Good evening everyone! Ready for a classic relegation six-pointer? Well, this promises to be a vital game in the Bundesliga tonight as bottom club Stuttgart host Hertha Berlin
. Just five points separate these two sides.
Seven league games without a win is relegation form. There's no doubt about it, and Huub Stevens
needs to produce a response from his Stuttgart squad sooner rather than later. The weeks will pass by very quickly if they continue with this run. A victory tonight could be a turning point.
Hertha claimed a vital win over Augsburg last weekend to earn some breathing space, but they remain just one point clear of the bottom three. If Pal Dardai
's side can secure a victory this evening, the pressure will be piled onto the teams in the relegation zone.
STUTTGART: Ulreich, Schwaab, Niedermeier, Klein, Kostic, Werner, Gentner, Hlousek, Serey Dié, Ginczek, Maxim
Stevens makes two changes to his side as Filip Kostic and Adam Hlousek both return to the starting lineup. Martin Harnik misses out due to suspension, while Vedad Ibisevic is on the bench.
© Getty Images
HERTHA: Kraft, Pekarik, Langkamp, Brooks, Plattenhardt, Lustenberger, Heitinga, Beerens, Hegeler, Stocker, Kalou
Dardai decides against sticking with a winning side as Jens Hegeler, Johnny Heitinga and Valentin Stocker all return to the side at the Mercedes Benz Arena. Salomon Kalou leads the line once again following his winner against Augsburg last weekend.
When these two sides last met in October a brace from Kalou helped Hertha secure a 3-2 victory in a thrilling match. Let's hope we see similar entertainment tonight. Stuttgart have the poorest home record in the league, while Hertha are the Bundesliga's worst away side.
PREDICTION: It's a very difficult one to call tonight. A win could make a huge difference at the bottom of the table, and it could come down to who risks the most. I'm sitting on the fence. 2-2.
Heitinga looks set to play in midfield for Hertha tonight, and his role is certainly an important one. Alexandru Maxim has the ability to pull the strings for Stuttgart when he drops deeper, so the Dutchman will have to be alert. That will surely be a key battle.
Here we go then. Both sides are out on the pitch, and the handshakes are out of the way. It will be Hertha who get the game underway.
YELLOW CARD! Incredible. Heitinga runs across Werner to block the Stuttgart attacker with an elbow and he's booked inside 30 seconds. He's under huge pressure now.
We've had a minute without a booking, which has to be a positive. Hertha have started brightly going forward, but neither side have been able to retain possession for an extended spell.
Poor from Plattenhardt. Hertha enjoy a long spell on top and win a corner, but the delivery from the set piece is terrible as Stuttgart relieve the pressure.
Lovely football from Kostic, who cuts in from the left wing to evade a couple of challenges before hitting a low effort straight at Kraft. The home fans applaud a fine run.
Stuttgart are beginning to come into the game a bit more. It's the hosts who are seeing more of the ball, but they're struggling to get Maxim involved further up the pitch. Hertha are defending well.
Werner has started the match on the left, but he's eager to come inside as much as possible. A clever touch earns him enough space to drag a shot wide from 25 yards.
Much better from Plattenhardt, who delivers the free kick in a good position to cause problems. The ball is hit back across the box, but Brooks can't get a shot away. Kalou then heads straight at Ulreich from a long throw.
I mentioned before the game that it could come down to who risks more this evening. Neither side appear too eager to commit many men forward in the early stages, which is understandable. The first goal will be vital.
CHANCE! Great opportunity for the hosts as a Kostic cross somehow manages to reach Werner, who can only hit an effort wide at the back post. He has to hit the target. Poor from the youngster.
Hertha a furious when Plattenhardt is penalised for a foul on Kostic. He did get the ball, but the full-back followed through to catch the winger on the shin. It's a nasty one and Stuttgart have a free kick in a good position.
Stuttgart keep the pressure on after the free kick is cleared, and a positive run from Werner earns a corner. Hlousek eventually gets the ball on the wing to deliver a cross which is headed straight at Kraft by Gentner.
Hegeler wastes a good opportunity to find one of three teammates in the box, and Stuttgart comfortably clear from a wayward cross. Stuttgart are looking the sharper of these two sides. Can they find a breakthrough?
It looks like Hertha are more than happy to work on the counter-attack tonight, but they've been sloppy in possession in midfield. Kalou is being forced to feed off scraps as a result. Stuttgart's defence have looked comfortable so far.
Great football from the hosts as some clever one-touch passing creates space for Klein on the wing. His cross is delivered into a perfect area, but Brooks clears before Ginczek can head home.
SAVE! Hertha break at pace from a Stuttgart corner. It's Stocker who finds room on the edge of the box, but Ulreich responds well to keep out his low strike.
Hertha are starting to look more dangerous as the game opens up. Pekarik starts the move with a fine run on the left wing. Stocker finds Kalou, who chooses to play the return pass rather than play in Plattenhardt behind him. Poor decision. Stuttgart clear the danger.
It's just not quite falling for Stuttgart. A couple of dangerous balls into the box threaten the Hertha defence, but Werner twice misses the chance to bring the ball under control.
YELLOW CARD! Klein senses the danger when Beerens finds space to launch a break, and he picks up a booking for pulling him back.
A lack of quality in the final third has been the story of the first half so far. Stocker came closest with that powerful effort, but there's ben very few chances. Stuttgart need to use the ball better.
Strange decision from Stocker, who latches onto a loose ball with a speculative effort from long range. Ulreich watches the ball sail over the crossbar. Kalou is not very pleased with his teammate.
Kostic has probably been the brightest of Stuttgart's players, and he tries his luck with a half-volley which drifts just wide of the target from 25 yards.
Plattenhardt bravely slides in to put the ball behind from a dangerous Werner cross. He wasn't far away from scoring an own goal. Stuttgart need to keep getting the ball to Werner, who has threatened with his pace on the left.
Stuttgart continue to see more of the ball, but chances are still difficult to come by. In truth, Hertha will be pretty happy. If they can improve their decision-making at the other end this game plan might earn them a result.
Superb from Die. Kalou finds the space to latch onto a pass on the left wing, but his fellow Ivorian is across quickly with a crucial tackle. Die has been one of the best performers so far.
The ball sits up nicely for Hlousek just outside the box, but he can only slice a half-volley wide of the target. It's another example of poor decision making in attack.
HALF TIME: STUTTGART 0-0 HERTHA BERLIN
There's no getting around it. We've not seen a great game so far, but both sides will surely be looking to take more risks in the second half. Stuttgart are keeping the ball better than they have done in recent weeks. Creating chances has been the problem for both of these sides, though.
BENCH WATCH: Vedad Ibisevic has come in for a lot of criticism this season, but despite not netting a goal this season, he could be a good option for Stuttgart. His strength could allow the hosts to retain possession further up the pitch, which is something they've struggled to do so far. Anis Ben-Hatira and Sandro Wagner are both on the bench for the visitors.
Stuttgart would need to win 9-0 to climb off the bottom this evening. Don't get your hopes up.
Kalou has the potential to be a match winner for Hertha, but he needs better service. The visitors don't want him to be chasing lost causes in the channels. It's down to Stocker and Hegeler to bring the forward into the game.
Hertha have made two changes at the break, so we could see a change of approach. Hegeler and Heitinga are off, with Tolga Cigerci and Nico Schulz
their replacements. Stuttgart will get the game back underway.
Stocker is playing just off Kalou, with Schulz on the left wing and Cigerci appearing to be operating from a deeper midfield position. Neither side have been able to dominate possession early in the second half.
Patient football on show from the hosts. The defence and midfield are seeing a lot of the ball, but Ginczek continues to look isolated. Hertha are doing a very good job of limiting the space on offer.
Kostic has looked the most likely to make a breakthrough. Another positive run takes him from the right wing to the left side of the box, and he settles for a corner. Hertha clear two set pieces before eventually relieving the pressure.
The referee is a busy man now. Kraft collects a cross, but is caught by Niedermeier, who appears to have attempted to stop the goalkeeper launching a break with the throw. In truth, Kraft is trying to fool the referee by going to ground a few moments later. Kraft gets the booking for confronting Gentner, who didn't seem to do anything.
It's been a very scrappy start to the second half. Hertha are still sitting deep, but they've been unable to pick the right pass on the counter. One goal could be enough to collect the points this evening.
Pekarik is slightly fortunate to get away without a booking when he blocks Hlousek's run on the left wing. Stuttgart need to be positive. They're simply not taking enough risks in possession.
Another long spell of Stuttgart pressure eventually comes to an end when a long throw falls to Schwaab, whose half-volley from 25 yards sails over the crossbar.
Kostic delivers a superb free kick into the box, but Schwaab can't make the right contact with his header. The danger is over for Hertha when Hlousek fouls Kraft at the back post.
CHANCE! What an opportunity for Stuttgart. Brooks fails to deal with a cross at the near post, and the ball falls to Ginczek, who can only hit his effort over from close range. It looks like Kraft may have got a touch on the ball, but Ginczek has to score from that position.
SUBSTITUTION: Ibisevic hasn't scored this season, but the striker has found the net in five of his last six games against Hertha. Can he make the difference? The Bosnian replaces Ginczek.
Stuttgart win a free kick 25 yards from goal, and Kostic is not that far away from finding the top corner with his curling effort. Kraft certainly had it covered, though.
SAVE! Schwaab finds the space to meet a corner at the front post, and Kraft takes no chances as he pushes the header to safety. Stuttgart are building pressure. They have to take advantage.
Hertha finally manage to launch an attack. Beerens does well to keep the move alive on the left wing before pulling the ball back to Cigerci, who slips as Schwaab charges down his effort. Schulz then picks up a booking for stopping the Stuttgart break.
Stuttgart are starting to tire, which could encourage Hertha to send a few more men forward late on. A draw is a better result for the visitors, but a win could be huge. Stuttgart can't afford to settle for a point.
Great work from Die yet again as he sprints back to bring a promising Hertha attack to an abrupt halt. Beerens trips the Ivorian to gift a free kick to the hosts. He's been on top form in front of the defence tonight.
CHANCE! Hertha should have nicked the winner! Die makes his first mistake to gift possession to Kalou, who skips a couple of challenges before playing in Schulz. It's the perfect pass, but the substitute can only drag an effort just past the post. What a chance for the visitors.
SUBSTITUTION: Jerome Kieswetter is off the bench to replace Kostic, who has tired in the second half.
SUBSTITUTION: There's some bad news for Hertha as Kraft, who has taken a couple of knocks tonight, signals that he can't continue. Substitute goalkeeper Sascha Burchert is on for his first Bundesliga appearance of the season.
Pekarik delivers a high cross into the box, but Kalou can only head his effort against Niedermeeier and Ulreich reacts quickly to collect the loose ball. Hertha are growing in confidence late on.
Stuttgart have recovered from a nervy spell to dominate possession once again. Stevens needs his side to find a goal. These are the games they have to be winning if they are to avoid relegation this season.
The fourth official confirms there will be seven minutes added on following a number of stoppages for injuries. That's produced a big reaction from the home fans!
CHANCE! Good work on the left wing from Schulz as he picks out Stocker with a cross, but the header is always drifting just wide of the post.
SUBSTITUTION: Stuttgart need to take some risks. The attack-minded Moritz Leitner is off the bench to replace Die.
YELLOW CARD! Leitner's first action is to pick up a yellow card for preventing Stocker from launching a counter attack. That will keep him out of next week's game against Bayer Leverkusen.
I'd love to say that a winner was coming, but both sides are looking very tired at this stage of the game. Stuttgart are struggling to retain possession, while Hertha are not sure whether to stick or twist.
RED CARD! It's a disappointing finish to the game for Hertha as substitute Schulz picks up his second yellow card after pulling down Leitner in midfield. Silly from the midfielder, but he can have no arguments.
FULL TIME: STUTTGART 0-0 HERTHA BERLIN
It's all over at the Mercedes Benz Arena. Hertha will take the point as they move another step away from the relegation zone. Stuttgart would have targeted this match, but their failure to pick up a win could cost them in their fight to move off the bottom of the table.
That's all from me tonight. I hope you've enjoyed the coverage, and make sure you keep an eye on the site over the weekend for all of the latest reports and reaction from the Bundesliga and every other major European league.