Clash of the strikers as Wolfsburg meet Stuttgart

BERLIN - Three of the Bundesliga's top-scoring strikers will face off when league leaders VfL Wolfsburg travel to VfB Stuttgart, who still have an outside chance of the title with four matches left.

Wolfsburg have 60 points, three ahead of second placed Bayern Munich, and are chasing their first championship with the league's top two marksmen, Grafite and Edin Dzeko, in sparkling form. The pair have scored a combined 42 goals.

Bosnian Dzeko, with 19 goals, scored a hat-trick in 12 minutes against Hoffenheim last week as Brazilian Grafite added another to take his tally to 23.

Wolfsburg have won 11 of their last 12 matches and with coach Felix Magath having signed for Schalke 04 next season, the players know they may not get another shot at the title soon.

"We are going there to win," said Wolfsburg midfielder Christian Gentner, a former Stuttgart player. "Stuttgart will no doubt pile on the pressure from the start. But we will not hide. We will not be scared."

Hosts Stuttgart have also been in winning form under Markus Babbel, who signed an extension to his contract after settling a coaching licence dispute with the league.

His striker Mario Gomez has been scoring at will for the club, netting 19 times this season as Stuttgart rose from 10th place in the winter break to fourth, five points off the top.

A win against Wolfsburg could put them within reach of their second title in three years.


Champions Bayern have not written off their title hopes, especially since the return of coach Jupp Heynckes, who took over from axed Jurgen Klinsmann, for their final five matches.

Hosts Energie Cottbus, fighting to avoid the drop, could prove gutsy opponents but the Bavarians, with striker Lukas Podolski in good form, know they can forget about the title if they fail to win.

"If we want to still have a slight chance for the title then the remaining matches must be won," club president Franz Beckenbauer said on Thursday.

Hertha Berlin, third on 56 points, are also hoping Wolfsburg slip up as they eye their first championship since 1931.

Coach Lucien Favre will have top striker Andriy Voronin back for the game against visitors VfL Bochum, after his three-match suspension for a red card.

Fifth-placed Hamburg SV, level with Stuttgart on 55 points, travel to Werder Bremen, just three days after their UEFA Cup semi-final return leg on Thursday, in the fourth encounter of the two northern rivals in 19 days.