Two teams at opposite ends of the table meet on Sunday to close out matchday 9 with league leaders Union Berlin travelling across to take on VfB Stuttgart at the Mercedes-Benz Arena.
The Swabians find themselves battling at the bottom end of the Bundesliga table after the first eight matches and following Bochum’s win on Saturday are the only team this season without a win to their name. Their problems were highlighted last weekend when losing 3-2 at fellow strugglers VfL Wolfsburg and looking at Stuttgart at the moment, you do get that sinking feeling.
Pellegrino Matarazzo has been backed by the club in public, but that often happens when a coach is close to the end and reports are already emerging that both Adi Hütter and Sebastian Hoeneß are being sounded out as possible replacements.
The best way to silence the critics is with a win but facing Union at this perilous time is not the ideal situation.
Union lost for the first time last weekend to Eintracht Frankfurt but results elsewhere meant they retained top spot in the table. The fact that Frankfurt then lost to bottom side Bochum makes the situation all the more bizarre- but then this is the Bundesliga.
Die Eisernen at least got their European campaign off and running with a win in Sweden in midweek. Now the task returns to defending their lead at the top of the table which when you write it still seems unreal.
Borna Sosa trained throughout the week after his cold and is available again, while Wataru Endo (knock to the top of the shin) and Hiroki Ito (muscular problem) got back to at least partial training on Thursday with the hope that both of them will be fit in time for Sunday.
Dan-Axel Zagadou could be set for a first start if Ito doesn’t make it. Nikolas Nartey could come in for Karazor.
Possible line-up: Müller, Mavropanos, Anton, Zagadou, Führich, Nartey, Sosa, Endo, Ahamada, Guirassy, Silas
There could be some rotation following Union’s midweek trip to Sweden. Timo Baumgartl’s involvement is questionable following his Covid illness.
Possible line-up: Rönnow, Jaeckel, Knoche, Leite, Ryerson, Khedira, Gießelmann, Schäfer, Haraguchi, Jordan, Becker
What they’re saying:
Pellegrino Matarazzo: “Union are a special kind of team with an almost unique style of football. They run an enormous amount and are really solid in defence, so it’s going to be important to win a lot of the one-on-ones.
“How can we make sure that the team stays focused for the full 90 minutes? Obviously, any game has its ups and downs, but we have strategies and a plan that we need to stick to consistently over the 90 minutes – no two ways about it. The team also have a responsibility there to manage themselves to a degree through communication during certain phases of the match.”
Urs Fischer: “We have a plan for the game and of course we want to implement it. We have to be active and attentive at all times. Of course, we also know about the sporting situation the opponents face, but that doesn’t mean we’ll take the 90 minutes lightly”.
01.10.22 VfL Wolfsburg (a) 3-2 L (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)
06.10.22 Malmo (a) 0-1 W (Europa League)
01.10.22 Eintracht Frankfurt (a) 2-0 L (Bundesliga)
18.09.22 VfL Wolfsburg (h) 2-0 W (Bundesliga)
15.09.22 Sporting Braga (a) 1-0 L (Europa League)
11.09.22 Köln (a) 0-1 W (Bundesliga)
The corresponding fixture last season at the Mercedes-Benz Arena strangely enough also took place on matchday 9 and saw the two sides share a 1-1 draw. Taiwo Awoniyi fired the visitors ahead on the half hour mark before Stuttgart had Atakan Karazor sent off in the 57th minute for a second yellow card. Remarkably though young substitute Wahid Faghir grabbed an equaliser in the 93rd minute to rescue a point for the Swabians.
Players to watch:
Dan-Axel Zagadou arrived in the Bundesliga back in 2017 from Paris st. Germain B with Dortmund looking to have signed a real star of the future. That things didn’t go according to plan due to atrocious injuries is well documented. Now, Stuttgart have taken a chance on the xx-year-old and if it works, could prove an inspired move.
Sheraldo Becker is not going to want to let Werder Bremen striker Niclas Füllkrug get too far ahead of him in the scoring charts and after having not scored last week against Eintracht he’ll be keen to find the back of the net against Stuttgart (as he did in midweek against Malmo to win the game).