Wolfsburg host Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga on Saturday, with Dieter Hecking’s squad badly struggling with flu ahead of the impending visit of their nemesis Robert Lewandowski.
The Poland striker made Bundesliga history in the reverse fixture in September, coming off the bench at half-time with Bayern trailing 1-0.
What happened next was scarcely believable, as Lewandowski netted five goals in an astonishing nine-minute spell to set Bayern on their way to a stunning 5-1 success.
The teams met again a month later in the DFB-Pokal, but this time it was Thomas Muller who did the damage with a brace in a 3-1 victory at the Volkswagen Arena.
Lewandowski and Muller have combined for 39 Bundesliga goals this season – seven more than Wolfsburg have managed in total as Bayern look well set for an inexorable charge to a fourth successive title.
The pair have scored all of Bayern’s 10 league goals since the season’s resumption, Lewandowski registering nine in his last seven matches across all competitions.
As if Wolfsburg’s task was not difficult enough, Hecking’s men have been badly struck down by the flu this week, with 11 players missing training earlier this week due to the virus and other injury concerns.
Koen Casteels (bursitis), Nicklas Bendtner (flu) and Bruno Henrique (bronchitis) all missed sessions, while Wolfsburg are hopeful that Andre Schurrle, Daniel Caligiuri and Josuha Guilavogui will all be in contention against Bayern.
“The staffing situation is very tense,” said Hecking, who himself has been struggling with illness.
“We have to work beyond the normal level [against Bayern]. The 1-5 and 1-3 [defeats], they were clear. This time we want to make it better.”
“The 11 that will be on the pitch on Saturday must give their all,” added Wolfsburg defender Dante, formerly of Bayern.
“There is no point in complaining about the number of absentees. You’ve also got to enjoy games like this, get stuck into every challenge and ensure every pass arrives at its destination.”
Wolfsburg at least have the advantage of an extra three days’ rest after Bayern drew 2-2 at Juventus in the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday, having thrown away a two-goal lead.
And Hecking’s men can take consolation from the corresponding fixture last season, when they thumped the champions 4-1 in a scintillating display.
For Bayern, who lead second-placed Borussia Dortmund by eight points, Rafinha is suspended after picking up his fifth booking in the 3-1 win over Darmstadt last weekend.
Key Opta stats:
– 77 per cent (24/31) of Wolfsburg’s points have come at home this season – a league-high proportion.
– Wolfsburg have scored in each of their last 41 Bundesliga home matches and would set a new a club record with a goal against Bayern Munich this weekend.
– Bayern have won all six of their Bundesliga games immediately following a Champions League outing this term (scoring 20 and only conceding one – during the 5-1 win over Borussia Dortmund).
– Bayern turn 116 years old on the day of the match. They crowned their 115th birthday with a 4-1 win over Cologne last year.