Germany: Bayern look to twist knife into Stuttgart
Bayern Munich will seek to take advantage of VfB Stuttgart's disarray on Saturday to make it three wins out of three and close in on the Bundesliga leaders.
Having demolished Eintracht Frankfurt 4-0 in the German Cup on Wednesday, playing some inspiring football for the first time this season, the Bavarians are eager to put in a good run after a shaky start to the season.
They are fifth in the league on 18 points, four off leaders Bayer Leverkusen and Hamburg SV, while Stuttgart languish in 14th place, level on points with second-last VfL Bochum.
"This is how I imagine the FC Bayern," club manager Uli Hoeness said after their third round Cup win. "Now we have to launch a winning streak."
Dutch coach Louis van Gaal will have more reasons to be happy going into the match against Stuttgart, who have lost five successive matches in all competitions.
Attacking midfielder Arjen Robben should be fully fit to play, while Italian Luca Toni and fellow striker Miroslav Klose, who scored a combined three out of four goals against Eintracht, seem to be hitting top form after recovering from injuries.
Playmaker Franck Ribery will be missing, still nursing an injury that will keep him out for weeks, but Robben's return and Thomas Mueller's current sparkling form should make up for the loss of the Frenchman in midfield.
"4-0 is a pretty clear result and that is where we have to pick up in our next matches," said Klose.
Stuttgart, one of the pre-season favourites, have had a disastrous start to the season, winning only one out of their last eight league matches, leaving coach Markus Babbel's future in doubt.
Their shock Cup defeat to second division Greuther Fuerth and a shoving match at the end of that match between Belarussian Aleksandr Hleb and Stuttgart's team doctor, has further demoralised the team.
Babbel will stay on for now, the club has said, but speculation is rife that a loss on Saturday could see him go.
Undefeated Leverkusen have their work cut out against fourth-placed Schalke 04, who have thrived under coach Felix Magath and are only two points behind the leaders.
Hamburg SV, second on goal difference and also undefeated, take on lowly Borussia Moenchengladbach, while third-placed Werder Bremen, on 21 points travel to Nuremberg.