Both sides are desperate for points with results over the weekend in the 2. Bundesliga so far not going in their favour.
Can Karlsruhe maintain their strong defensive record and recall the spirit of 2007, or will die Roten be able to summon up that extra bit of quality and bring about a repeat of their 3-0 win in November?
Eichner remains calm ahead of big derby
Christian Eichner’s side have made slow and steady progress since the restart and the defeat last week against Erzebirge Aue was their first since March. They dropped back to 17th though after Wehen Wiesbaden’s win on Saturday and it’s a lack of attacking threat – Philipp Hoffmann’s 13 goals and Marvin Wanitzek’s 11 assists – that’s holding them back. They have scored just eight goals in the Rückrunde, although only Arminia Bielefeld and Stuttgart have conceded less than 14 Karlsruhe have let in.
Ahead of the weekend, speaking at his press conference on Friday, Eichner, still officially only caretaker manager, is relaxed about their position in the table. “We are in a position which we at least want to hold onto,” he said, “and we are still within striking distance of a position that would guarantee us automatic survival.”
He is also calm about facing one of the club’s biggest rivals in a derby that would be fiercely anticipated by the club’s fans in normal times. He says there is “a normal tension” ahead of the meeting but “it would be another thing if the stadium were full, it would be a different atmosphere than it is now in such a derby.”
He feels the pressure is all on Stuttgart, however his side have a poor recent record against Die Roten, with six defeats, all by a margin of at least two goals, since a 1-0 win in the Bundesliga in September 2007 thanks to a lone goal from Tamás Hajnal. Eichner himself played in that match, but rejects calling on that game to inspire his team here. “We have to concentrate on the here and now,” he feels. “This game doesn’t have that much to do with that time, it’s a different league and mostly different players.”
Hofmann, heavily missed against Aue, returns from suspension and will almost certainly lead the attack. There is a chance that 20-year-old Dominik Kother, who impressed in a brief cameo last week, could be fitted into the starting line-up. Choi Kyoung-rok remains out, whilst Janis Hanek, who hasn’t been in recent squads anyway, is also out with a suspected ACL tear.
Matarazzo hints at Gómez return
After victories against Hamburger SV and Dynamo Dresden, it looked that Stuttgart were finally on course for promotion, however a 0-0 last week against VfL Osnabrück was another wasted opportunity in a season full of them, and Hamburg’s win on Friday means they go into this game back in third place, whilst 1. FC Heidenheim also won on Saturday to keep up the pressure behind them.
“There is a lot at stake. We know how important this game is,” says Pellegrino Matarazzo, aware of the double importance of the game in terms of the promotion chase and local bragging rights. “It’s not just about winning the derby, it’s also about promotion. We want to fight passionately for both.”
He is wary of Karlsruhe’s style, exactly the kind of football that is side struggle to play against. They are, under Eichner, “extremely stabilised and have only conceded ten goals in ten games. They are very compact and defend with 100% effort after losing the ball.” To counter that, he thinks he side will need “deep running paths, one-on-one situations and the courage to lose the ball and to conquer it again by counter-pressing.”
The attacking trio of Philipp Förster, Nicólas González and Hamadi Al Ghaddioui looked very ordinary against Osnabrück and inevitably eyes are focused on Mario Gómez, who has played just five minutes in Stuttgart’s last three games, but Matarazzo hinted he will have a bigger role here. “I am very impressed with his willingness to work hard and give everything for the team,” he explained. “Even if he only came on a short mission recently, you could tell in those minutes that he was ready.”
Another player who should be ready is Daniel Didavi, who has missed the last three games through suspension and injury, who could give the attack extra quality if he is in the mood. Matarazzo will have to do without Maxime Awoudja, whilst left-back Borna Sosa has now been ruled out for the remainder of the season, meaning Englishman Clinton Mola will likely continue at left-back.
Date: Sunday 14th June 2020
Kick-Off: 13:30 CEST, 12:30 BST, 07:30 EDT
Watch: Sky Sport Bundesliga 3 (Germany and Austria), BT Sport 2 (UK and Republic of Ireland), Fox Soccer Match Pass (USA)
This will not be an easy game for Stuttgart. There is some potential for an upset, but they will probably have too much for a Karlsruhe side. A narrow 1-0 away win can be expected.