Sold out Volksparkstadion awaits historic duel with Stuttgart
Second-placed VfB Stuttgart are the visitors to first-placed Hamburger SV on Saturday, a fixture steeped in tradition and rivalry, ready for its next outing.
Saturday afternoon. 1:00pm kick-off. 57,000 people packed into the Volksparkstadion. The conditions could hardly be more ideal for a top-of-the-table clash in Bundesliga 2. VfB Stuttgart are the visitors to Fortress Volksparkstadion on Saturday (26th October), as two of German football’s traditional giants meet in the second division for the first time ever. The visitors from Swabia are enjoying an extended stay in the Hanseatic city, with the cup tie against the Rothosen following the match-up in the league on Tuesday evening. Whilst still at an early stage of the season, with ten games having been played in the league, the doubleheader against Stuttgart feels like a real litmus test for the Rothosen, after the point gained in an entertaining affair in Bielefeld on Monday night. With one point separating the two sides at the top of the 2. Liga table, the symbolic as well as mathematical importance of the match-up is clear to both Tim Walter and Dieter Hecking. Whilst pre-match predictions remain difficult, one thing is clear; a footballing feast filled with tension and atmosphere is guaranteed.
Focus on the visitors
The past three years have been somewhat difficult for Stuttgart fans. Having won the Bundesliga title as recently as 2007 and played in the Europa League in the 2013/14 season, Stuttgart established themselves as one of the top teams in German football at the beginning of the new millennium, with Joachim Löw, Sami Khedira and Mario Gomez amongst others gracing the Mercedes-Benz Arena with their presence. Gomez returned as the prodigal son in 2018, having seen from afar how the club was first relegated in 2016, before bouncing back up at the first time of asking under former VfB and HSV coach Hannes Wolf. The team surpassed all predictions to finish in seventh position under Tayfun Korkut with Gomez back up front for the end of the 2017/18 campaign, only missing out on Europe due to Eintracht Frankfurt’s victory in the DFB Pokal final.
With a raft of new, exciting signings to join established names such as Benjamin Pavard and Holger Badstuber, expectations were riding high in Baden-Württemberg at the beginning of the previous campaign. Yet neither Korkut, his successor Markus Weinzierl or his successor Nico Willig could inspire the team to any kind of success, finishing the season in 16th position, before losing the resulting relegation play-off on away goals to Union Berlin. Ex-Kiel coach Tim Walter was tasked with taking the Swabians straight back up, and has gone about his task with success thus far. His side sat in first position after winning at Arminia Bielefeld on Matchday 8, making it six wins and two draws from the first eight games. Yet an inexplicable 2-1 home loss to Wehen Wiesbaden, where it could have ended 5-1 to the Swabians, followed by a 1-0 home loss last time out to Holstein Kiel, have seen the wind taken out of the sails for the Red and Whites.
‘Walterball’, as it is known in Germany, has become something of a myth and a calling card for Tim Walter, having been developed during his time as Bayern Munich’s under-23 manager and during his one season in charge of Holstein Kiel in 2018/19. Opposition scouts and managers alike have been baffled by the system, where, after playing the ball forwards, the centre backs move with the play and look for the return pass rather than staying in their ‘natural’ positions. The full-backs move into the space vacated by the centre halves, whilst the central midfielders move to the flanks.
The flexibility of the system, as well as Walter’s tactical flexibility, mean it is hard to say what the Rothosen can expect on Saturday lunchtime. The last three Stuttgart games have seen them line up in a 4-3-2-1 against Bielefeld, a 4-3-1-2 against Wiesbaden and a 4-3-3 against Kiel. What is certain, is that Stuttgart are missing a number of key players, with creative midfielder Daniel Didavi and clinical striker Hamadi Al Ghaddioui sidelined and former Germany centre back Holger Badstuber having to watch from the stands after his red card last weekend. Despite the absentees, the Swabians certainly have the talent to create havoc in the second division. Philipp Förster has settled into life quickly in Stuttgart having moved down the autobahn from Sandhausen, whilst Nicólas González is a constant threat either as a false 9 or an attacking midfielder. The amount of goals that Mario Gomez has scored for club and country throughout his illustrious career means a watchful eye should always is always needed on the 34-year-old.
Hunt eyes return as Pollersbeck and Amaechi face Altona 93
The injury list at HSV is shortening, with Jan Gyamerah officially beginning his recovery from his broken fibula this week, whilst Christoph Moritz is available for selection once again after breaking his collarbone a mere two months ago. Aaron Hunt is ‘chomping at the bit’, in the words of Dieter Hecking, to get back into action yet the 54-year-old could not confirm at Thursday’s press conference if the club captain would play on Saturday, saying an appearance in the cup on Tuesday was more likely. Julian Pollersbeck and Xavier Amaechi shall continue to enjoy game time with the under-21 side, who face Altona 93 in the Regionalliga Nord on Friday evening, but should both be available for selection on Saturday. After Monday night’s draw in Bielefeld took them to 21 points, one point ahead of Stuttgart and two ahead of Bielefeld, the Rothosen will be hoping to stretch their advantage at the top with an impressive showing on Matchday 11.
Dieter Hecking on the impact the sold-out crowd can make: “There are 57,000 spectators, that are coming to the stadium on Saturday afternoon. That represents everything that I’ve seen from HSV so far. It’s a motivated fan base that doesn’t just turn up when it’s going well but also has their back when it’s not going as well. The past has shown we can rely on our fans. We want to play attractive football, perform at our best so they understand why we’re top at the moment. To do that, we need the fans, even when it’s not going well, which can happen against a top team like Stuttgart.
HSV and Stuttgart have faced off as first and second-placed before. However, the year was 1984, and HSV needed a win and a five-goal swing to snatch the Bundesliga title away from VfB Stuttgart on the final day of the season at the Neckarstadion. Jürgen Milewski scored the only goal of the game, but it wasn’t enough for HSV to secure their third Bundesliga in a row.
Hamburger SV and VfB Stuttgart have faced off 104 times in the Bundesliga, with HSV winning 44, Stuttgart 38 and 22 draws. This is the first meeting between the two sides in the second tier.
Stuttgart are yet to be beaten away from home this season, picking up two wins and two draws. Only Arminia Bielfeld, with 2.6 points per away game, have a better record on the road.
Where can I watch the game?
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USA: Fox Soccer Match Pass