BERLIN, April 3 (Reuters) - Outgoing champions VfB Stuttgart will be without Mario Gomez, the Bundesliga's most coveted player when they try to revive their season at home to second-placed Hamburg SV on Saturday.
Gomez, who led Stuttgart to the title last year and has scored 24 goals in 27 games in all competitions this term, will be out for around two weeks with a leg muscle tear.
'It's bitter for us as Mario has been in great form recently,' Stuttgart manager Horst Heldt told the club's website this week.
'We're convinced the team can cover for the loss, though. We managed it last season when Mario was injured.'
The injury occurred in the same week that the club put a price tag of 50 million euros ($78.20 million) on the Germany striker, a figure that will be treated as merely the start of negotiations by his many suitors from Spain.
Gomez's absence coincides with a frustrating time for Stuttgart, who are back up to sixth place after spending most of the season around mid-table, or even lower.
They now stand just three points behind Schalke 04 in the third and final Champions League place, well within striking distance with eight games left to play.
Hamburg have serious personnel problems themselves as they look ahead to Saturday.
Forwards Paolo Guerrero and Ivica Olic are likely to miss out through injury, while David Jarolim starts a four-match ban for grabbing an opponent's genitals in last weekend's draw with Arminia Bielefeld.
Hamburg have won just one of their last four league games, a run that has seen them slip seven points behind leaders Bayern Munich.
Bayern themselves are not in action until Sunday when they host mid-table Bochum.
The Bavarians will be strong favourites to take a step closer to a 21st league title, provided they do not suffer too much fatigue against Getafe in the UEFA Cup on Thursday.
The other three teams pushing for Champions League place are Schalke, who are third on 45 points, and Bayer Leverkusen and Werder Bremen, who have 44 apiece.
Schalke let slip a priceless opportunity when they went down 1-0 at home to Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday.
The Germans missed a stack of chances in a second half they dominated and they will have to show more nerve in front of goal when they host Hansa Rostock on Saturday.
Werder Bremen, shocked 2-1 at home to Duisburg last weekend, aim to make amends when they visit Hertha Berlin on Saturday. Leverkusen face a tricky game away to Borussia Dortmund on Sunday.