Bayern Munich welcome VfB Stuttgart to the Allianz Arena on Sunday with just a point between them in the table. Fine margins might also decide the game. bundesliga.com looks at some of them…
Bayern and Stuttgart are currently second and third respectively in the standings, with Bayer Leverkusen leading the way, giving Sunday's meeting between the sides extra meaning as a potential title six-pointer.
Bayern have won each of the last 11, while Stuttgart last denied the Bavarian juggernaut in 2007, when they finished 10 points clear of the record Bundesliga champions with future Munich favourite Mario Gómez firing them a lot of the way there.
Watch: Harry Kane and Serhou Guirassy compared
… it's a good place to start, however!
Kane his hit the ground running since his record arrival at Bayern from Tottenham Hotspur, scoring 18 goals from just 13 Bundesliga games. He has already overtaken Kevin Keegan and Jadon Sancho for single-season hauls among Englishmen, with less than half a campaign played.
It wasn't until November's 4-2 win over Heidenheim that Kane overtook Guirassy in the race for this season's Torjägerkanone, though, after the Guinean had pulled up with a hamstring injury. Stuttgart's star striker is now two goals behind Kane on 16, having started three less games.
"It's something big to be competing with Harry Kane, who's a world-class striker," Guirassy told The Guardian's Ed Aarons last month. "I think he's pushed a lot of strikers in the Bundesliga to raise their level to try and compete with him."
The supporting cast
Guirassy isn't the only striker to have hit a purple patch in Kane's slipstream. Indeed, he isn't even the only one at Stuttgart, with Deniz Undav joining the aforementioned pair with a record-setting run of his own in recent weeks.
Signed on loan from Brighton at the start of the season, Guirassy's injury afforded Undav a chance that he seized with both hands. Seven goals in his first nine Bundesliga games for Stuttgart saw him match Fritz Walter, among others, in hitting that landmark, and he now has eight from 11.
Leroy Sané carries the next-biggest goal-burden at Bayern, meanwhile, his eight strikes and seven assists making him the third-most prolific player in the league behind Kane and Guirassy. But the former Manchester City man is a winger by trade. Bayern have the best striker, but VfB might have the superior strike pairing.
A case for the defence
Neuer will go down in history as perhaps the greatest goalkeeper of all time, one who revolutionised what it meant to be a sweeper-keeper as Germany won the FIFA World Cup in 2014, and has won 28 major honours with Bayern around that.
But he only returned from a broken leg in late October, and since then his save percentage of 58 per cent has been some way behind Nübel's 70. Nübel is 10 years Neuer's junior, and while it might have been premature trying to displace him as No.1 at the Allianz Arena when he first joined Bayern from Schalke in 2020, four years on that intention at the end of his existing loan deal doesn't look quite so unrealistic.
Neuer's clean sheet percentage of 60 is a league-high, however, compared to Nübel's 35.7, so how he orchestrates his defence, and who he has to direct, make Bayern stronger in that regard overall.
Both teams have other areas from which Sunday's game might be won and lost, but the above are three key ones upon which the spoils may rest.
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