It’s 10th versus 12th in the Bundesliga this weekend as Werder Bremen hosts Stuttgart at the Wohninvest Weserstadion on Sunday afternoon.
Both teams were seen as relegation candidates going into the campaign, but that’s no longer the case after a few months.
Bremen only lost their second game of the season last week, falling to a showstopping Wolfsburg side that scored five on the night. Stuttgart were also beaten, but they did put up a tough fight against reigning German and European champions Bayern Munich, even taking the lead before eventually falling short.
With those results in mind, each will be looking to rebound with a win this time around.
Bremen were dealt a significant injury blow during the week, as it was reported that star man Milot Rashica will be sidelined until late January due to an issue with a tendon in his thigh.
He joins top-scorer Niclas Fullkrug on the treatment table, as the striker is out for a few more weeks following a setback in his recovery, while centerback Milos Veljkovic is also unavailable for selection.
Kevin Mohwald and Jean-Manuel Mbom are both suspended, but the good news is Josh Sargent should be able to return to the lineup.
Stuttgart, meanwhile, are in the midst of an injury crisis. Daniel Didavi is out with a hip strain, and Erik Thommy is still dealing with an elbow problem. Forwards Hamadi Al Ghaddioui and Momo Cisse will also both miss out.
Meanwhile, the likes of Nicolas Gonzalez, Tanguy Coulibaly, and Atakan Karazor are listed as doubtful at the moment.
Werder Bremen: Pavlenka, Groß, Toprak, Friedl, Selassie, Eggestein, Erras, Augustinsson, Bittencourt, Sargent, Chong
Stuttgart: Kobel, Mavropanos, Anton, Kempf, Sosa, Endo, Mangala, Fundu, Forster, Castro, Kalajdzic
Ones to watch
The man who arguably has the most responsibility in this Bremen team, Maximilian Eggestein is a key player on both sides of the ball.
Starting in the center of midfield every single week, the German gets up and down the pitch on a consistent basis.
He’s already gotten two goals this season, both coming as the result of late runs into the area. No one picks him up, and Eggestein is a clinical enough finisher to make the opposition pay, proven by the fact that he scored on Manuel Neuer, the best goalkeeper on the planet right now.
He’s just as important on the defensive end. Since the Green-Whites often struggle so much at the back, Eggestein is forced to drop deep and support the backline whenever they’re under pressure. He clogs up passing lanes in front of the penalty area and uses his energy to disrupt opposing attackers.
Still only 23 years old, the future is very bright for the Bremen man. He’s already shown that he can handle the pressure of playing at this stage, and there’s plenty of reason to believe Eggestein will have an impact on Sunday’s match regardless of the result.
In times of crisis, you need your most experienced players to step up. Thankfully for Stuttgart, they’ve got Gonzalo Castro, who is as experienced as they come.
As mentioned earlier, the club are dealing with several injuries and come into this contest short-handed. They already had a weak enough squad as is due to their limited financial resources, but their depth will really be tested during this time.
Die Schwaben still have Castro, though. A veteran of the Bundesliga, the midfielder has previously played at the highest level for Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund. Incredibly clever on the ball, he uses his passing and dribbling ability to create chances for himself and others.
His impact goes beyond the scoresheet, but Castro still makes a mark in that department, with two goals and an assist so far this campaign. He was a vital part of the side that won promotion last season, and the former Germany international has arguably been even more important this time around.
Stuttgart need their 33-year-old captain to perform this weekend, and if history is any indication, then Castro will be able to do just that.
Last time out
It’s been nearly two years since these sides last faced off at the Wohninvest Weserstadion.
Stuttgart made a dream start to the contest, taking the lead within the opening two minutes. Steven Zuber burst through the middle of the pitch, getting behind the backline before calmly slotting past Jiri Pavlenka.
Mario Gomez had a few chances to double the advantage, but the experienced German striker was denied on both occasions by Pavlenka.
Bremen would equalize moments before the halftime break, and they did it in some style. Davy Klaassen got the ball on the edge of the area before turning and unleashing an absolute cannon of a shot that flew into the back of the net.
The home side pushed forward in search of a winner, but Ron-Robert Zieler stood on his head, making a number of key saves late on.
At the end of the day, the 1-1 result would end up costing both teams, as Bremen missed out on a Europa League spot while Stuttgart were ultimately relegated after losing to Union Berlin in the relegation-playoff.
Where to watch
The match will be on BT Sport ESPN in the UK, while those in the United States can see the game on ESPN+.