Stuttgart, Germany – Bayern Munich shrugged off its defeat to Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday, but the last two matches before the Bundesliga break are top priority for the record German champions.
Bayern Munich had previously clinched first place and a knockout spot from its Champions League group, so it rested the majority of its first team, by choice and because of the flu, against City this week.
With just a one-point cushion atop the league with two matches left before the winter break, the easy solution to remain on top is to pick up a pair of wins, starting this weekend against Stuttgart.
"We have two very important games coming up in the Bundesliga," Bayern captain Philipp Lahm said.
"If we win them both it'll be a happy and peaceful Christmas."
Bayern winger Franck Ribery echoed Lahm, adding "being on top at Christmas is important for the players and the club."
Coach Jupp Heynckes also acknowledged "being top of the table matters a lot to Bayern Munich." Especially after it finished third in the league last season.
Mario Gomez, who sits atop the Bundesliga and Champions League scoring lists, and Thomas Muller both had flu-like symptoms this week, and could miss out as well if they don't improve.
With midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger already out as he continues to recover from a broken collarbone, it's possible Heynckes could be without five of his first-choice players.
Although a second-choice lineup played well at times against City, which leads the English Premier League, Bayern needs its contingent of stars to maintain a lead into the winter break, which starts Christmas week.
Bayern may be looking up at a pair of teams before it plays, as Sunday's match is the last of the weekend. Schalke can climb level on points Friday at Hertha Berlin, but Monchengladbach can go top Saturday at Augsburg.
Stuttgart has just one win in its last six, and could find itself in the lower half of the standings if it drops points over the final two weeks of the first half.
Monchengladbach tied Borussia Dortmund last week and will try to regain a spot atop the league again. It held the top spot for one day earlier this season.
Dortmund is level on points with Gladbach for second and holds the tiebreaker, so a home win over Kaiserslautern on Sunday would be the perfect way to bounce back from its Champions League exit.
In Saturday's other matches, Bayer Leverkusen puts a five-game unbeaten streak on the line at slumping Hannover, Cologne hosts Freiburg, Mainz hosts Hamburg, Werder Bremen hosts Wolfsburg, and Nurnberg hosts Hoffenheim.