With the international break out of the way it’s time to make a much welcomed return to league action. Over the last few seasons it’s been Borussia Dortmund that’s been seen as Bayern Munich’s title challenger, however this season with the former struggling there’s a new name in the mix and who know’s one that could be around for some time.
Wolfsburg have enjoyed a tremendous season to date, competing brilliantly in the Bundesliga, DFB Pokal and the Europa League. The Wolves are currently occupying second place in the Bundesliga, Bayern are ten points ahead in first and third place Borussia Mönchengladbach sit seven points behind.
The Wolves missed a golden chance to close the gap on Bayern before the break, Gladbach put in a terrific display to defeat Bayern 2-0, however Wolfsburg were held to a 1-1 draw in the Sunday’s early match against Mainz. Luiz Gustavo popped up as the unlikely hero with his first league goal of the season. With Bayern facing Dortmund there’s a slight chance of another Bayern hiccup this weekend, so it’s a good time for Wolfsburg to be hosting bottom side Stuttgart, or is it?
It’s been a poor campaign for Stuttgart, last season they managed to avoid the drop and despite the scare they haven’t improved and are in real danger of dropping down to the second division for the second time since the Bundesliga began, the first relegation happened in the 1974-75 season and took them two season’s to earn promotion, that second season saw them finish first in 1976-77.
Enough of the relegation talk there’s still time to charge their way to safety and they managed to make a good step in the right direction before the internationals. Eintracht Frankfurt in the mood travelled to Stuttgart after putting four past Paderborn, however Stuttgart stood up to the challenge and put in a great performance to defeat them 3-1, Daniel Ginczek securing a brace before Alexandru Maxim made it 3-1 ten minutes from time.
Stuttgart will be hoping the win over Frankfurt will give them a lift for the tough challenge of visiting Wolfsburg, however the break may have disrupted any momentum. Wolfsburg are by far the favourites ahead of this one, they haven’t lost at home in the league this season, the only lost this season came in Europe against Everton. Not only do Wolfsburg have a terrific home record they also have a strong record against their guests, winning the last five meetings. The last win for Stuttgart in this fixture was back in May 2012 when three goals in the last twenty minutes saw them come from behind to win 3-2. For a Stuttgart away win you have to go back to 2007 when they edged out Wolfsburg in the DFB Pokal Semi-Final.
Despite being favourites The Wolves are aware of the danger of facing Stuttgart after their Frankfurt victory, Dieter Hecking speaking in his press conference, “Stuttgart were on the verge of total collapse a fortnight ago when they were 1-0 behind to Frankfurt, but then like a phoenix from the flames they came back and turned the game around,”. The club’s aim to secure Champions League football as soon as possible is another reason for them not to take this game lightly, also the added bonus of a record points tally if they manage to win at least five of their remaining eight games.
Huub Stevens hasn’t got carried away with his side’s win last time out and in his press conference reminded everyone there’s still much more work ahead, “We took the three points against Frankfurt – no more than that! We are still bottom of the pile.” Despite their position the Stuttgart head coach believes his side can get something from the game, “When you go to Wolfsburg, you know it’s not going to be easy. We’ve worked very well and it’s been a lot of fun. In spite of being in 18th place, we’ve proven that we have quality. That should give us some belief.”
Wolfsburg will have a strong squad to pick from with only Maximilian Arnold missing from the side that played against Mainz, the youngster picked up his fifth booking of the season in that game. Gustavo will be hoping he can stay out of the referee’s book, one more booking for him will see him picking up his tenth of the season.
Stuttgart will be without one of their key players, Timo Werner was forced off against Frankfurt with a Malleolar injury, others missing for Stuttgart are defenders Antonio Rüdiger and Daniel Schwaab. Good news however is that Daniel Didavi has started training again, unfortuantely the game comes too soon for him. No suspensions for Stuttgart, on the other hand a booking for Georg Niedermeier or Filip Kostic will see them suspended.
Keep an eye out for this one over the weekend, a shock result could be on the cards.
Quotes from ESPN.com and Bundesliga.com