Goal.com looks ahead to the clash between runaway table toppers Borussia Dortmund and a Stuttgart side looking to climb up the table.
The glimmer of hope latched onto by the chasing pack has all but vanished after a superb six minute surge in the second-half from Borussia Dortmund, who capitalised on some haphazard Leverkusen defending to ruthlessly punish die Werkself. Juergen Klopp had hailed it as the biggest game of the season and die Borussen passed the test with flying colours. Neven Subotic and Mats Hummels were once again imperious and Kevin Grosskreutz gained a confidence boost with a brace. As a consequence, der BVB's lead is now thirteen points over Hannover.
"If Bayern (Munich) had our lead, then they would already be comfortably champions. We know however, that a lot can still happen and we need to see it through to the end," he told the pre-game press conference.
"If you are the table toppers, not everything can be going wrong but equally not everything has to have been going right. We can make a realistic assessment of our performance in Leverkusen."
Klopp is not someone who is seduced by the lure of complacency - he wll do everything to ensure there is no Devon Loch style collapse as the evenings become brighter. He picked out twelve video clips from last week's game, five of which were positive and seven of which were less so, as Nuri Sahin so helpfully enlightened us.
Mario Goetze, who was the deserved recipient of fulsome praise from fellow players, fans and journalists alike for a performance at 10 beyond his tender years, will be a big miss tomorrow as he battles bronchitis. However, contrary to the opinions from certain quarters of the media, Dortmund have a strong squad and have the luxury of choosing between Robert Lewandowski and Mohamed Zidan as Lucas Barrios will surely come back. Another thing is even surer - no-one at the club will be taking anything for granted.
Leading From The Front
Bruno Labbadia saw his new team win during his fourth game in charge, all of which had come at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. That series now of course comes to an end but it is worth reflecting briefly on a vital three points for die Schwaben in Spieltag 18. There is little doubt that at times the hosts rode their luck and they had to be bailed out by goalline clearances from Christian Molinaro and Patrick Funk, who will marshall the full-back positions tomorrow.
Still, they should be given credit for forcing a mistake in the Mainz backline and capitalising upon Radoslav Zabavnik's slip to net what would be the winner. When you're down and out in the nether regions of the table, you need the rub of the green, even when the quality of the squad is more akin to a top-half outfit.
That looks to have deserted Labbadia in the run up to the Dortmund game with Cacau definitely out and doubts over Martin Harnik and Ciprian Marica. Stuttgart's new coach was a striker himself and is the only man to have scored 100 goals in both the Bundesliga and 2.Bundesliga. It's therefore no surprise to hear his preferred manner of setting up his team:
"I prefer most of all to play with two strikers. We want to put Dortmund under pressure at every opportunity, without losing our shape and organisation. We want to put out our most powerful and fit side, in order to best be able to restrict der BVB," he told the pre-game press conference.
Labbadia wants to build on the progress made against die Nuell-Funfer and ensure that the team spirit remains high, no matter how the results may pan out.
"We want to continue doing the good things we did against Mainz. We were well organised and gave very few chances away. Now we need to move forward again and be more willing in possession to play the ball upfield. The lads enjoy their work and the atmosphere after the win is good ; we want to retain such an environment in the camp even after defeats, which will surely come in the course of the season."
Shinji Kagwa is still away on Asia Cup duty as Japan have reached the quarter finals but his replacement Mario Goetze will also be absent, having suffered from bronchitis during the week. Mohamed Zidan, despite struggling with flu, is a possible replacement although Robert Lewandowski could move back with Lucas Barrios returning upfront. Sven Bender will also miss out with a knee problem and he joins long-term casualties Sebastian Kehl, Patrick Owomoyela and Florian Kringe on the sidelines. Antonio da Silva is favourite to come in with Markus Feulner also in contention. Alternatively, Juergen Klopp could plump for Felipe Santana but most likely he would be loathed to move Hummels forward and split the best defensive partnership in the Bundesliga.
Probable Starting XI: Weidenfeller - Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer - Sahin, da Silva - Blaszczykowski, Lewandowski, Grosskreutz - Barrios
The problems are mounting for Bruno Labbadia in attack as not only is Cacau definitely out with an adductor injury but Martin Harnik and Ciprian Marica are also major doubts with muscular injuries. They join Khalid Boulahrouz, Johan Audel and Sandro Celozzi on the injury list. Christian Genter may possibly edge out Timo Gebhart for a midfield spot.
Probable Starting XI: Ulreich - Funk, Tasci, Delpierre, Molinaro - Gebhart, Traesch, Kuzmanovic, Boka - Schipplock, Pogrebnyak