VfB Stuttgart will be hoping to carry on where they left off before the winter break by picking up a win away to 1. FC Köln on Saturday (kick-off 15.30CET/14.30GMT) and continuing their rise up the table.
The Swabians recorded an impressive 3-1 victory over VfL Wolfsburg on Matchday 17, but Jürgen Kramny, appointed as permanent head coach at the end of last year, needs to build on that result if VfB are to avoid a prolonged relegation tussle.
Hosts Köln have no such concerns, however, with a win potentially enough to move Peter Stöger's men into the top six and on course for a place in Europe next season.
Stuttgart were punished for their profligacy as they fell to a 3-1 defeat at home to Köln, getting their season off to a disappointing start in front of an expectant crowd at the Mercedes-Benz Arena.
Matchday 18 - match facts
- There has not been a home win in the last 18 meetings between these two sides, with ten away wins and eight draws – a Bundesliga record.
- Stuttgart have failed to win any of their last five games against Köln (three draws, two defeats).
- Köln have just played their best Hinrunde in 15 years – the last time they got more than 24 points was in 2000/01 (25).
- Stuttgart are on a three-game unbeaten streak in the Bundesliga, and have also reached the quarter-finals of the DFB Cup.
- Köln scored ten of their 18 goals this season in the final quarter of an hour of matches.
- Kramny picked up five points in his first four games in charge of Stuttgart – his predecessor Alexander Zorniger needed nine games to reach that mark.
- Striker Simon Zoller has already scored as many goals for Köln this season (four) than he did in the entire 2014/15 campaign.
- Christian Gentner has scored more goals against Köln (four) than against any other side in the Bundesliga.
- Köln forward Anthony Modeste ended an eight-game drought with his goal in the Billy Goats' last game of the Hinrunde, which was also his first goal as a substitute.
Köln: Horn - Olkowski, Maroh, Heintz, Hector - Risse, M. Lehmann, Gerhardt, Bittencourt - Osako, Modeste
Stuttgart: Tyton - Klein, Schwaab, Niedermeier, Insua - Serey Die, Gentner - Rupp, Didavi, Kostic - Werner
Absentees: Harnik (knee ligaments), Ginczek (back), Toni Sunjic (suspended),