MatchDay 33 takes place this weekend, with all 18 Bundesliga teams playing Saturday with all matches kicking off at the same time. VfB Stuttgart, guaranteed a Europa League spot, will travel to the Allianz Arena to match up with Bayern Munich in the south German derby. Bayern are through to the Champions League final thanks to their performance in Madrid Wednesday and are safely secured in the Bundesliga table’s 2nd berth. And while Stuttgart have guaranteed themselves Europa League football for next season, it would be much preferable if they maintained their fifth spot in the table which would guarantee automatic qualification into the Europa competition. After wandering aimlessly in the desert of chaos and ineptitude following their almost double season of 2006-2007, during which they won the league championship but lost by a goal to Nurnberg in the DFB Pokal final, Stuttgart are climbing back to respectability.
Recently the fixture between the two clubs hasn’t been much of a matchup, as the Bavarians have dominated their Swabian counterparts. Bayern Munich edged Stuttgart in December 2-1 and eliminated them from the DFB Pokal in the quarterfinals 2-1. Last season Bayern Munich finished their Hinrunde by beating the Swabians 5-3 on December 19, and three days later eliminated Stuttgart from the Pokal 6-3. The teams ended that season with Bayern prevailing 2-1 at the Allianz on MatchDay 34. Bayern have beaten their fellow south Germans five consecutive times.
Stuttgart fans can hold out some hope, though, as they did beat the Bavarians two years ago in an April match at the Allianz, with Ciprian Marica providing the winning goal. And with 2nd place secure, one wonders how many players Bayern head man Jupp Heynckes will rest in anticipation of the May 12 DFB Pokal final against Borussia Dortmund and the Champions league final a week later with Chelsea. Heycknes rested some of his starters April 14 in the scoreless draw with Mainz for the Champions League series with Real Madrid, seemingly to great effect. It would appear logical that the 66 year-old might do the same against Stuttgart with such two such huge matches upcoming in May, especially considering that the players and staff didn’t return home until midafternoon Thursday after their exhausting 120 minute match in Madrid. Heynckes released his players to head home shortly after arrival on Säbener Strasse, only taking time for a celebration with fans gathered. As Bastian Schweinsteiger commented, “We are dead, but overjoyed.”
On the other hand, Stuttgart veteran Christian Gentner knows the importance of the derby to both clubs. “There’s a lot at stake for us but Bayern will be up for the match too. The rivalry between VfB and Bayern is always an issue.” Quoted on the Stuttgart official website, Gentner added that “we want to take something from the game against Bayern and secure fifth place.”
Stuttgart come into Saturday’s derby looking to extend their ten match unbeaten streak, but Cacau, Sven Ulreich, Serdar Tasci, Khalid Boulahrouz and Johann Audel missed Tuesday’s practice. Stuttgart lead Bayer Leverkusen by two points, and Hannover by five, in the battle for the Europa League 5th place automatic EL qualifier spot. Leverkusen hosts the 96ers Saturday. Stuttgart finish their season at home against Wolfsburg, while Bayern Munich journey to Koln to face the Billy Goats on the league’s final matchday.
The south German derby will be streamed live in the U.S. on ESPN 3 beginning at 9:30 am ET. The ESPN site will also stream the Gladbach-Augsburg match at the same time. GolTV will televise the Kaiserslautern-Dortmund match also at 9:30 am ET Saturday, and will televise the important Schalke-Hertha Berlin fixture Saturday on a delayed basis beginning at 2:00 pm ET. Friends of the Fanatic Juan Arango and George Metullus will be doing the Schalke-Hertha commentary.