Just six weeks ago, Stuttgart secretly thought a lot would be riding on the final game against Munich -- namely the league title. Now they are fighting for a spot "just" in the Champions League.
Bayern Munich's coach Felix Magath: Bring on Stuttgart!
Stuttgart had their fate in their own hands last week: a road game against almost all but relegated side Bochum. The result -- a 2-0 defeat.
"What annoys me most is that we were unable to put the pressure on when we trailed 1-0," said Sammer. "We have some thinking to do."
Now, the pressure is on Stuttgart to do this Saturday what they didn't accomplish last week -- win. Their task is made infinitely tougher by facing Bundesliga champs Bayern Munich, who simply ran away with the title the last six weeks of the season while their rivals all floundered in mediocrity.
With eight goals in the last three games, Bayern's Roy Makaay has surged back into the fight for the Golden Boot
On the heels of a 6-3 rout of Nuremberg and Bayern frontman Roy Makaay (photo) within striking distance of the league goalscoring title, Felix Magath's side presents an extremely dangerous mix for their largest southern rival.
Should Stuttgart (58 points, third place) lose or even just tie, there are two teams who would be extremely grateful to accept the slot in the qualification round for the Champions League: Berlin or Bremen.
Hertha Berlin missed their chance to cruise past Stuttgart when they played to a disappointing 0-0 draw against 15th place Borussia Mönchengladbach. Nevertheless, they lie just one point back and host Hanover this week. With eight million euros ($10.1 million) at stake, the minimum amount a club can make by participating in the Champions Leauge, the Berlin players know they must concentrate on the matter at hand.
"(The Champions League) gives us completely different chances to strengthen our team," Hertha coach Falko Götz (photo below, middle) told Sport Bild magazine. They must do if they want to challenge Bayern Munich, the stated goal of team management, in the upcoming season.
Last year's champs Werder Bremen were the beneficiary of everyone else's blunders last week and now sit just two points back of Stuttgart in fifth place. On Saturday they face Kaiserslautern. Bremen's sport director, Klaus Allofs, is pulling everything out of his bag of mental tricks to give his club an advantage.
Three coaches, three fates, only one Champions League slot: Sammer, Götz and Schaaf (left to right)
"Psychologically, we're in a better position than Hertha and Stuttgart," he told Sport Bild. "Bayern won't lose in Stuttgart. And you could see Hertha had a case of nerves in the 0-0 draw against Gladbach."
Continue reading to find out more about the final matches of the Bundesliga season