VfB Stuttgart vs Würzburger Kickers Preview: Die Roten set to confirm Bundesliga return

Their promotion is all but certain already, but by contrast Bernd Hollerbach's side need a first win in five months to have any chance of surviving relegation.

VfB Stuttgart vs Würzburger Kickers Preview: Die Roten set to confirm Bundesliga return
Photo: Getty/Stuart Franklin

After just a season away, VfB Stuttgart are in line to make an immediate return to the Bundesliga ahead of what should be their final 2. Bundesliga game, for now, against Würzburger Kickers.

They will be confident of sealing both promotion and the title in front of a packed stadium, however they will have to put aside the memory of a shock loss in the reverse fixture in December.

Würzburg on the other hand must win if they are to avoid heading in the opposite direction after just a one-season stay too. With implications at both ends of the table, this will be the key game in the final 2. Bundesliga round of the season.

Stuttgart overwhelming favourites

Despite their defeat to Hannover 96 last weekend, which brought the top two level on points, the shock defeat to Arminia Bielefeld for Eintracht Braunschweig means their promotion back to the Bundesliga, 372 days after being relegated on the final day, is all but certain and will definitely be confirmed with a point. A victory against Würzburg though would probably make them champions as well, as their goal difference is currently four better off than Hannover’s.

The picture couldn’t be much more different for their opponents. Their 1-0 defeat in the final home game of the season against SV Sandhausen extended their winless run to 16 games and left them two points adrift in the bottom two. They need a win to have any hope of staying up, and even then they need either Bielefeld or 1860 Munich to slip up in their matches.

You would think that with Stuttgart losing just twice since Christmas, and Würzburg failing to win at all in that time, that this would be a foregone conclusion. It probably is, but Würzburg’s last win just happened to be against Stuttgart, a 3-0 win which at the time looked to have shown their staying power in the league, rather than an anomaly in an otherwise winless six month period.

Wolf determined to seal title; Würzburg to fight

With that in mind, Hannes Wolf was wary about Würzburg when speaking to the media in Friday’s press conference. As he points out, “they took points against Hannover and Braunschweig,” and they had been “unlucky” in some of their other games. He added that their own defeat at Würzburg was “something we don’t want to experience again.”

The stated aim for him going into the game is clear though. “We want to secure promotion as league winners,” he said, hoping that they will give something for the close to 60,000 set to be in the Mercedes-Benz Arena to cheer.

His counterpart Bernd Hollerbach was talking a tough game in his press conference a day earlier. He said they would “fight” and “be courageous” to save their 2. Bundesliga status, although he did admit that Stuttgart are “a first division club” and were “rightly on the way up.”

Würzburg captain Sebastian Neumann insisted that the team “believed” they could cause an upset, again pointing to what happened in December, where he scored one of the goals. “It will clearly be difficult,” he said, “but it is not impossible.”

Fröde and Soriano out suspended

The only doubt for Stuttgart is Jean Zimmer, who suffered a knock to his knee this week in training. He has not appeared for them since March though, so will not be a major loss. Carlos Mané will of course also still be out with his knee injury.

That means they will be able to stick with the same eleven for the third game running. Matthias Zimmermann could be restored to their midfield though after being limited to substitute appearances in recent weeks, whilst Takuma Asano and Julian Green are alternative attacking options.

Robert Wulnikowski and Júnior Díaz both remain out injured for Würzburg, whilst they will also be missing Lukas Fröde and joint top scorer Elia Soriano after they picked up their fifth yellow cards of the season against Sandhausen.

Rico Benatelli, level with Soriano on just five goals, could return for a farewell appearance ahead of his move to Dynamo Dresden, although he has struggled to get in the team of late. Dániel Nagy, Marco Königs and Valdet Rama are other options for Hollerbach. If Königs fills the gap up front, the pressure will be on him to score his first goal of the season at the most opportune time.

Predicted line-ups

VfB Stuttgart: (4-2-3-1) Langerak; Pavard, Baumgartl, Kaminski, Insúa; Gentner, Ofori; Klein, Maxim, Brekalo; Terodde.

Würzburger Kickers: (3-4-3) Siebenhandl; Schoppenhauer, Neumann, Pisot; Rama, Schröck, Taffertshofer, Kurzweg; Daghfous, Königs, Weihrauch.

Quotes via VfB Stuttgart and Kicker.