Promoted back to Germany's footballing elite in 2017, three-time Bundesliga champions VfB Stuttgart are starting to show signs of their previous best and with evergreen striker Mario Gomez leading from the front, the Swabians' are looking to improve on their impressive seventh-place finish last term.
As the club's full name VfB Stuttgart 1893 eV suggests, they were originally formed in 1893, although the current club is the result of a merger of Stuttgarter Fußballverein and Kronen-Club Cannstatt on 2 April 1912. They moved into their current stadium – then known as the Neckar Stadium – in 1933 and went on to win two national titles before the Bundesliga's inception in 1963, with Stuttgart one of the newly-created German top-flight's founding members.
They were one of the last clubs to turn fully professional, with many players holding down regular jobs in their early years, but as they became increasingly successful – qualifying for the UEFA Cup for the first time in 1973 – professionalism was inevitable, and it came a few years later, after the shock of relegation to the second division shook the club's foundations. They bounced back to win their first Bundesliga title in 1984 and remained one of the league's strongest clubs through to winning another title in 1992, and for many years to come.
After another period of struggle, former Hamburg legend Felix Magath came in and delivered Champions League football in 2003/04, but it was Armin Veh who surprised many by guiding them to their third Bundesliga title in 2007, although success has remained elusive in the intervening years, which also included relegation to Bundesliga 2 in 2016.
3x Bundesliga champions (1984, 1992, 2007)
3x DFB Cup winners (1954, 1958, 1997)
2x Intertoto Cup winners (2000, 2002)
Tayfun Korkut may not have been a popular choice to replace Hannes Wolf in January, with his CV hardly glowing upon arrival. Disappointing results at Bayer Leverkusen and Hannover raised some eyebrows when he was brought in to save a side just four points above the automatic relegation berths, but a return of seven points from his first three games started to sway opinion slowly in his favour.
What Korkut succeeded in doing was getting the best out of seasoned striker Mario Gomez and Daniel Ginczek in a 4-4-2 system which may, at first glance, appear unadventurous, but exalted the Swabian side's strengths. His tactical tinkering also led to the genius idea of advancing Holger Badstuber into a defensive midfield position, and even more intelligent decision to move him back again – when the opponent's strategy dictated it. This tactical flexibility provided solid foundations - they conceded a league low 15 goals in the second half of the season – upon which his success was built.
The Stuttgart-born former Turkey international is delivering on the promise he showed in his early career, but which for one reason or another had been unable to produce at his previous clubs, who had nevertheless held him in high esteem.
Gomez has written history for Stuttgart – twice. In his first spell, he delivered 63 goals between 2005 and 2009, tempting Bayern Munich to lure him away from his adoring fans, who nevertheless kept a place for him in their hearts. And so it was that, eight and a half years later, Gomez returned 'home' and did what he does best: score goals. Eight in 16 games not only pushed Stuttgart up the table, but earned him a recall to the Germany national team for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The 2007 Bundesliga player of the year has three Bundesliga titles – one with Stuttgart and two with Bayern – and a UEFA Champions League winners' medal to his name. Despite being 33, he still very much knows where the goal is, and Stuttgart can continue to count on his goals.
Watch: Gomez's top 3 goals
2017/18 was the proverbial season of two halves. Following promotion back to the top flight, the Swabians struggled up to the winter break, winning just five and losing 10 of their 17 fixtures to be left hovering just two points above the drop zone. The club reacted to a slow start to 2018 by replacing coach Wolf with Korkut, and it proved to be an inspired choice.
The tactician transformed Stuttgart's fortunes in such a way that they finished second only to champions Bayern over the final 17 games of the season, picking up 34 points with just three defeats. Their rise very nearly led them into Europe and they faced an agonising wait to discover whether they would indeed mark their return to the top flight with UEFA Europa League qualification. Eintracht Frankfurt's surprise DFB Cup win over Bayern dashed their hopes, however, with the Eagles qualifying for Europe. Nevertheless, 51 points was a haul to be proud of, and something to be built upon.
The Mercedes-Benz Arena has recently undergone a major renovation which boosted the capacity to 60,449, 11,225 of which are dedicated to standing fans in areas where hide-away seats can be slid into place in seconds to ensure fixtures where standing is not permitted, such as UEFA club competitions, can have an all-seater capacity of 54,812.
As part of the renovation, all stands were raised to the same level, with the entire roof being replaced. This latest renovation work concluded in 2011 with Schalke beaten 3-0 in the first fixture following its reopening.
Watch: Take a look around Stuttgart's Mercedes-Benz Arena
Stuttgart’s history began just yards away from the Mercedes-Benz Arena, in Bad Cannstatt, the home of a Roman citadel from around 85/90 AD. Now the capital of Baden-Württemberg, industry has taken over in Stuttgart, the home to car manufacturers Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, and museums have been created to document the history of two of Germany’s most famous vehicle exports.
Stuttgart airport, in nearby Echterdingen, is a comfortable half-hour ride from the centre of the city via a regular S-Bahn – or subway – service, which also continues on to Bad Cannstatt – the closest station to the stadium – without needing to change train. Located just off the A8 motorway, which sweeps round to the south of the Baden-Württemberg capital, road connections are also efficient. Furthermore, Frankfurt airport is just over an hour away by high-speed train, while Munich can be reached in little over two hours.
Getting to the Mercedes-Benz Arena
Public transport is the best way to reach the Mercedes-Benz Arena, with a variety of options ensuring access to the venue. The aforementioned S-Bahn (S1) train stops at the NeckarPark station on matchdays, but Bad Cannstatt – which can be reached on two other lines – S2 and S3 – is just a 15-minute walk away. Furthermore, subway trains also operate exceptionally before and after matches to the nearby NeckarPark station, just a few minutes' walk from the entrance gates.
There are several multi-storey car parks within a ten-minute walk of the stadium, for those who prefer to arrive by private car. From the south, and the A8 motorway, the B10 towards the city centre should be followed, with the stadium exit clearly marked. A large parking area on the grounds of the city's annual Wasen beer festival is also available close to the B10/B14 highway.
Tickets can still be bought via the official club website HERE.
Can’t make it? Watch here:
If you can’t make it to the stadium, Bundesliga matches are broadcast around the world. FOX Sports and Univision provide coverage in the United States, while BT Sports are the exclusive broadcaster in the United Kingdom. In Germany, Sky Sports show the majority of matches, with Eurosport hosting one match per week.
Buy the kit
You can get your own Stuttgart jersey from the official club shop.