The term ‘Kellerduel’ (basement battle) was designed for encounters like the one at The Volkswagen Arena on Saturday as Bundesliga strugglers VfL Wolfsburg and VfB Stuttgart go head-to-head looking for important Bundesliga points to get their faltering seasons going.
Aside from bottom club VfL Bochum Stuttgart are the only side without a Bundesliga win this season and although the Swabians have been difficult to beat (five draws so far) the three points have eluded Pellegrino Matarazzo’s side thus far. They are currently on a 13-game winless run on the road stretching back to last season, so the optimism going into the away trip to Saxony this weekend won’t be sky high.
Their last away trip was the 2-2 draw with Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena- an impressive performance that raised the optimism levels at the club having got toe-to-toe with the Rekordmeister and not been found wanting. Their matchday 7 home loss to Eintracht Frankfurt however returned them to square one with the home fans forgetting what a win feels like.
The last three points garnered by Stuttgart came on the last day of last season against Köln and coincidentally their last away win came back in December 2021 against (you’ve guessed it) VfL Wolfsburg.
Die Wölfe have also made an abysmal start to the new season with trainer Nico Kovac having to face weekly questions about the pressure he is under. This is understandable with the club lying 17th after seven matches and not showing any signs of improvement. The 1-0 win at Eintracht Frankfurt should have been the impulse needed to kick start the season, but last time out saw them lose to Union Berlin and pop the optimism balloon.
With Wolfsburg winless at home this season and Stuttgart poor on the road, nobody would be surprised to see this end 0-0 on Saturday. This won’t suit either side and the morale-boosting three points could just inspire one or the other to up their game.
Lukas Nmecha has returned from international duty with Germany with a knee injury so won’t be able to lead the line against Stuttgart. With Jonas Wind also a longer-term absentee Omar Marmoush will be the lone striker.
Austrian Patrick Wimmer should be fit enough to feature after picking up a training knock.
Possible line-up: Casteels, Baku, Lacroix, van de Ven, Otavio, Svanberg, Arnold, Wimmer, Waldschmidt, Kaminski, Marmoush
Josh Vagnoman (ankle) is being gradually built up and will therefore miss Saturday’s game. Borna Sosa (cold) has not yet trained with the team since his return from the Croatian national team, with the left-back rated doubtful.
New signing Dan-Axel Zagadou is unlikely to go straight into the team having had little time to train with his new teammates or get used to the system. A place on the bench will suffice.
Possible line-up: Müller, Mavropanos, Anton, Ito, Silas, Karazor, Sosa, Endo, Ahamada, Guirassy, Tiago
What they’re saying:
Nico Kovac: “We know VfB’s strengths, but I hope we can also exploit the weaknesses, which every team have. The focus and concentration were very high on the pitch today. Judging by what I saw in training today, I’m confident we’ll turn in a really good performance tomorrow.
“We know we have an important game tomorrow, just as every game in the Bundesliga has great significance. It’s 17th against 16th here. We’re not taking the situation lightly, but very seriously. We have to make sure we get the three points – that would be immensely important for us.
“We trained without Lukas Nmecha today, and he won’t be involved tomorrow either. His knee trouble won’t go away at the moment. Patrick Wimmer has made good progress, though. He’ll certainly be able to play. It’s well known that Jonas Wind is still absent. He’ll at least be able to resume some parts of team training next week.”
Pellegrino Matarazzo: “Wolfsburg have tightened up defensively in their last few games. You can see the work ethic and the compact defending. For us it’s about keeping a clean sheet. The lads have made a good and energetic impression again in training this week. We’re determined to show a different face to last time out.
“He [new signing Dan-Axel Zagadou] brings a calmness to what he does, he can read situations in the game, has a very good left foot, and can use his body in the challenge. What I also like is the personality and presence he brings on the training pitch. He wants to win games, even in training, and that rubs off on the lads.”
18.09.22 Union Berlin (a) 2-0 L (Bundesliga)
10.09.22 Eintracht Frankfurt (a) 0-1 W (Bundesliga)
03.09.22 Köln (h) 2-4 L (Bundesliga)
27.08.22 RB Leipzig (a) 2-0 L (Bundesliga)
20.08.22 Schalke (h) 0-0 D (Bundesliga)
17.09.22 Eintracht Frankfurt (h) 1-3 L (Bundesliga)
10.09.22 Bayern Munich (a) 2-2 D (Bundesliga)
03.09.22 Schalke (h) 1-1 D (Bundesliga)
28.08.22 Köln (a) 0-0 D (Bundesliga)
20.08.22 Freiburg (h) 0-1 L (Bundesliga)
The corresponding fixture last season was on matchday 15 and was actually Stuttgart’s last away win. Konstantinos Mavropanos fired the visitors into the lead after 25 minutes and a second half goal from Philipp Förster sealed the win. The loss for Wolfsburg came on the back of a midweek Champions League elimination at the hands of Lyon.
Players to watch:
In the absence of Lukas Nmecha, the burden for scoring falls on Egyptian Omar Marmoush. Wolfsburg are the league’s joint lowest scorers with five goals, so he will be doing well if he can fire them to victory against Stuttgart after impressing for his national side in midweek (a goal and assist against Liberia). He will also want to make amends for the Panenka penalty miss he produced the last time the two sides met at the Volkswagen Arena- when he was on loan with the Swabians against his parent club!
Serhou Guirassy was the headline grabber against Bayern Munich and the player bought to replace Sasa Kalajdzic needs to start scoring on a more regular basis to help the Swabians convert their many draws into wins. A vulnerable Wolfsburg side look ripe for him to add to his scoring tally this weekend.