Having seen Bayern Munich wrap up the Bundesliga title, Borussia Dortmund continue their quest for second against Stuttgart on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola’s men made certain of their 24th league title with a 3-1 victory at Hertha Berlin on Tuesday as they moved 25 points clear of Dortmund in second.
Even if Jurgen Klopp’s charges had beaten rivals Schalke on the same evening, it would have mattered little to the destination of the Bundesliga crown – such has been Bayern’s dominance this term.
As it was, Dortmund were held to a goalless draw in the Revierderby at Signal Iduna Park as they missed the chance to move four points clear of the visitors in the race for the runner-up spot.
Despite that, defender Mats Hummels was still buoyed by Tuesday’s performance, particularly after their last home league match ended in a 2-1 loss to Borussia Monchengladbach.
“We played really well and were clearly the better side, but unfortunately we failed to find the net,” Hummels told Dortmund’s official website.
“That’s a shame, but it’s better than putting in a poor performance, as we did against Gladbach. What’s important for us is that we finally played again the way we want to play.”
Dortmund face a Stuttgart side buoyed by the recent appointment of Huub Stevens, with the Dutchman having overseen an end to the club’s 10-match winless run in the league with last Saturday’s 1-0 victory over fellow strugglers Hamburg.
However, they failed to follow that up when they lost 2-0 at Nuremberg in midweek and missed a chance to climb out of the relegation zone.
Stevens has now demanded a response on Saturday, and is refusing to give up the fight in the battle to avoid the drop.
“Nuremberg knew what was at stake here,” he said after that reverse.
“We stared well, but stopped playing football after 20 minutes and allowed the game to get away from us. That’s something we need to discuss – it’s just not acceptable. Nuremberg displayed just what a relegation battle is all about.
“The table is only an initial impression right now, the important thing is how it looks after the 34th match day.”
Stevens is at least boosted by the inclusion of attacker Martin Harnik, who returned from suspension against Nuremberg and should once again play a part.
Klopp’s men come into the game boasting an impressive recent away record, having won four of their last five Bundesliga trips.
However, their defeat in that time came against lowly Hamburg – a result Stevens’ side will look to emulate as they continue their battle for survival.