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On Thursday, VfB Stuttgart will play first from 2 games which will determine the future of the team. Its next rival will be Union Berlin and both teams will clash in game 1 of German Bundesliga relegation playoff. 

VfB Stuttgart finished the regular season in 1. Bundesliga on 16th place. It means that the Stuttgarters couldn’t yet be sure that they will stay in the league for the next season. At first, they have to win playoff with Union Berlin, the team from 2. Bundesliga which was 3rd after the last game day.

In the freshly-finished season, Union Berlin was just a few milimeters short from winning direct promotion to the 1. Bundesliga. Eventually, FC Koeln grabbed the 1st place and Paderborn 07 was second with 57 points – the same number as Union Berlin. The key factor was the better goal balance of Paderborn 07. That’s why Union Berlin can’t celebrate and go on holidays yet.

The team from the capital of Germany is distinguished by its performance in defence. During the season, Union lost only 33 goals which is the best result among all teams. When it comes to the offensive skills, Union Berlin is not so strong. Its best striker Sebastian Andersson scored 12 goals in 34 games and finished just on the 13th place in the rank of best 2. Bundesliga shooters. Other players who are responsible for providing Union’s strength are German youth national defender Marvin Friedrich, Polish experienced goalkeeper Rafał Gikiewicz, striker Sebastian Polter, another striker from Georgia Akaki Gogia and German midfielder Grischa Prömel.

VfB Stuttgart interim coach Niko Willig is aware of the importance of upcoming playoff games for his team.

– Union Berlin will be a tough nut to crack. They are strong at the back, and as a team there are very strong mentally and full of running. The lads are totally focused on the task ahead both in training and off the pitch, and can’t wait for the two matches. They know that they have to deliver, to block everything else out and be absolutely ready to put in a good performance – said Nico Willing, quoted by VfB’s official website.

In the first game against Union Berlin, VfB Stuttgart will have to deal without injured Andreas Beck and suspended Santiago Ascibar. On the other hand, Erik Thommy is back to work after healing the injury, as well as Steven Zuber.

Match stats
  • Since the play-off was reintroduced to determine the final promotion/relegation position between the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2, the top-flight team has retained their status on eight out of 10 occasions.
  • Neither five-time Bundesliga winners Stuttgart nor Union have contested the Bundesliga play-off before.
  • Gomez scored in the first leg of the 2016/17 play-off as Wolfsburg secured their survival with a 2-0 aggregate win over Eintracht Braunschweig. The 33-year-old finished the current campaign as Stuttgart’s top scorer on seven Bundesliga goals.
  • If they beat Stuttgart over two legs, Union will become the 56th team to play in the Bundesliga.
  • Union’s Andersson scored 12 Bundesliga 2 goals in 2018/19. Sebastian Polter was the club’s next best marksman with nine.
  • Kroos made 65 Bundesliga appearances for Werder Bremen between November 2010 and December 2015.
Probable line-ups

Stuttgart: Zieler – Pavard, Baumgartl, Kabak, Insua – Esswein, Aogo, Gentner (c), Sosa – Didavi – Gomez
Out: Ascacibar (suspended), Beck (knee), Maffeo (not considered), Thommy (ankle), Zuber (knee)
Doubtful: –
Coach: Nico Willig

Union: Gikiewicz – Trimmel (c), Friedrich, Hübner, Reichel – Kroos, Schmiedebach, Prömel – Zulj – Andersson, Polter
Out: Schönheim (knee)
Doubtful: –
Coach: Urs Fischer

Bundesliga relegation playoff, VfB Stuttgart – Union Berlin,
Thursday, May 23nd, start: 8:30 p.m. CET.

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