SV Werder Bremen v VFB Stuttgart Preview: The fear of relegation looms for former giants of German football

Both could be starring down the barrel of relegation following the conclusion of their much anticipated battle on Monday night.

SV Werder Bremen v VFB Stuttgart Preview: The fear of relegation looms for former giants of German football
SV Werder Bremen v VFB Stuttgart Preview: The fear of relegation looms for former giants of German football

In only the fifteenth ever Monday night fixture in Bundesliga history, two sides meet caught amongst the struggles of a relegation battle. With Werder Bremen currently occupying the relegation play off spot, they will be looking to drag VFB Stuttgart down into the depths in what promises to be an enthralling encounter.  

How the mighty have fallen

When looking at the recent histories of the two teams, a worrying trend appears of a mesmerising descent towards mediocrity which may culminate in relegation.  For most of the early 21st century, both were mainstays in Europe and the higher echelons of Bundesliga football.  Within the last twelve years, both have won the league; 2004 for Bremen and more recently in 2007 for Stuttgart.  

Bremen have since spiralled towards despair following their league win in 2004 (Source: DFB.de)
Bremen have since spiralled towards despair following their league win in 2004 (Source: DFB.de)

However, as the 2015/16 season nears its end both find themselves cast amongst the relegation proles, on the cusp of the unthinkable.  Neither has played lower league football since 1981, that being Werder Bremen in their sole lower league season since 1964.  But with three points separating Stuttgart, Werder Bremen and Eintracht Frankfurt, who sit in the last automatic relegation place, there is a chance one of the former greats could find themselves swapping places with the latter by the end of the ninety on Monday night. 

History is often cast aside in clashes such as this.  For ninety minutes, the titles, European cups and years of solidity will mean nothing when the battle commences.  To make matters worse, the teams' nearly equal record - in ninety-nine matches, Stuttgart lead the way with thirty-four wins to Bremen's thirty-three - does little to offer solace to either.  

A surprising confidence effusing from the depths 

In an odd juxtaposition, both have spoken confidently of their chances, with Bremen's Papy Djilobodji calling on the fans to have no fear as he was confident of the team producing when it really matters.  He told Sportmagazin Kicker that although he acknowledged that it would be difficult mentally, he, and teammate Fin Bartels, were fully confident of securing the much needed win.  

Bartels will be hoping more than most that history is cast aside, with the German having suffered the agony of relegation an incredible four times in his career already.  Once with Holstein Kiel (2007), with FC St. Pauli (2011) and then twice with another former mainstay of the Bundesliga, Hansa Rostock (2008/10).  How Bremen and Stuttgart will be hoping any parallels of Rostock, who remain stuck in 3. Liga, will soon be merely a bad memory.  

Fin Barterls may be a man cursed by fate, especially if he suffers a fifth relegation in nine years. (Source: Donau Kurier)
Fin Barterls may be a man cursed by fate, especially if he suffers a fifth relegation in nine years. (Source: Donau Kurier)

Interestingly, the year has been a miserable one for the whole of Werder Bremen, as they face the possibilty of having three clubs relegated in the one season.  As mentioned, their First Team are on the cusp, but as are their Second Team, Werder Bremen II, who are in the relegation zone of the 3. Liga, and their Frauen Team have already been relegated from the Frauen-Bundesliga.  

Stuttgart, meanwhile, are not immune to struggles of their own over recent seasons, and having reached the Last-16 of the champions league only five years ago, their fall may be all the more severe. They themselves have tried to remain positive in the build up, with their former player Robin Dutt calling on the players to battle and to head into the game with positive thoughts and feelings.  

He will be hoping that the likely changes of Mitchell Langerak in goal and Alexandru Maxim in midfield will help to spur the team onto victory.  

Are the two destined to become merely former Bundesliga giants, or will this season turn into only a bad memory? 

In a season sprinkled with error, inadequacy and disappointment, Monday's game represents a real chance for either Stuttgart to take a huge step towards safety, or for Bremen to ensure it remains a three-horse race.  

For nintey minutes, history will be cast aside, but both will be hoping to not be cast aside come the end of the season.