Bundesliga: Bayern set to test Stuttgart recovery
BERLIN, Nov 8 (Reuters) - VfB Stuttgart's fragile-looking recovery faces a serious test when the champions host Bayern Munich in one of three outstanding matches in the Bundesliga on Saturday.
After a poor start, Stuttgart have won their last two league games, making up four points on leaders Bayern in the process and climbing up to the relative respectability of 11th place.
They will still be unable to take much confidence into Saturday's game, though, after a 4-2 defeat by Olympique Lyon on Wednesday left them without a point from four Champions League games and ended their hopes of reaching the last 16.
Although Bayern have failed to score in their last two league games, both goalless draws, they still have a two-point lead at the top and remain overwhelming favourites to replace Stuttgart as champions.
Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld had the luxury of taking a full squad in training this week, with no injury worries, and that is just as well given that Saturday's league game comes less than 48 hours after a UEFA Cup clash with Bolton Wanderers.
'I've been delighted to see so many players get back to fitness,' Hitzfeld told Bayern's TV channel this week. 'Being spoiled for choice is wonderful, although the problem will be having to send players up to the stands.'
Bayern will also be eager to see Schalke 04 do them a favour when they host second-placed Hamburg SV in another of Saturday's games.
Hamburg have taken advantage of Bayern's recent lean spell but will have to raise their game still further if they are to come away with victory from the Arena AufSchalke.
Schalke were outstanding against Chelsea in the Champions League on Tuesday. They dominated throughout and deserved a better result than a goalless draw.
The performance was a far cry from their defeat by bottom club Energie Cottbus last time out in the league and they should take great confidence from the display.
The bad news for coach Mirko Slomka was that Mesut Ozil and Rafinha joined the club's lengthy injury list on Tuesday. Neither player will recover in time to face Hamburg.
Third-placed Werder Bremen, who lost 2-1 away to Lazio in the Champions League on Tuesday, face fourth-placed Karlsruhe, also on Saturday.
Werder's European form may be poor but they are now just four points behind Bayern and the match will test Karlsruhe's claims to a European place.