VfB Stuttgart were runaway 4-1 winners when the two sides met on Matchday 31 of the 2011/12 campaign...
VfB Stuttgart were runaway 4-1 winners when the two sides met on Matchday 31 of the 2011/12 campaign...


Bremen - Two Bundesliga staples harbouring lofty ambitions collide on Sunday evening (kick-off 17:30 CEST) as Werder Bremen welcome VfB Stuttgart to the Weser Stadion, with both sides having made below-par starts to the new campaign.

Must do better

Eleventh-placed Werder have fared marginally better than Bruno Labbadia's struggling Stuttgart, who started Matchday 4's round of fixtures third from bottom with just a single point to their name.

The last meeting between the two clubs, on Matchday 31 of the 2011/12 campaign, went a long way to deciding which of the two would qualify for the UEFA Europa League. The Swabians took the honours on that occasion and should really be looking for a similar finish as a bare minimum this time around.

A place in the top seven certainly seems a long way off at present, though. For starters, they need to pull themselves out of the bottom three and, to do so, show more of the fighting spirit on display in Thursday night's Europa League 2-2 draw against Romanian league leaders Steaua Bucharest.

Moving on up

Understandably, Werder coach Thomas Schaaf also has designs on a European berth. His side fell six points short of seventh-placed Hannover 96 last term, but the new-look Green and Whites have already shown glimpses to suggest they're ready to climb a couple of rungs higher up the ladder come May.

They may only have a Northern derby win over SV Hamburger to their name so far, but they ran champions Borussia Dortmund and Hannover 96 very close indeed on Matchdays 1 and 3 respectively.

Advantage Werder?

There's no doubting the talent in the Stuttgart camp. The key to their Bundesliga revival could therefore be how well Labbadia and his troops handle the strain of playing twice in the space of three days. A trip to Bremen after Thursday's gruelling battle with Bucharest should be a good indicator of that.

So does that swing the pendulum in Werder's favour? Arguably, you'd have to think so. They've had an entire week to recharge the batteries after last Saturday's narrow defeat to Hannover, a game they were hugely unfortunate to lose, and the early signs are that Marko Arnautovic and Co. certainly won't struggle for goals as the battle for European football hots up.

Christopher Mayer-Lodge