the past two Bundesliga seasons in third position.

"It's nice to get closer [to Bayern]," Nagelsmann said. "It used to be a seven-point-gap at one point. My team's reaction impressed me a lot… We have to remain focused and try winning our games.

"I think I said at the beginning of the season that February and March will become harder for the teams, as the impact of the Corona pandemic needs to be overcome in the right way.

"There are a lot of games and we need to stay on the gas pedal, and we did that in today's 90 minutes, as we did in the previous Bundesliga games.

"A lot of good teams are coming up now, with [Borussia Monchengladbach] Gladbach on the weekend, which will be a challenge. But we want to keep being successful in the Bundesliga and winning the games should speak for us."

RB Leipzig believe they are now in a Bundesliga title "duel" with Bayern Munich after closing the gap to two points with another win, this time at Hertha Berlin. 

With a draw at home to Arminia Bielefeld and then defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayern have dropped five points this week since returning from the Club World Cup in Qatar. 

Those setbacks granted Leipzig an opportunity to re-enter a title race that had looked to be over - and Julian Nagelsmann's side capitalised with a 3-0 success at Hertha on Sunday. 

Leipzig have won all five of their Bundesliga away games against Hertha, although they only pulled clear of their hosts in the closing stages. 

Marcel Sabitzer's sublime long-range strike was all that separated the sides until the 71st minute when Nordi Mukiele added a second. 

Sabitzer and Mukiele had each committed errors leading to goals in the midweek Champions League defeat to Liverpool. 

There was then a clinching third courtesy of Willi Orban, moving Leipzig five points ahead of third-placed Wolfsburg while piling the pressure on Bayern. 

Sabitzer, who has 12 career Bundesliga goals from outside the area, albeit this was his first of 2020-21, told Sky Sport: "It was not to be expected that Bayern would drop five points.

"Now we have caught up the points, now there are only two. We are a bit clear of third place, so it's a duel. 

"It doesn't help to talk about it, we have to do it and stick with it week after week. Otherwise I can say something completely different next week and then everyone will laugh at me again." 

Nagelsmann added: "Of course, we're pleased to have moved back to within two points of Bayern. 

"Some teams behind us also picked up points, which makes the victory today even more important." 

Bayern, who have already lost twice in the Bundesliga in 2021 after a sole defeat last year, visit Leipzig on April 3.

Leon Goretzka and Javi Martinez were not part of the Bayern Munich squad that departed for the Club World Cup on Friday.

Bayern caught a flight to Qatar after their 1-0 victory over Hertha Berlin, which was secured by a deflected first-half strike from Kingsley Coman.

Hansi Flick's side kept a clean sheet thanks to Manuel Neuer's seven saves but they looked vulnerable on the counterattack with Joshua Kimmich anchoring the midfield alone at the Olympiastadion.

Goretzka and Martinez were absent following positive coronavirus tests and they did not travel to Doha with their team-mates.

"We have to look from day to day how things are going for both of them," Flick said.

"Leon is looking a little better, Javi will probably not make it. If not for the first game, then maybe for the second."

Bayern take on Al Ahly on Monday and will contest either the third-place play-off or the final against Palmeiras or Tigres UANL three days later.

The European champions left Germany after opening a 10-point advantage at the Bundesliga summit, though a missed penalty from Robert Lewandowski in the first half against Hertha meant the match was tighter than expected.

"You could tell it would be fiercely contested. Pal Dardai's team fight for every square centimetre," Thomas Muller, who set up Coman to become the first player to reach double figures for goals and assists in the Bundesliga this season, told DAZN.

"We should definitely have scored one or two more goals, so it was a close run thing in the end.

"You can't celebrate in every game. What is striking is that the clean sheet is becoming more and more common."

Kingsley Coman's deflected goal gave Bayern Munich a 1-0 win over Hertha Berlin in their final Bundesliga outing before the Club World Cup.

Amid heavy snowfall at the Olympiastadion, Coman scored in the 21st minute after the returning Rune Jarstein – making his first league appearance since June – became just the second Bundesliga goalkeeper to save a penalty from Robert Lewandowski.

Dodi Lukebakio and Krzysztof Piatek had chances for Hertha in Pal Dardai's first home game since taking over as head coach for a second time but Bayern held on for the win.

Hansi Flick's side consequently opened up a 10-point lead at the summit over RB Leipzig, who face bottom side Schalke on Saturday.

Manuel Neuer did well to keep out Lukebakio and Jarstein matched him by denying Leroy Sane, but he tripped the former Manchester City winger to concede an early penalty.

Lewandowski was unable to score from the spot, though, as his run of 16 straight converted penalties in all competitions ended with a redeeming moment for Jarstein.

However, there was nothing the Hertha keeper could do when Coman's shot from just outside the box deflected off Niklas Stark and looped into the back of the net.

Lewandowski was denied by Jarstein before World Cup winner Sami Khedira came off the bench to make his Hertha debut.

Matheus Cunha had a chance to snatch a point for the hosts when he was released by Matteo Guendouzi in the 89th minute but his dink over Neuer drifted just wide.


What does it mean? Bayern show vulnerability

With Javi Martinez and Leon Goretzka absent following positive COVID-19 tests, Joshua Kimmich anchored the midfield alone behind a quartet of Coman, Sane, Thomas Muller and Serge Gnabry while Corentin Tolisso, Marc Roca and Jamal Musiala sat on the bench.

Unsurprisingly that left Flick's side vulnerable on the counter-attack and Neuer was forced to make five saves in the first half of a Bundesliga game for just the second time in his Bayern career.

Hertha were unable to take their chances and Flick will likely have his experienced options available again when they return to Bundesliga duty against Arminia Bielefeld a week on Monday.

No beating Neuer

Things could have been very different had Neuer not got a foot to Lukebakio's third-minute effort. The Germany international made seven saves in total to record his 16th Bundesliga clean sheet against Hertha – a record for any goalkeeper against one particular opponent, having surpassed Oliver Reck's 15 against Borussia Monchengladbach.

Lewandowski runs end

After scoring in nine successive Bundesliga matchdays, Lewandowski failed to find the back of the net against Hertha despite taking a penalty. He was also unable to extend his record run of scoring in eight consecutive top-flight away matches.

What's next?

Bayern go from the snow of Berlin to the sun of Qatar with a Club World Cup semi-final meeting with Al Ahly on Monday. Hertha will look to end their six-game winless run at Stuttgart on Saturday week.

Bayern Munich are still waiting on Leon Goretzka and Javi Martinez to return negative coronavirus tests so they can resume first-team duties.

The midfield duo are set to be absent once again for Friday's Bundesliga match at Hertha Berlin after testing positive for COVID-19 last week.

Speaking at a pre-match news conference, head coach Hansi Flick confirmed Martinez's spell of self-isolation is set to end on Wednesday, with Goretzka having to wait until Friday.

After the Hertha game, European champions Bayern will fly to Qatar to commence their Club World Cup campaign.

"With Javi and Leon it is the case that we do a test after the quarantine, I can't comment on that because I don't have the results," he said.

"Javi has to take the test and then it will be determined if he still has the virus in his body. We have to wait from day to day.

"We also know with Leon that it takes a few days longer. He also has to be tested, everything will depend on that."

With or without Goretzka and Martinez, Flick conceded the Club World Cup will place an additional strain upon Bayern within an already condensed schedule.

"Qatar is very stressful, we have the flight and the games on Mondays and Thursdays. It was clear to us that we would not have time for proper training," he said.

"The team, coaching team and club want to win the next title, we all know that it is not easy.

"In addition to getting some vitamin D [sunshine], it is also a change from everyday life, even if the journey is dangerous.

"We want the sixth title in a year, the team would make history."

Flick had some words of encouragement for Niklas Sule, the defender who has only started two of Bayern's past six Bundesliga matches and was recently linked with a move to Chelsea.

"Niklas is an absolute option, whether in the centre or full-back position," he said of the Germany international, who suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament last season.

"He did well at Schalke [last month's 4-0 win where Sule played at right-back]. Don't forget that he had a long injury.

"Niklas is a fast player who is serene on the ball and helps shape the game from behind. Given his size, he has absolute strength and I'm glad he's on our team.

"We will see how everything develops and how he sees his future. I am satisfied with his development, you can rely on him."

Sami Khedira is not intending to make himself "the big boss and the big saviour" of Hertha Berlin following his arrival from Juventus.

World Cup-winning midfielder Khedira joined Hertha on deadline day after being frozen out at Juve – he did not make a single appearance in a matchday squad under Andrea Pirlo.

Hertha sit 15th in the Bundesliga and are only outside the relegation play-off spot on goal difference, with Pal Dardai replacing Bruno Labbadia as head coach last week.

Khedira hopes to use his experience to steer the club away from the bottom three, though he has no intention of being an overbearing presence in the dressing room.

He told reporters: "I'm not coming here and saying, 'I'm the big boss.' I'm a normal man on the team.

"There are players who have more to say, that's in my nature a bit. But I'm a normal footballer who wants to do my part here.

"I want to bring in my experience and make clear statements. But I haven't come here to portray myself as the big boss and the big saviour. I'm part of the team."

Despite having played just 30 minutes of football since the 2019-20 season was suspended in March amid the coronavirus pandemic, Khedira assured he is ready to get straight down to work.

"I'm 100 per cent fit," said Khedira. "When you train with world-class players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Giorgio Chiellini and Alex Sandro, you are always challenged.

"I left [Juventus] as I arrived: with a laugh. I spent five and a half fantastic years there. But now it's Hertha."

Khedira has an agreement with Hertha until the end of the season but is not ruling out staying beyond that.

"We've come to an agreement to work together until the end of the season. That doesn't mean that it will definitely end there, though," he said.

"There's huge trust between me and [sporting director] Arne Friedrich, so we don't need a piece of paper binding us together."

Liverpool's need for defensive reinforcements was always likely to dominate the headlines on transfer deadline day and so it proved as the Premier League champions made two late signings.

Centre-back Ben Davies arrived from Preston North End, while Liverpool made a further addition to the heart of their backline with the loan signing of Ozan Kabak from Bundesliga strugglers Schalke until the end of the season.

Those signings came on a day that saw Joel Matip ruled out for the rest of the season with an ankle ligament injury. Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are long-term absentees and Liverpool were forced to play Jordan Henderson and Nathaniel Phillips at centre-back in Sunday's win at West Ham.

Heading for the Anfield exit door is Takumi Minamino, the forward moving to Southampton on a six-month loan deal having only joined Liverpool last January.

It came after Southampton loaned veteran Shane Long to promotion-chasing Championship side Bournemouth.

Bournemouth also sanctioned the departure of Joshua King to Everton for a nominal fee until the end of the season.

There were outgoings at Arsenal as well, with Shkodran Mustafi signing for Schalke on a short-term deal and Joe Willock going on loan to Newcastle United, who let DeAndre Yedlin leave for Galatasaray.

Arsenal also sent Ainsley Maitland-Niles to West Brom on loan.

Turkish giants Galatasaray acquired Gedson Fernandes on a temporary deal from Benfica following an unsuccessful stint at Tottenham.

In Serie A, Parma landed Bayern Munich's teenage forward Joshua Zirkzee in a loan deal that contains the option to sign the 19-year-old permanently.

Atalanta are firmly in contention for a top-four finish in Serie A and bolstered their ranks for that push with the capture of Ukraine midfielder Viktor Kovalenko from Shakhtar Donetsk.

Roma can afford to have hopes of a title challenge and brought in teenage full-back Bryan Reynolds from MLS outfit Dallas on an initial loan deal, with an obligation to buy, to help them.

Frozen out at Juventus, midfielder Sami Khedira is back in the Bundesliga following a switch to Hertha Berlin, but one of European football's most exciting talents is heading to Italy after Udinese signed Jayden Braaf on loan from Manchester City with an option to buy.

Elsewhere, Everton defender Jonjoe Kenny joined Celtic on loan for the rest of the season, Brighton and Hove Albion signed highly rated midfielder Moises Caicedo from Independiente del Valle, West Brom loaned Okay Yokuslu from Celta Vigo and defender Teden Mengi moved from Manchester United to Wayne Rooney's Derby County on a temporary basis.

Sami Khedira hopes to repay Hertha Berlin for bringing him back to the Bundesliga by helping the club enjoy success on the pitch. 

The German midfielder has returned to his homeland to try and kick-start his career having been frozen out at Juventus this season. 

Khedira won five Serie A titles during his time with Juve but featured sparingly across the previous two campaigns as he was hampered by injury issues.

However, the 33-year-old – who was part of the Germany squad that won the 2014 World Cup – insists he is fit and ready to get back playing again with Hertha, who have struggled so far this term. 

"Hertha made great efforts to sign me and offered me the opportunity to return to the Bundesliga," Khedira said. 

"I'm grateful for that and I honestly cannot wait for the moment when I'll be wearing the blue and white shirt on the pitch for the first time. 

"I feel great physically would like to use the experience I have gained in recent years to help the team and lead Hertha to more sporting success."

Khedira won the Bundesliga with Stuttgart in 2006-07 and also had domestic and European success during his time with Real Madrid, including lifting the Champions League trophy in 2014. 

Now, though, he has joined a Hertha side that sit just above the relegation places. They recently made a coaching change, bringing back former boss Pal Dardai to try and improve their fortunes. 

"Sami Khedira is a successful leader on the pitch and a name that is recognised around the world. I am delighted that we have been able to bring him to Hertha BSC," said Hertha CEO Carsten Schmidt. 

"I am convinced that with his personality on and off the pitch, he will give our young team the stability it needs to be successful."

As well as Khedira, Hertha also confirmed the arrival of winger Nemanja Radonjic from Marseille on deadline day, initially on loan for the rest of the season but with an option to buy. 

Sami Khedira is in talks with Hertha Berlin over a return to the Bundesliga, the German club's chief executive has confirmed.

Juventus midfielder Khedira is expected to leave the Serie A champions before the transfer window closes on Monday.

The contract extension the World Cup winner signed in 2018 is up at the end of the season, but he is set to depart early having failed to appear in a single matchday squad for Juve this term.

Khedira initially had a big impact after joining the Turin club in 2015, scoring 19 goals in 77 games across three successive title-winning Serie A campaigns.

He has since played just 22 times in the competition, suffering with injuries and falling out of favour entirely under rookie coach Andrea Pirlo.

Khedira spoke of a potential move to the Premier League ahead of January, but Berlin and Hertha – 14th in the Bundesliga – now appears his most likely destination.

Hertha CEO Carsten Schmidt told Sky Sport: "Yes, we are having talks with Sami Khedira. I can confirm that. I also spoke to him on the phone.

"We are dealing with it, but there are still a few things to be clarified, of course. We still have many questions to answer."

But Schmidt would not comment on Hertha's reported interest in Werder Bremen attacker Milot Rashica.

Rashica has been hindered by knee and thigh problems this season, playing just 379 minutes in all competitions and failing to score. He has provided a single assist from five chances created.

Pal Dardai had no doubts about stepping back up to coach Hertha Berlin again following his appointment on a deal that runs until the end of the 2021-22 season. 

Having played for the club between 1997 and 2012, the former Hungary international was head coach from 2015 through to 2019. 

Since then, Ante Covic, Jurgen Klinsmann and, most recently, Bruno Labbadia have been in charge, the latter fired - along with sports director Michael Preetz - following Saturday's 4-1 home loss to Werder Bremen that left Hertha down in 14th position in the Bundesliga table. 

The club have moved quickly to find a replacement, returning to a familiar face by promoting Dardai, who had been working in the academy. 

"It certainly wasn't my plan to move from the under-16s back to being first team coach, but nobody needs telling what Hertha means to me, so there was no doubt in my mind that I would be ready to help out in this situation," Dardai said.  

"I am looking forward to the challenge and working together with the team."

Dardai's former assistants Andreas Neuendorf and Admir Hamzagic have also returned to their previous roles, joining fitness coaches Henrik Kuchno and Hendrik Vieth, plus goalkeeping coach Zsolt Petry, on a new-look staff. 

Hertha - who are winless in four games, scoring just once during that run - are next in action on Saturday, travelling to in-form Eintracht Frankfurt.

Hertha Berlin have sacked head coach Bruno Labbadia and general manager Michael Preetz following a poor run of form.

Saturday's 4-1 home loss to fellow strugglers Werder Bremen proved to be the final game in charge for Labbadia, who was only appointed nine months ago.

Labbadia guided Hertha from 13th to 10th upon taking over from Jurgen Klinsmann last season but the Old Lady have failed to push on this term.

They have lost three of their previous four games and have won just four of their 18 league matches all season.

With the capital club only two points above the relegation play-off spot having played a game more than 16th-place Cologne, the board has now taken action.

Hertha confirmed the news on their official website on Sunday, with chairman Carsten Schmidt concerned about his side's slide down the division.

"Week in, week out, Bruno and his coaching staff have invested a lot of hard work into the team's development and we would like to thank him greatly for that," Schmidt said. 

"Ultimately, however, the return of 17 points from 18 games leaves us in a very precarious situation. 

"After much deliberation, we feel that a change of head coach can give the team fresh impetus. We will clarify his successor as head coach in the coming days."

Preetz has spent close to a quarter of a century at Hertha, including the past 12 years as part of the management staff.

Sporting director Arne Friedrich will take over Preetz's duties until the end of the campaign, when a permanent replacement will be announced.

President Werner Gegenbauer said: "Hertha have a lot to thank Michael Preetz for. During his time here, he has established Hertha as a Bundesliga club.

"But looking at the development both in the last campaign and the current one, we have decided to take a different direction for his role in the future. 

"Nevertheless, I want to express my sincerest thanks to Michael Preetz for his fine work for so many years."

Hertha were among the biggest spenders in European football in 2020, bringing in the likes of Krzysztof Piatek, Matheus Cunha and Lucas Tousart.

Piatek and Cunha have scored a combined 19 goals in 60 Bundesliga appearances since arriving in January last year, with the latter responsible for 11 of those goals.

While their big-name forwards have failed to fire, Hertha have also struggled defensively. Only bottom-two sides Mainz (38) and Schalke (44) have conceded more than their 32 goals in 2020-21.

Hertha's next permanent head coach will be their fifth in the past two years with Pal Dardai, Ante Covic, Klinsmann and now Labbadia having departed since June 2019.

Manchester City star Sergio Aguero is reportedly wanted by Barcelona.

Aguero's future at City is uncertain with the 32-year-old coming out of contract at the end of the season.

And the forward is unsurprisingly wanted by Europe's biggest clubs.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA WANT AGUERO

Barcelona are eyeing Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero, according to The Sun.

Aguero has also been linked to Paris Saint-Germain as City's all-time leading goalscorer entered the final six months of his contract.

The Argentina international has scored two goals in nine games this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Barcelona and Eric Garcia looks set to join the club from City. The cover of Mundo Deportivo says Garcia is poised to move to Barca in January in a deal worth €5million (£4.5m) plus variables.

- Also facing an uncertain future is Fernandinho. The Telegraph reports Fernandinho is undecided about his future, with the City man having offers from South America.

- Matteo Guendouzi is set to see out his loan spell at Hertha Berlin. Fabrizio Romano says the midfielder will not return to Arsenal in January, with the Bundesliga club wanting him to stay until season's end.

- Wolves seem unlikely to sign a forward in January. The Mirror claims they have aborted interested in Liverpool striker Divock Origi and Chelsea's Olivier Giroud.

- With Frank Lampard under pressure at the helm of Chelsea, help could be incoming. Sky Sports reports Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is considering bringing back former manager Avram Grant to work with Lampard.

Paulo Dybala could be set to leave Juventus – and the playmaker is eyeing the Premier League's big six.

Dybala is out of contract with the Serie A champions in 2022 but has reportedly been close to signing a new deal.

However, the Premier League could be awaiting the Argentina international.

 

TOP STORY – DYBALA OFFERED TO PREMIER LEAGUE'S BIG SIX

Dybala's representatives have reached out to the big six in the Premier League ahead of a possible move from Juventus next year, according to 90min.

Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal may be looking at the playmaker.

Dybala has made 10 appearances in all competitions for Juve this season, scoring once.

 

ROUND-UP

- Struggling in the Premier League, Arsenal could be making moves in January. The Daily Express reports the Premier League club could make a bid for Salzburg midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai in January due to Real Madrid's apparent interest in the Hungary international.

- United are monitoring Atletico Madrid right-back Kieran Trippier, according to The Telegraph.

- Premier League giants could be set for another transfer battle. Liverpool, United and Chelsea are keeping an eye on Cagliari defender Sebastian Walukiewicz, who recently re-signed until 2024, claims Corriere dello Sport.

- Krzysztof Piatek may return to Serie A. TodoFichajes reports Fiorentina want the Hertha Berlin striker, who has scored seven goals in 25 Bundesliga games for the club since joining from Milan in January.

- Travian Sousa is seemingly attracting interest. 90min reports United and Liverpool are interested in the American left-back, who left Hamburg in October.

Matteo Guendouzi says he was hurt by falling out of favour at Arsenal and needed a move to reignite his career. 

Guendouzi joined Hertha Berlin on loan for the 2020-21 season before the transfer window closed in October. 

The midfielder was left out in the cold by Gunners boss Mikel Arteta following an incident with Brighton and Hove Albion striker Neal Maupay late last season. 

However, Guendouzi is enjoying a new lease of life in the Bundesliga and hopes to force his way into the France squad. 

He told Telefoot: "I needed to have fun on the pitch, to regain confidence and that's what Hertha offers me. It really is a choice I made. 

"In the space of two seasons, I have played more than 80 games with Arsenal. When you play less, you start to think and it hurts." 

Under-21 international Guendouzi has been an unused substitute for the world champions on four occasions and the ambitious 21-year-old is hungry to make his mark at senior level.

On his previous experiences with the national team, he added: "It was a dream since I was little. Being part of it was wonderful.

"I still have in the back of my mind to earn a lot more selections, and to be important in the future."

Youssoufa Moukoko has become the Bundesliga's youngest ever player after making his Borussia Dortmund debut against Hertha Berlin on Saturday.

Moukoko, who turned 16 on Friday, made his long-awaited senior bow for Dortmund as a second-half substitute in Berlin with Dortmund 5-2 to the good - Golden Boy winner Erling Haaland boasting an incredible four-goal haul.

The youngster had long been considered an immense prospect in the Dortmund academy, having toppled numerous goalscoring records.

Among them was his impressive haul of 34 strikes from just 20 games in the Bundesliga's youth division last season, while he also became the UEFA Youth League's youngest scorer when still 14 in October 2019.

Previously, Bundesliga licensing rules made it tricky for players to feature in Germany's top tier before the age of 17, with 16 years and six months the absolute minimum age to gain eligibility.

But those regulations were changed in April, allowing for players to become eligible on their 16th birthday, and Moukoko is the first to take advantage.

At 16 years and one day, he has comfortably surpassed the record set by former BVB talent Nuri Sahin (16 years, 11 months and one day) – Yann Bisseck (16y, 11m and 28d) is the only other player to have featured in the Bundesliga before turning 17.

Moukoko is also likely to eventually set a new record as the league's youngest scorer as well, assuming he can make his mark in the next 13 months – the holder of that feat is Bayer Leverkusen prodigy Florian Wirtz (17y, 1m, 3d) following his maiden goal in June.

Club sporting director Michael Zorc expressed concern over the hype surrounding Moukoko in the media earlier this week, but following his historic debut on Saturday, there is little hope of that calming anytime soon.

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