Reigning Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich face a tough task to bounce back from last weekend’s humbling at Eintracht Frankfurt when they host surprise title challengers Stuttgart on Sunday.
The meeting with third-placed Stuttgart at the Allianz Arena will pit two of Europe’s form strikers against each other in Bayern’s Harry Kane and the visitors’ Serhou Guirassy.
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Thomas Tuchel’s Bayern slipped four points behind early leaders Bayer Leverkusen, albeit with a game in hand, after their 5-1 thrashing by Frankfurt, with Stuttgart just one point further adrift and hoping to leapfrog their opponents in the table.
Kane has been a revelation for the Bavarian giants since joining in the summer from Tottenham, with 18 goals in 13 league matches.
Guirassy sits just behind the England captain with 16 goals from 12 Bundesliga appearances this term, already the 27-year-old’s best tally for a single season less than half the way through the campaign.
The Guinean boasts an even better goals-per-minute ratio than Kane, having scored a goal every 55 minutes, compared to the Bayern striker’s every 63 minutes.
Guirassy’s superb form has been key to Stuttgart’s stunning turnaround under coach Sebastian Hoeness.
Hoeness, who coached Bayern’s reserve team to a third-division title and is the nephew of former Bayern president Uli, took over Stuttgart in April, with the club sitting dead last and on course for relegation.
But a run of just two defeats in their final 12 games of last season in all competitions saw Hoeness take Stuttgart to the German Cup semi-finals and stay in the top flight with a two-legged relegation playoff victory over Hamburg.
The five-time German champions have gone from strength to strength under Hoeness this term, winning 13 of 17 matches.
They stayed in touch with the leaders thanks to a 1-1 draw with Leverkusen last Sunday.
Only Bayern and Borussia Dortmund have also taken points off Xabi Alonso’s unbeaten Leverkusen this season.
Bayern on the other hand equalled their worst loss in the league this century, although Kingsley Coman scored to help them bounce back with a 1-0 Champions League win at Manchester United on Tuesday.
France winger Coman injured his thigh, though, joining Serge Gnabry and Noussair Mazraoui on the sidelines.
Netherlands centre-back Matthijs de Ligt remains a doubt for Sunday but returned to training on Thursday.
“They (Stuttgart) have got momentum, they’re a very good team who are growing together nicely under a top manager,” said Bayern captain Manuel Neuer.
“They’re a very serious opponent.”
Elsewhere this weekend, Leverkusen take on Frankfurt on Sunday, after fifth-placed Dortmund visit Augsburg and fourth-placed RB Leipzig host Hoffenheim on Saturday.
Player to watch: Jamie Bynoe-Gittens (Borussia Dortmund)
English teenager Jamie Bynoe-Gittens is in top form, a bright spark in an inconsistent Dortmund side.
Having overcome early-season injuries to string a run of several matches together, the 19-year-old has become one of Dortmund’s key creative players alongside Julian Brandt.
Bynoe-Gittens won some rare praise from compatriot Jude Bellingham, who backed his former Dortmund teammate to follow in his footsteps and win the Golden Boy award for the world’s best young player.
“He has faith in me and believes in me to do better for myself,” Bynoe-Gittens told the Bundesliga website.
Five: Dortmund have conceded five penalties this season — a league high.
14: Leverkusen’s Victor Boniface has more goals and assists than any other player for the league leaders, with eight and six respectively.
Six: Unbeaten Leverkusen have dropped just six of a possible 42 points this season.
Fixtures (1430 GMT unless stated)
Borussia Moenchengladbach v Werder Bremen (1930)
Darmstadt v Wolfsburg, Bochum v Union Berlin, Augsburg v Borussia Dortmund, Mainz v Heidenheim, RB Leipzig v Hoffenheim (1730)
Bayer Leverkusen v Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayern Munich v Stuttgart (1630)