Wolfsburg are desperate to stop history repeating itself when they host Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich on Saturday following Robert Lewandowski’s historic five-gaul haul in the reverse fixture.
The Poland striker came off the bench and sent Bundesliga records tumbling with his nine-minute blitz single-handedly propelling Bayern to a 5-1 thrashing of Wolfsburg at Munich’s Allianz Arena last September.
Injury and illness mean Wolfsburg have 12 players either ruled out or struggling to be fit to face Pep Guardiola’s league leaders at the Volkswagen Arena.
Bayern are eight points clear of second-placed Borussia Dortmund — and a massive 28 ahead of eighth-placed Wolfsburg.
Between them Lewandowski and fellow Bayern forward Thomas Mueller have scored a combined tally of 39 Bundesliga goals — more than the entire Wolfsburg team.
Wolfsburg’s ex-Bayern defender Dante says the only way to stop Lewandowski is to cut off his supply.
“If we defend as a team and the ball doesn’t come to him, then he can’t really do anything,” said the Brazilian.
“We have to really get things going and be up for the game.
“We have to go into each one-on-one with real passion and every pass must hit the target.”
Four days after their 2-2 draw at Juventus in the Champions League, Guardiola is set to rotate his Bayern squad, especially with defenders Holger Badstuber, Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez all sidelined.
Winger Franck Ribery could start his first Bundesliga game for a year, while Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking could be down to his third-choice goalkeeper with Diego Benaglio injured and Koen Casteels recovering from flu.
On Sunday evening, Dortmund host rejuvented strugglers Hoffenheim.
Thomas Tuchel’s side is a force to be reckoned with and are unbeaten this season at their Signal Iduna Park stadium having picked up 28 points from a possible 30 at home.
Second-from-bottom Hoffenheim earned fresh hope in the relegation battle when they claimed a 3-2 win over Mainz last weekend under their 28-year-old coach Julian Nagelsmann.
Dortmund will be without Greek centre-back Sokratis, who is sidelined for three weeks with a groin injury, and Neven Subotic is set to take his place.
Hertha Berlin are at Cologne on Friday night hoping to end their run of five league games without a win despite staying third in the table.
Hertha coach Pal Dardai will be counting on Ivory Coast striker Salomon Kalou to add to his tally of eight goals scored away from home, the most on the road for any Bundesliga player.
Bayer Leverkusen will not have coach Roger Schmidt on their bench for Sunday’s match at Mainz.
The 48-year-old is banned for three league games, and was fined 20,000 euros ($22,031), for refusing a referee’s order to leave the touchline during last Sunday’s 1-0 league defeat at home to Dortmund.
Mainz are up to seventh in the table and are unbeaten in their last five home games, while Leverkusen’s defeat to Dortmund broke their six-game unbeaten run.
Fixtures (all times 1430 GMT unless stated)
Cologne v Hertha Berlin (1930)
Wolfsburg v Bayern Munich, Hamburg v Ingolstadt, Stuttgart v Hanover, Werder Bremen v Darmstadt
Augsburg v Borussia Moenchengladbach, Borussia Dortmund v Hoffenheim (1630), Mainz v Bayer Leverkusen (1630) E. Frankfurt v Schalke (1830)