Borussia Dortmund and VfB Stuttgart have plenty to be optimistic about going into their Matchday 28 encounter. - © DFL
Borussia Dortmund and VfB Stuttgart have plenty to be optimistic about going into their Matchday 28 encounter. - © DFL

How do Borussia Dortmund and VfB Stuttgart stack up?


Fourth host third on Saturday night when Borussia Dortmund welcome VfB Stuttgart to the Signal Iduna Park. How do the two European aspirants stack up?

Recent history is on Stuttgart's side - they knocked Dortmund out of the DFB Cup in December having beaten them 2-1 in their last league meeting a month earlier - but both teams have significant momentum heading into Saturday's clash, with BVB winning Der Klassiker last time out.

How do Die Schwarzgelben and Die Schwaben compare? takes a closer look…

Germany strikers' dress rehearsal

Kai Havertz got the nod up front for Germany in their recent friendly victories over France and the Netherlands, but Niclas Füllkrug came off the bench to net the winner against the Dutch, and there is little question the No.9 jersey will be his this summer, whether or not he starts.

It was the Dortmund striker's 11th goal in 15 international outings since his belated debut under Hansi Flick in 2022, and with two assists thrown in for good measure, Füllkrug now has a direct goal-involvement inside every 50 minutes he has represented his country. As an out-and-out striker, his place in the squad looks safe.

Both Niclas Füllkrug (l.) and Deniz Undav (r.) are out to earn spots in Germany's Euro 2024 squad this summer. - Alex Grimm

His domestic showing hasn't been too shabby either, with 11 goals and eight assists in the Bundesliga. Füllkrug isn't the top-scoring German, however - that honour going to a player who will line up opposite him on Saturday in Deniz Undav.

Undav, like Füllkrug, took the tourist route to the top, the Brighton-owned man playing in the lower reaches of German football and the Belgian top flight before hitting top speed in Mercedes' hometown. Fourteen league goals later and he was handed his Germany debut in the win over France, dashing Turkey's hopes of capping him in the process.

"Deniz is very talented between the lines, someone who moves a lot in central positions and his passing is clean with the final pass," Füllkrug said of his new international teammate. "We've done one or two training sessions together and were on the same team. We worked quite well in harmony at times."

Watch: Undav - "Germany call-up a dream come true"

Room for two (or three)?

The fact Füllkrug and Undav can dovetail in training is testament to their differing profiles. Where Füllkrug is an out-and-out centre-forward, Undav sometimes plays deeper and has a No.9 of his own to play beside (or behind) at Stuttgart in Serhou Guirassy, who certainly knows where the goal is.

Guirassy has outscored both Füllkrug and Undav this season, with 11 more than the former and eight more than the latter. Only Harry Kane, with 31 goals for Bayern Munich, has managed more than Guirassy's 23, and the Guinean missed six games with injury.

Where Stuttgart fluctuate between playing Undav and Guirassy in tandem, or having the former tucked in behind alongside one of Enzo Millot, Jamie Leweling and Jeong Woo-yeong, Dortmund invariably line up with a three-man attack, with Füllkrug flanked by two pacy, skilful wingers.

Donyell Malen is the next deadliest player at BVB, while Jadon Sancho's return on loan from Manchester United in January was a welcome one. Julian Brandt can play further forward, and that's before mentioning wide men by trade in Karim Adeyemi and Jamie Bynoe-Gittens.

Watch: All of Guirassy's Bundesliga goals so far in 2023/24

But for all the support Füllkrug has, Stuttgart have scored eight more goals heading into this one (63 vs. 55).

Stuttgart keepers past and present

Trying to keep the aforementioned at bay on Saturday will be Gregor Kobel in one goal and Alexander Nübel in the other. Kobel was a Nübel predecessor at the MHPArena, spending two seasons with VfB before moving to Dortmund in 2021.

While at Stuttgart, Kobel made 91 league appearances and clocked 16 clean sheets. That represented 17.6 percent of his outings between the sticks for Stuttgart, although 11 shutouts and 37 games came in the second division as the Swiss goalkeeper helped VfB to promotion in 2019/20.

Considering Kobel was the final line of defence in a promotion-winning and then newly promoted Stuttgart side, and Nübel is now playing in a team gunning for the Champions League, their 2023/24 efforts make for better comparison.

Gregor Kobel (r.) played alongside the likes of Atakan Karazor (l.) when Stuttgart earned promotion to the top-flight in 2020. - Heiko Becker via www.imago-image

Nübel has delivered clean sheets in 28.6 percent of his 24 games, chalking up eight since arriving on loan from Bayern Munich in the summer. That's two better than Kobel, who has six from 23 (23 percent), but he has the highest save percentage in the league (78.8 percent) and has made 20 more stops (78) than his opposite number (58).

All-in-all, Dortmund - who have also conceded two fewer than Stuttgart - just about edge it in the goalkeeping department, as long as their No.1 is able to return from a stomach bug to reclaim his place from Alexander Meyer. 

Taking centre-stage

Immediately in front of Kobel, are Mats Hummels and Nico Schlotterbeck, who go into this game on the back of excellent performances in the 2-0 win over Bayern.

Hummels, in particular, was outstanding in keeping Kane at bay, the 35-year-old rolling back the years with a masterful performance. He was perfectly aided by the added pace of Schlotterbeck and the duo will again have a battle on their hands to stop Stuttgart's aforementioned forward-line.

Watch: Mats Hummels and Nico Schlotterbeck shut out Bayern

Meanwhile, the visitors have a cause for concern in the centre of defence, where captain Waldemar Anton - a potential successor of Hummels and partner to Schlotterbeck for Germany - misses out through suspension. 

With former Dortmund man Dan-Axel Zagadou and Anthony Rouault also absent due to injury, Hiroki Ito will likely be accompanied by either Pascal Stenzel or Leonidas Stergiou in a patched-up pairing.

That appears to mark up another win for Dortmund, but the contest ahead of them in midfield will be a far closer one to call.

Angelo Stiller (91.4 percent) and Atakan Karazor (91.53 percent) - another ex-Borussia player - sit third and fifth, respectively, on the division's list for most successful passes from open play, while Karazor (287) has also won the eighth most duels in the league.

They make for a formidable partnership and go up against another in the form of Emre Can and Marcel Sabitzer. The latter of the two 30-year-olds missed Dortmund's last two matches through suspension, and his return is a welcome one up against one of the best central midfield combinations currently operating in the top flight.

Watch: Bayern Munich 0-2 Borussia Dortmund - highlights

Terzić vs. Hoeneß

Speaking of two of the Bundesliga's best operators, Edin Terzić and Sebastian Hoeneß are already right up there when it comes to coaches.

Terzić made an immediate impact as Borussia boss by winning the DFB Cup and rescuing a Champions League spot in an interim capacity during the 2020/21 campaign – taking over in the wake of a 5-1 Stuttgart win in Dortmund, the club’s joint-heaviest home loss in the Bundesliga – and almost delivered the title in his first full campaign in charge last term.

A title-tilt hasn't followed this year but BVB are in the quarter-finals of the Champions League and have overhauled Leipzig into fourth, while they now have their sights on reining in both this weekend's opponents and Bayern before the season is out.

Hoeneß has been a revelation in Stuttgart, fulfilling on the promise he first showed with Bayern's second team, who made history as the first reserve team to win Germany's 3. Liga under his tutelage.

Watch: Stuttgart - from relegation fodder to Champions League contenders

Two seasons with Hoffenheim preceded his arrival at Stuttgart in April 2023, returning to where his playing career begun and eventually saving VfB from the drop.

A first full campaign is now careering towards the Champions League, but his credentials will now get one their sternest examinations up against Terzić.

Both 41, both looking to play expansive football, the pair share a great deal in common and should lock horns at the top of the table for years to come.