Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola has underlined the importance of Arturo Vidal ahead of the Bundesliga champions' clash with Stuttgart.
After scoring the only goal in Bayern's 1-0 win over Benfica in the Champions League quarter-final first leg, Vidal was the subject of speculation linking him with a move to Chelsea to join up with incoming Blues boss Antonio Conte, who the Chilean played under at Juventus.
Vidal has made 26 league appearances for Bayern this season, scoring two goals, and Guardiola praised his performances in the club's current run of five straight wins in all competitions.
"He's a player who infects others with his energy," said Guardiola. "Arturo is very important, he has great character, he's very experienced. He's done very well over the last few months. We need him."
Bayern head into Saturday's meeting with a five-point lead over second-placed Borussia Dortmund, and can exert pressure on their rivals, who do not play until Sunday at Schalke.
Vidal will be key to Bayern's chances of extending their three-match winning run in the Bundesliga, playing in a central role just in front of Bayern's imperious back four.
The 28-year-old Chile international is relishing the position, saying: "I like it. I often have the ball.
"I can attack, I can defend. I like to be where the danger is. Of course I'm very happy that I scored and that we won [against Benfica]. I hope it continues. I hope I can still improve."
Bayern will be without Arjen Robben, who is still recovering from an adductor injury, and defensive trio Jerome Boateng (muscle tear), Holger Badstuber (ankle) and Medhi Benatia (hamstring) are also set to miss the trip to Mercedes-Benz Arena.
Stuttgart have scored 23 goals in the second half of the Bundesliga season making them the second best attacking side in the league since the winter break, behind Borussia Monchengladbach (25), and the Swabians will be out to exploit Bayern's defensive injury problems.
Stuttgart coach Jurgen Kramny said: "This game is naturally a massive challenge for us. The key will be in going about the match as a solid defensive unit, whilst looking to get forward courageously. The players and I are really looking forward to this challenge."
Stuttgart, who are without a win in their last three league games, will be looking to avenge a 4-0 hammering at Allianz Arena back in November, but they will be without long-term absentees Daniel Ginczek (cruciate ligament) and Kevin Grosskreutz (torn muscle), as well as midfielder Arianit Ferati (hamstring) and centre-back Toni Sunjic (head injury).
A further blow to Kramny's plans landed when it was confirmed that Serey Die will miss the rest of the season after he suffered a torn adductor during the 2-2 draw with Darmstadt.
Sporting Director Robin Dutt said: "This news is a bitter blow for us. Serey Die is one of our greatest fighters. Following the injury to Kevin Grosskreutz, this is the next absentee that really hurts us."
Key Opta stats:
- Bayern Munich have won their last 14 matches in all competitions against Stuttgart, scoring 2.9 goals per game. Stuttgart's last win in this fixture dates back to March 2010 (2-1 in Munich).
- VfB have lost their last 11 league games against Bayern and could equal a record this weekend. Only Nuremberg and Freiburg have lost against the same side 12 times on the spin in the top flight (FCB were the opponents in both instances).
- Pep Guardiola's men have conceded 13 goals this term - equalling the Bundesliga record for this point of a campaign.
- VfB have taken just six points from their last seven Bundesliga fixtures.
- Bayern have not created a clear-cut chance in either of their last two league matches - the first time this has happened since Opta started analysing such data (2010/11).