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Four-goal Faris dreams of AFC Cup final

AFC Cup
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By ESPN Staff

Babbel refuses to think about Stuttgart title chance

Stuttgart are refusing to think about winning the Bundesliga title despite last night's 2-1 win at Schalke, which took them back to within two points of league leaders Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich.

The 2007 champions host struggling Energie Cottbus on Saturday before ending the season at Bayern on May 23.

Should Wolfsburg lose and Hertha Berlin fail to win this weekend, a victory over Cottbus would provide Stuttgart with the chance of sealing the title off their own back by defeating Bayern at the Allianz Arena on what promises to be a dramatic final day of the season.

But Stuttgart coach Markus Babbel is more concerned about what is happening over his team's shoulders.

"The league title is pure fantasy," he said. "The teams who are ahead of us would have to slip-up for us to be able to overtake them.

"We have to be equally engaged against Cottbus as we were today against Schalke and then we will see what is still possible on the final day of the season."

A win over Cottbus would set up an intriguing battle for a place in the Champions League with Bayern, regardless of how they get on at Hoffenheim on Saturday.

But simply earning a place in the Europa League, particularly considering how far down the table they were in November when Babbel took over, would be more than a successful conclusion to the campaign.

Midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger admitted that last night's win had taken them "a step closer" to their aims for the season, which is a place in Europe next season.

"Now we want to guarantee our qualification for Europe against Cottbus," he added.

Germany international striker Mario Gomez did not play any part against Schalke as a precautionary measure.

He picked up a groin strain in training prior to the match and, although he admitted he "could have played with a painkilling injection", the club's medical team preferred not to take any risks.

He should now be fit at least for the final day showdown with Bayern, where he may well be playing next season.

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