No favours for old club - Mandzukic
Bayern Munich striker Mario Mandzukic will be looking to show his old club VfL Wolfsburg what they are missing when they host the runaway Bundesliga leaders on Friday.
Mandzukic has been in great form since joining Bayern last July from Wolves and his five goals in the three league games so far in 2013 have helped the Bavarians open a 15-point lead at the top of the table.
By both finishing and creating chances – he has netted 14 goals in 18 matches – Mandzukic has restricted Germany striker Mario Gomez to only the occasional start for Bayern.
"I knew I had to believe in myself from the start," said the 26-year-old Croatia star. "Now I expect to play in every game."
Having left Wolfsburg after two years, 20 goals and 56 league matches, the former Dinamo Zagreb forward has been in outstanding form and there will be no place for sentiment with the league leaders hunting their 18th league win from 22 games
"We want to be the boss on the pitch again," said Mandzukic, who still backs his old team to thrive with Wolves coach Dieter Hecking having picked up two wins in his four matches since taking charge in December.
"They have a good team and good individual players, but I think they need some time until everything works the way it should be."
Bayern will not underestimate Wolfsburg, who earned a shock 3-2 win against defending champions Borussia Dortmund in December, especially with Brazil playmaker Diego bossing the midfield.
"They have plenty of what it takes to make life difficult for every opponent, but they've often lacked consistency," said Bayern midfielder Toni Kroos of the 2009 German champions who are currently 12th in the league.
One factor in Wolfsburg's favour is Bayern's looming Champions League tie against Arsenal in London next Tuesday.
"We'll start thinking about that as of Saturday. It still gives us enough time to prepare for Arsenal," said Kroos.
Bayern have few injury problems for the trip to Wolfsburg with Javi Martinez struggling with a bruised toe while back-up striker Claudio Pizarro (flu) and Dante (stomach problems) should both be fit.
Wolves striker Patrick Helmes could make his first appearance of the season and is rated as "50-50" by Hecking after tearing knee ligaments last August.
Second-placed Borussia Dortmund have a tough match at home to fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday after Wednesday's Champions League last 16 tie at Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk which ended 2-2.
With Galatasaray looming in Istanbul next week in the Champions League, 10th-placed Schalke need to break their terrible recent form with just one win in their last 10 league games at Mainz on Saturday.
Coach Jens Keller has a host of problems with both midfielders Marco Hoeger and Jefferson Farfan suffering from flu, while Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is recovering from a burst blood vessel in his eye.
Japan defender Atsuto Uchida (torn muscle in his thigh), Dutch forward Ibrahim Afellay (muscle tear) and Greece's Kyriakos Papadopoulos (knee surgery) are all out, while Austria defender Christian Fuchs is back from suspension.
Third-placed Bayer Leverkusen should have few problems against second-from-bottom Augsburg while Hamburg are waiting on the fitness of Germany goalkeeper Rene Adler, who has pulled a strained stomach muscle.
Hamburg are up to seventh after their impressive 4-1 win at Dortmund last Saturday while 'Gladbach drew 3-3 at home to Bayer Leverkusen.
VfL Wolfsburg v Bayern Munich
Bayer Leverkusen v Augsburg, Werder Bremen v Freiburg, Mainz 05 v Schalke 04, Hamburg v Borussia M'gladbach, Fortuna Duesseldorf v Greuther Fuerth, Borussia Dortmund v Eintracht Frankfurt
Nuremberg v Hanover 96, Hoffenheim v VfB Stuttgart