When SV Wehen Wiesbaden welcome VfB Stuttgart to the BRITA-Arena on Sunday 17 May, it will be the first game in their history to be played behind closed doors. It will surely be a memorable occasion, and the Swabian side's glorious history makes them worthy opponents.
History: With a population of 632,743 (as of December 2018), Stuttgart is the largest city in Baden-Württemberg and the state capital as well. The "Verein für Bewegungsspiele 1893 e.V.", which had 70,000 members as of July 2019 and is the largest sports association in the state, is based there too. VfB Stuttgart was founded on 2 April 1912 following a merger between FV Stuttgart and Kronen-Klub Cannstatt. The club originated in Bad Cannstatt, and it is still based there today. The Swabians have won the German title five times in their long and successful history, while the DFB Cup trophy has been brought back to Cannstatt on three occasions too.
The stadium: The Mercedes-Benz Arena is located near the Cannstatter Wasen, where – with the exception of 2020 – the Swabian Folk Festival takes place twice a year. VfB's home stadium, which is nicknamed the Neckarstadion by football fans across the region, has a capacity of 60,449 – making it the largest arena in the German second tier.
The coach: Tim Walter was handed the job as the Stuttgart head coach in the summer. Six months later – one day before Christmas Eve – he was sacked by the Swabians and replaced in the dugout by Pellegrino Matarazzo. An American native with Italian roots, Matarazzo played for SVWW across two spells – from 2001 to 2003, and from 2004 to 2005. He began his coaching career at 1. FC Nuremberg, starting with the reserves and later coaching several youth teams at the "Club". He then became a youth coach at TSG Hoffenheim, before working his way up to become an assistant coach to Julian Nagelsmann and Alfred Schreuder. The Stuttgart job is his first as a head coach.
Personnel matters: With 147 caps between them, the players in the Stuttugart squad trail only Hamburg (205 caps) in terms of most international experience in the Bundesliga 2. With the likes of Mario Gomez, Daniel Didavi, Marc Oliver Kempf, Holger Badstuder and several others, the squad is brimming with established Bundesliga players. The Swabians were less active in the winter transfer market than the summer. Only the Argentinian contingent lost two members: Santioago Ascacibar moved from the state capital to the federal capital to join Hertha BSC, while Emiliano Insua went stateside to join LA Galaxy. Clinton Mola was signed from the Chelsea U23s to replace Ascacibar.
The scenario: The defeat against Greuther Fürth two rounds ago, which actually occurred some two and a half months ago, was the first league loss since the start of December. But the men from Stuttgart still find themselves in second place, six points behind league leaders Arminia Bielefeld. SVWW pulled off a coup in the reverse fixture with a 2-1 away win. Should the Red & Blacks repeat that feat at the weekend, it could well be another significant blow to the Swabians' promotion aspirations.