Four matches after taking over from Julian Nagelsmann amid talks of a treble, only one title remains realistically within reach for new Bayern Munich manager Thomas Tuchel.
Knocked out of the German Cup by Freiburg, Bayern was thrashed 3-0 by Manchester City in a Champions League quarterfinals first leg, leaving it a mountain to climb in Wednesday’s return leg in Munich.
A season without a trophy would be a disaster – and could even prove fatal for some of the Bayern brass – and the Bundesliga is its last realistic chance of a title.
The news on Thursday of Sadio Mane’s one-match suspension after a physical altercation left teammate Leroy Sane with a bloody lip has only added to Tuchel’s worries.
Two points ahead of Borussia Dortmund with seven matches remaining, Bayern hosts 14th-placed Hoffenheim on Saturday.
Despite its lowly table placing, Hoffenheim is on the up under American manager Pellegrino ‘Rino’ Matarazzo.
The American took over in February with the club in danger of a first ever relegation, but Hoffenheim is now on a three-match winning streak – its longest since August.
Rino has form at Bayern’s Allianz Arena, having come away with two 2-2 draws in his last two matches there, while in charge of previous club Stuttgart.
Hoffenheim midfielder Christoph Baumgartner said on Thursday he “expects a team that want to make up for the 3-0 defeat.”
“If you’re not awake in Munich, if you don’t fight back, they will crush you.”
After the City defeat, Bayern defender Matthijs de Ligt said “we need to stick together”, keeping focus on the “big game against Hoffenheim on Saturday.”
Dortmund, Bayern’s challenger in the title race, takes on Rino’s ex-club Stuttgart, which is also experiencing a late-season bounce – and doing so under former Hoffenheim manager Sebastian Hoeness.
In two matches under Hoeness, Stuttgart was victorious in its German Cup quarterfinals against Nuremberg and won a crucial relegation match against Schalke on Sunday.
Dortmund manager Edin Terzic said on Thursday “Stuttgart are not a typical team fighting against relegation.”
“They enjoy a lot of possession and have been unlucky to lose several games by close margins. It won’t be an easy game for us.”