VfB Stuttgart vs Karlsruher SC Preview: Baden-Württemberg Derby comes at a crucial time
Image credit: Bundesliga.de

With the English week coming to a close on what has been a far from ideal set of results for both sides, Karlsruher SC travel to VfB Stuttgart in search of three vital points.

The hosts currently sit second and are on course to make an immediate return to the Bundesliga, while KSC now sit six points off safety with just seven games remaining.

Swabians starting to falter?

After what was an imperious start to life under Hannes Wolf's tutelage, Stuttgart have found things tough as March rolled around. Everything was going to plan after the return to action following the Winterpause, but those five wins in a row have been followed by five matches without a victory - culminating in a single defeat and four draws.

Yet, despite the draws, Stuttgart's fighting spirit shone through in the previous two stalemates. A 94th minute penalty from Simon Terodde and Marcel Kaminski's scrambled 92nd minute leveller meant they escaped with points against both Dynamo Dresden (3-3) and 1860 Munich (1-1). Wolf will be hoping not to leave it so late in the future.

Terodde finding his scoring boots again will be of great joy to the hosts, who will be backed by another sold-out crowd on Sunday afternoon. It's hardly surprising, given the magnitude of the derby, and that this is only the third game in Stuttgart since the turn of the century. The Reds have also won three of the last four derbies by a score of 3-1.

That was the scoreline when the sides met earlier on this season, in what was also the first meeting in 2. Bundesliga history between the two. Terodde, Takuma Asano and Alexandru Maxim were on hand to continue their good recent run in the fixture. You can bet your bottom dollar that Karlsruhe will be out to change that this weekend, though.

Baden boys sack Slomka

With just eight points in 10 games under Mirko Slomka, things were tough for the Wildparkstadion side. Despite the rotten run, sacking the former Hannover 96 boss was one of the last outcomes that was expected. With experience gone, it's a case of youthful exuberance in Marc-Patrick Meister. The 37-year-old is in his first managerial role.

A draw with Würzburger Kickers proved to be the final straw, as Slomka's short stint came to an equally abrupt end. Meister will face Stuttgart this weekend before welcoming 1. FC Heidenheim and travelling to SV Sandhausen in his first three games in charge. If KSC want to stay up, they'll be looking at taking four points from that set of fixtures.

Even then, they'll be hoping things work out in their favour. A weekend where results have gone against them saw both Arminia Bielefeld and FC St. Pauli win. That leaves the Baden club seven points from safety. Given that their two stand-outs players have been both goalkeepers, it's hard to see where that spark will come from on Sunday.

As is well documented, anything can happen in football and given their lack of luck in recent weeks it may just be the start of a turnaround. With some key attackers out injured, a lot of pressure rests on the shoulders of Dimitris Diamantakos. The Greek is their top-scorer with five this season, and he'll need to find a few more with seven games left.

Team news

Stuttgart have a relatively clean bill of health coming into the game, although there is one major loss. Carlos Mané will miss the remainder of the season due to a knee injury, which is something the Schwaben will not be best pleased with. Anto Grgic will be out with a knock, Jens Grahl and Hans Nunoo Sarpei are the other two absentees.

Karlsruhe's precarious position isn't helped by the fact that they're without several first-team players on Sunday. Enrico Valentini is sidelined after picking up his fifth yellow card during the week, while Boubacar Barry, Moritz Stoppelkamp, Manuel Torres and Jimmy Hoffer will all miss the game through injury.

Predicted line-ups

VfB Stuttgart (4-2-3-1) Langerak; Zimmer, Baumgartl, Kaminski, Insua; Zimmermann, Ofori; Asano, Gentner, Brekalo; Terodde.

Karlsruher SC (4-2-3-1) Orlishausen; Bader, Kinsombi, Thoelke, Sallahi; Krebs, Meffert; Yamada, Diamantakos, Marv. Mehlem; Kamberi.

Referee: Christian Dingert (Lebecksmühle).