Champions Borussia Dortmund are determined to jerk their title defence back on track with a victory at runaway leaders Bayern Munich in Saturday's Bundesliga derby.
Bayern are brimming with confidence, having carved out a 10-point lead over second-placed Bayer Leverkusen and 11 on Dortmund, in third.
The champions, who have yet to find the consistency this season that gave them back-to-back league titles, have already dropped two points this week with a 1-1 draw against promoted Fortuna Duesseldorf as Bayern won 2-0 at Freiburg.
A win for Dortmund on Saturday would see them remain in contention for the title but defeat would leave them 14 points adrift with Bayern showing no signs of slowing similar to last year's implosion at the same stage.
"After such unsuccessful games like against Fortuna we always come back with a show of defiance," said Dortmund defender Neven Subotic. "That is our trademark."
Dortmund, with playmakers Mario Gotze and Ilkay Gundogan as well as defender Mats Hummels back in the squad for the Munich trip, have every reason to be confident.
They have won all four derbies with Bayern in their past two Bundesliga-winning seasons while also crushing them again in the German Cup final in May.
Apart from winning titles, they have also matched Bayern in Europe this season, joining them in the Champions League round of 16 as they challenge the Munich club's dominance.
"We should not make a crisis out of it," said Dortmund captain Sebastian Kehl after Tuesday's draw.
"We will be in different form on Saturday. We will try everything to win. The season is far from over but even us in Dortmund can see Bayern have opened up a big lead by playing very consistently."
The Bavarians, who have gone two seasons without a title, are indeed in impressive form, having scored a stunning 40 goals and conceded just five as they raced to 12 wins in their 14 league games so far.
They have set a Bundesliga record for the best start and for ensuring they will stay top after the winter break earlier than any other team.
With forward Mario Gomez fully fit and making his first start this season against Freiburg and left-back David Alaba looking in scintillating form following an injury break, coach Jupp Heynckes has a full team to pick from.
"We are currently in very good shape," said Bayern midfielder Toni Kroos. "We have not been successful against Dortmund in the last few matches but this is something we want to change on Saturday."comments