bundesliga

VfB Stuttgart: welcome back to the Bundesliga!

After a one-year absence from the top flight, VfB Stuttgart have bounced straight back to the Bundesliga for the second time in four years and the three-time champions will be hoping their latest return is a permanent one.

Stuttgart confirmed their Bundesliga promotion on Matchday 34 despite a 3-1 loss to Darmstadt, ending their solitary season in Bundesliga 2 following their relegation at the end of the 2018/19 campaign.

They went down last year after losing to Union Berlin in the relegation play-off, but they won’t have to go through that same process this time around, having secured automatic promotion alongside champions Arminia Bielefeld.

Die Schwaben have enjoyed a fine season and haven’t been out of the top-three since they moved second on Matchday 3.They were even top for three weeks earlier in the campaign under then coach Tim Walter, who was eventually replaced by American Pellegrino Matarazzo in December.

Stuttgart's American coach Pellegrino Matarazzo (l.) previously worked with now RB Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann (r.) at Hoffenheim. - Hasan Bratic/DeFodi.de/imago/DeFodi

Under the former Hoffenheim assistant, Stuttgart have enjoyed a thoroughly good 2020 - winning eight of their 17 league games as they sealed an immediate return to the German top flight and Matarazzo fixed a reunion with his old boss Julian Nagelsmann.

Derby defeat to Karlsruhe on Matchday 31 briefly knocked Stuttgart out of the top two and threatened to derail their promotion bid, but their response was emphatic, hammering Sandhausen 5-1 a week later and then Nuremberg 6-0 on the penultimate matchday of the season to all-but guarantee Bundesliga football in 2020/21.

While Matarazzo is in his first gig as head coach, Stuttgart’s playing core has plenty of Bundesliga experience, courtesy of old Bayern pair and Germany internationals Holger Badstuber and Mario Gomez - who have lifted the Meisterschale nine times between them - as well as Gonzalo Castro (Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen), Daniel Didavi (Wolfsburg) and captain Marc-Oliver Kempf (Freiburg, Eintracht Frankfurt).

Stuttgart pair Holger Badstuber (2nd l.) and Mario Gomez (2nd r.) have won the Bundesliga title nine times between them. - Boris Streubel/Getty Images for DFL

But it is Nicolas Gonzalez who has fired the Stuttgart engine this season. The 22-year-old Argentine - who played 30 times and scored twice as VfB were relegated in his first year in Germany last term - has truly found his feet, scoring a team-best 14 goals and laying on three assists for the campaign.

His form at the business end of the season has been particularly impressive, with Gonzalez hitting eight goals in nine outings since the league’s restart.

Watch: Stuttgart's top 5 goals this season

Former player and fan favourite Thomas Hitzlsperger has overseen the Stuttgart promotion charge from the VfB boardroom as the club’s chief executive and he will now lead their bid to remain in the Bundesliga once the new season begins.

Their last stay in the top-flight was short-lived, spending just two seasons in the Bundesliga after their last promotion in 2016-17 before relegation just over a year ago.

A 39-year stint at the top table - and three Bundesliga titles - preceded that demotion and Stuttgart will be hoping that their return will usher in a similar period of both longevity and success for one of the most storied clubs in the history of German football.

Welcome back Stuttgart!