Bayern Munich travel west on Saturday to face newly promoted VfB Stuttgart on the final day on the Bundesliga season before the winter break.
The Bavarians have been revitalised since Jupp Heynckes succeeded Carlo Ancelotti at the helm of the club, with Bayern set to head into the quiet Christmas period at the top of the Bundesliga table.
Here’s everything you need to know about the game at the Mercedes-Benz Arena:
There is no team in Germany that has conceded defeat against Bayern more times than Saturday’s hosts. In 114 games, Bayern have an outstanding 64.9% win ration against Stuttgart.
Back in 2013, these two sides met in the DFB-Pokal final at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, with Bayern surviving a late revival from the Swabians to lift the silverware and complete their outstanding treble.
Not long after Serdar Tasci survived a penalty scare, Guinean winger Ibrahima Traoré brought down Philipp Lahm in the box and allowed Thomas Müller to score from 12 yards out.
Mario Gómez then notched himself a brace early in the second-half, seemingly putting the game to bed against his former side.
However, Austrian winger Martin Harnik managed to score two goals for Stuttgart and left Bayern fans biting their nails for the final 10 minutes of the game. Stuttgart were unable to find a third and Bayern rounded off their season with a third trophy, cementing Jupp Heynckes’ side in the history books of European football.
Santiago Ascacibar vs Arturo Vidal
Two South American midfielders could be vital for their respective sides at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. For Stuttgart, the arrival of Santiago Ascacibar, who completed a €6m move from hometime side Estudiantes in the summer, has given them some much-needed aggression in the midfield.
The 20-year-old has shown incredible promise since arriving in Baden-Württemberg and looks set to join the Argentine national team setup sooner rather than later.
For Bayern, their trusted midfield general Arturo Vidal will be tasked with roughing up Stuttgart’s dangerous attacking players and disrupting their possession. Having seen Borussia Dortmund travel to the Mercedes-Benz Arena this season and lose, Stuttgart’s attacking threat can’t be overlooked by the visitors.
Seeing Anastasios Donis and Chadrac Akolo forced off the pitch inside 35 minutes against neighbours TSG Hoffenheim certainly wasn’t what Stuttgart needed ahead of their match with Bayern.
Although the later could return on Saturday, the goal-shy Swabians will still find it difficult hitting the back of the net against Bayern. Daniel Ginczek could return for the hosts, while long-term absentees Carlos Mané and Matthias Zimmermann are expected to be out of action until the new year.
Manuel Neuer is still missing in between the sticks for Bayern, while Arjen Robben is set to be assessed on his fitness on Monday. Kingsley Coman could also be left out against Stuttgart with a hip injury, while Spanish left-back Juan Bernat is expected to travel to the Mercedes-Benz Arena.
Potential VfB Stuttgart Starting Lineup: Zieler, Beck, Pavard, Badstuber, Baumgartl, Insua, Ascacibar, Gentner, Özcan, Brekalo, Asano.
Potential Bayern Munich Starting Lineup: Ulreich, Kimmich, Boateng, Martínez, Alaba, Rudy, Vidal, Rodríguez, Müller, Coman, Lewandowski.
Although many fans expected Stuttgart to avoid relegation this season, their home form and overall performances have come as a surprise. The Swabians are yet to be rolled over by anyone, with valiant performances coming in defeats to Schalke 04 and Bayer Leverkusen.
However, the reigning Bundesliga champions should have too much for Hannes Wolf’s side to contain, with this fixture more of a pre-Dortmund test for Bayern, ahead of Wednesday’s third round DFB-Pokal match.
Prediction: VfB Stuttgart 1-4 Bayern Munich