All of Germany's top teams, including Bayern, showed signs of fatigue on Saturday. However, good teams know how to get results without playing their best. Bayern did that with a 2-0 victory over Frankfurt.
Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes opted for some rotation. Claudio Pizarro was given the nod ahead of Mario Mandzukic at center forward, Thomas Müller also took a seat on the bench, and Arjen Robben and Javier Martinez played from the beginning on. The Spaniard cost 40 million euros ($50 million), so pressure to deploy him more may have played a role in Heynckes' thinking.
Third-place Frankfurt defended much further up the pitch than most teams dare to versus Bayern, and, in the first 40 minutes, the visitors limited their hosts to only one scoring chance. In fact, as the first half wound down, Frankfurt had twice as many shots on goal.
They pushed their luck too far, though. In minute 44, Bayern went on the break with Martinez finding Franck Ribery with a pinpoint pass. The Frenchman scored an easy one to give the hosts a halftime advantage.
Frankfurt didn't give up, with Anderson unlucky to hit the crossbar with a close-range header after the break.
Indeed, up until minute 75, it was anybody's match. Then Vadim Demidov was judged to have brought down Bastian Schweinsteiger in the box. The 20-year-old defender David Alaba calmly converted from the spot. It was hard luck for Frankfurt - in the replay, Schweinsteiger appeared to slip on his own.
Bayern didn't care and were happy to book a somewhat fortunate 2-0 win.
"It's very difficult to get into a rhythm when you are playing every three or four days," Ribery acknowledged after the match. "So it was good to get a victory anyway."
The win was Bayern's 10th in 11 games, giving them 30 points in the table - a Bundesliga records at this point in a season.
Schalke struggle past Bremen
In Gelsenkirchen, second-place Schalke were taking on hot-and-cold Werder Bremen. And initially Schalke looked like the squad who lost to flailing Hoffenheim last round and not the team that held Arsenal to a draw in the Champions League.
Aaron Hunt put Bremen in front of Schalke after a quarter of an hour with a hard, low shot with his left foot. Jermaine Jones failed to close Hunt down as he gratefully ran his season goal total to six.
It took 50 minutes for Schalke to create a decent chance, but it yielded a goal. Christian Fuchs put in a free kick for Roman Neustädter, just nominated for the German national team, to head home.
In minute 69, Schalke took the lead. Jones made up for his earlier mistaken by finding 19-year-old Julian Draxler on the break.
Led by the rampant Draxler, Schalke pressed for a decider but couldn't find it and were in danger of conceding a late equalizer. Holtby cleared a last-second header off the line that Bremen thought was in. The referee didn't agree, and Schalke escaped with a narrow 2-1 victory.
Dortmund dismiss Augsburg
On paper, Dortmund had a far easier challenge, facing the league's worst team in Augsburg. And it only took seven minutes for Marco Reus to put his side ahead with a curling free kick.
It was a marvelous display of skill, but the defending champs were strangely listless. Their only other clear scoring chance came in the dying seconds, when Mario Götze hit the post.
After the restart, Dortmund doubled their advantage in curious fashion. A long pass from keeper Roman Weidenfeller befuddled the Augsburg defense. Robert Lewandowski, who's rumored to want to leave at the end of the season, bundled the ball over the line.
It was nowhere near vintage Dortmund, but Augsburg looked hapless, and Lewandowski put the game beyond reach with a tap-in 20 minutes from time. Sascha Mölders got a consolation goal for Augsburg. The final score: 3-1.
Elsewhere Harry Kruse put Düsseldorf in the lead versus Hoffenheim in minute five. It was the first time that Fortuna led at home this season. And they held it for more than half an hour before Joselu headed in a cross to level the score for Hoffenheim.
The second half also started badly for Hoffenheim when Marvin Compper was sent off. But the visitors were able to batten down the hatches and hold on for the 1-1 draw.
There was a sending off in Freiburg as well, as Hamburg's Paul Scharner saw red for multiple fouls in minute 35. Yet despite being a man up for more than an hour, Freiburg mustered little offensive pressure, and the match ended goalless.
On Friday, Mainz got back on track with a 2-1 win over Nuremberg.
Sunday features three matches: Wolfsburg versus Leverkusen, Stuttgart versus Hanover and Greuther Fürth versus Mönchengladbach.