Bayern Munich will be looking to stay in touch with Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund this Saturday when they play an improving TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. Last weekend's miserable 2-0 loss to Bayer Leverkusen has left the record German champions with a mountain to climb if they are to regain the title from Dortmund.
The Reds have drifted seven points behind reigning champions Dortmund - a run of form that has seen experienced trainer Jupp Heynckes come under increasing pressure. Speculation is rife that the 66-year-old will be replaced in the summer - twelve months before his existing deal is due to expire. The Bayern hierarchy were quick to quash this speculation and issued a swift denial.
Heynckes himself is not fazed by any speculation: "I have a contract here and I expect to fulfil it."
"To be honest, at the time when my contract (according to the media) was supposed to be extended, I never read what my critics were writing and I am not doing that now either," he said at a press conference on Thursday.
Saturday's clash (1530 Kick off at the Allianz Arena) against Hoffenheim is the start of a pivotal week in Bayern's and Heynckes' season.
The mid-table visitors are unbeaten in four games since ex-Liverpool and Bayern defender Markus Babbel took over the helm after the sacking of Holger Stanislawski.
Hoffenheim have never won a point in Munich and only ever scored one goal in the Bavarian capital. German international defender Andreas Beck misses the game through suspension whilst talented Bosnian midfielder Sejad Salihovic has been temporarily banished to the reserves after quickly falling out with Babbel.
The potential return to the fold of midfield talisman Bastian Schweinsteiger will be a big boost to Bayern's sapping morale. The German international is back in full training and could be considered for a spot on the bench. With the crunch Champions League 2nd leg against FC Basle on the horizon, this would be a timely addition to the ranks of a misfiring team.
Bayern seek their 900th Bundesliga win in their coveted history in a 300th career home game for Jupp Heynckes. Bayern have won their last five league games at the Allianz Arena and are in urgent need of an injection of confidence ahead of more pressing matters in Europe.
Prediction: Bayern Munich 3 Hoffenheim 0