On the 13th match day in the Bundesliga, the title contenders have the opportunity to send messages to their nearest rivals. The top game of the week pits first-place Wolfsburg against third-place Stuttgart.
Last April, Stuttgart steam-rollered Wolfsburg in a 5-1 demolition.
Wolfsburg have a score to settle on Saturday, having been thrashed in the corresponding fixture last season 5-1 by Stuttgart. Both squads, though, are coming off poor performances in their last matches. Stuttgart were thumped by Bayern Munich, 3-0 in a German Cup match on Wednesday. Wolfsburg were disappointing last Saturday against newly-promoted side Nuremberg, going down 4-0.
So, can coach Erik Gerets' Wolves stop the bleeding from their last fixture and continue to play the good soccer that has surprisingly catapulted them to the top of the Bundesliga? Well, the first doubts are already seeping into the psyches of the players. "We do not have the quality to stay at the top," confessed defender Patrick Weiser.
And if statistics from recent matches mean anything, then they don't bode well for Wolfsburg on Saturday. In the last seven meetings against Stuttgart, they have failed to win a single one. Also, the absence of suspended Argentine playmaker Andres D'Alessandro puts the Wolves' backs up against the wall.
Stuttgart want to rebound from its mid-week loss against Bayern Munich. It was a one-sided game that saw Matthias Sammer's side play unimaginative football. Their international defender Philip Lahm warned against another performance like that, "The way we played we would get beat by a lot of teams not just Bayern Munich." It will be up to him and the rest of the squad to put that defeat behind them and concentrate on the positive. For example, last weekend they took Rostock to task, winning handily 4-0.
Can Leverkusen knock off a tired Bremen side?
Bremen Coach Thomas Schaaf and player Daniel Jensen who scored in this week's Cup match.
German champions Werder Bremen face Bayer Leverkusen in the day's second top match. Leverkusen are hoping to take advantage of a Bremen team that is reaching its physical limits. Bremen are participating in the Bundesliga, the German Cup and the Champions League and are playing its eighth match in 25 days.
Bremen did not do themselves a favor on Tuesday in their Cup match against second division Trier, needing to go to extra-time to advance to the next round. "Taking into account our hectic program we could have done without playing extra-time," admitted Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf. "It is certainly a disadvantage for us."
Meanwhile, a rested Leverkusen will look to record their first away win of the season. They have good memories from last season's meeting in Bremen where they mauled the north Germans, 6-2. That came, however, after Bremen already had locked up the Bundesliga title, but the fans still would like to see a little revenge.