Struggling powerhouses lock horns on Saturday…
Wolfsburg rebounded from consecutive losses to Nuernberg and Leverkusen on Tuesday thanks to a 3-1 victory away to Victoria Hamburg. The result was a step in the right direction, although victory was to be expected against fifth tier opposition.
Since spending a total in the realm of €35m on summer signings, Wolfsburg have disappointed. The 2009 champions lost their first three matches, won three after that, but have since draw once and lost two more. Their points tally after nine matches is just ten, leaving the big spender floundering in 13th place.
Of their five defeats, two have come at home after Steve McClaren’s men blew leads of two or more goals. Ahead of Saturdays clash, the English coach called for mental strength.
“Above all, there is the question of mentality, because the quality is clearly there,” McClaren said in an interview with the official Stuttgart website. “But that’s not enough if the attitude is wrong.
“We need to show more teamwork, which is the key to success.”
"Only Points And Results Count"
Stuttgart’s long journey to a respectable table position began with last Sunday’s 2-0 victory over St Pauli. In Jens Keller’s second game as head coach, die Schwaben were 3-1 winners over Chemnitz, but took 120 minutes to achieve their result on Wednesday. Less than 72 hours later, a fatigued and injury-plagued Stuttgart side will face a difficult test in Wolfsburg.
Matthieu Delpierre’s suspension, added to Georg Niedermeier and Philipp Degen’s lack of fitness, leaves VfB very thin at the back. Young German-Bosnian centre half Ermin Bicakcic is expected to partner Serdar Tasci in defence, and in doing so, earn his first Bundesliga appearance. Otherwise, Keller should have a rather experienced squad, though it will bear much resemblance to that which has struggled for most of the season.
Having won two consecutive matches, Stuttgart can bring some confidence into Saturday’s clash.
“The team has improved because of the good results, and we are once again more confident,” Keller said before the match. “We have developed a certain amount of respect from opponents.”
Keller insisted that while attractive football is a reasonable end, “right now only points and results count.”
Goalkeeper Diego Benaglio is expected to return to action, and after shaking off knocks, Simon Kjaer and Edin Dzeko will start. Among Steve McClaren’s men, only Arne Friedrich is a confirmed absentee.
Probable Starting XI: Benaglio – Pekarik, Kjaer, Barzagli, Schaefer – Riether, Josue, Kahlenberg – Diego – Grafite, Dzeko
Matthieu Delpierre’s suspension comes at a bad time for Stuttgart, who will also be without injured centre half Georg Niedermeier. Philipp Degen, Christian Gentner, Daniel Didavi, and Johan Audel are also confirmed to be out of contention to play.
Probable Starting XI: Ulreich – Celozzi, Bicakcic, Tasci, Boka – Traesch, Kuzmanovic – Camoranesi, Gebhart – Cacau, Marica