The two oldest coaches in the division are set to pit their tactical wits against each other at the Mercedes-Benz-Arena, while Saturday's game also represents a contest between two of the league's most traditional clubs. Indeed, both Stuttgart and Gladbach have a longstanding tradition of attacking football to honour, regardless of league position, and face off with every intention of beginning the second half of the campaign with a bang...
With four of the five teams above them playing each other on Matchday 18, Stuttgart could climb into 12th place with three points. Ending the weekend there would provide concrete evidence of Huub Stevens' (l.) belief that his charges have taken 'a step in the right direction'. However, Lucien Favre's Gladbach arrive with the intention of laying down an early marker in the chase for the top four.
The south-western side's efforts to escape the lower regions of the table will not be helped by the unavailability of key personnel. Antonio Rüdiger (r.), Daniel Didavi and Carlos Gruezo are still training separately, while Daniel Ginczek has been given a run-out for the Under-23 side. Stevens did confirm though that striker Vedad Ibisevic, out since 18 October, is 'ready' for the game.
Lucien Favre has also had to plan for the Rückrunde opener without key players. Former Stuttgart star is preparing for an Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final, while Andre Hahn's achilles injury rules him out. Doubts also surround Thorgan Hazard (l.) and Alvaro Dominguez after the pair missed Wednesday's training session through illness.
The return of Vedad Ibisevic (r.) to fitness could prove crucial in Stuttgart's attempts to avoid the drop. The Bosnia-Herzegovina international, who featured in the first eight games of the Hinrunde before injury, struck ten times in the 2013/14 campaign. His comeback will also allow Martin Harnik to return to his natural midfield role.
After missing the final two games of the Hinrunde through injury, and the concomitant opportunity to add to his three goals, Gladbach attacker Raffael (l.) will be intent on reaping the rewards of his extended break. The Brazilian's svelte link-up play with striker Max Kruse has become even more important in an attacking trio shorn of the pace of widemen Traore and Hahn.
An unbeaten winter for Stevens' side brought eye-catching victories over Bundesliga 2 outfits 1. FC Heidenheim, 1. FC Nürnberg, as well as KF Laci. It wasn't such plain sailing for the Foals, however, whose preparations were soured after successive defeats at the hands of SV Werder Bremen and Genclerbirligi SK, despite recording three wins in five games.
Historically, this fixture has very much gone the way of Stuttgart. Indeed, in the 33 encounters since the 1995/96 season, Gladbach have only picked up three wins to VfB's 17, and only FC Bayern München have inflicted more defeats on the Foals (45) than Stuttgart (37). On Matchday 1 of this season, it took a last-minute strike from Christoph Kramer (r.) to rescue Favre's men a 1-1 draw.
VfB Stuttgart: Ulreich - Schwaab, Baumgartl, Niedermeier, Hlousek - Romeu, Gentner - Klein, Maxim, Harnik - Ibisevic
Borussia Mönchengladbach: Sommer - Korb, Stranzl, Jantschke, Dominguez - Kramer, G. Xhaka - Herrmann, Hazard - Raffael - M. Kruse
Check out the top ten goals to kick off the second half of a season, courtesy of the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel: