Stuttgart – Sunday’s action from Matchday 30 in the Bundesliga begins in the Mercedes-Benz Arena, where VfB Stuttgart host regional rivals SC Freiburg (kick-off 15.30 CET).
For both clubs, the game will seem like déjà-vu, coming just three days after their DFB Cup semi-final meeting, which ended withStuttgart booking their ticket to Berlin, and one into Europe next season in the process. Freiburg still have a chance of joining them via a top-six finish, though, and can go fourth with a victory. Revenge will certainly not be their most important motivation on Sunday.
The Stuttgart celebrations on reaching the final lasted well into the night, and may also have been tinged with relief, after a campaign of few highlights for the Swabians. VfB have won just three league games, and lost seven already, in 2013 and sit in the relative no-man’s land of twelfth in the table. Indeed, safe as they are from relegation and with European qualification already sealed, it would seem that Bruno Labbadia’s men have very little to play for in the Bundesliga, other than pride.
Even if that were their only motivation in the remaining five games, though, there is sure to be plenty on display in the next derby fixture with Freiburg. “We want to deliver results, as well as good football for the fans”, said the 47-year-old head coach. “On top of that, it would be great to win three home games in the space of a week as well”- VfB having gone into their cup date on the back of a 2-0 success over Borussia Mönchengladbach.
The visitors’ priority is simply to get back to winning ways after the disappointment of Wednesday night. “It was a big shame because we really wanted to get to the final”, admitted head coach Christian Streich. “But on Sunday we need to show that the cup game is out of our system. It doesn’t affect this match at all, even if we win it”, he continued.
Despite missing out on a maiden DFB Cup final, die Breisgauer are still in a great position to secure continental football next season. In fact, victory at their bigger south-western neighbours would propel SCF into fourth place, two points clear of Schalke - and in pole position to claim the fourth available Champions League berth. They certainly looked the part in last week’s 3-1 win over Hannover 96, and Streich is keen to see more of the ‘aggression’ on show in that game this time around.
One player on the scoresheet against Hannover was Gladbach-bound Max Kruse. He had a rather quieter evening in midweek, but with four goals in his last five league games, he is certainly the danger man for Freiburg.
VfB’s Japanese international Gotoku Sakai may be tasked with marking Kruse, but Labbadia will want to see noticeably more from his attackers, particularly Vedad Ibisevic. Stuttgart's leading scorer has struck just twice in his last 13 games, and once in eleven encounters against Freiburg. Sunday would be as good a time as any to redress that balance.
Stuttgart: Ulreich – Sakai, Rüdiger, Niedermeier, Molinaro – Gentner, Boka – Harnik, Maxim, Traore – Ibisevic
Freiburg: Baumann – Mujdza, Krmas, Diagne, Sorg – Schmid, Flum, Schuster, Caligiuri – Kruse - Rosenthal