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Champions League Preview: Stuttgart - Sevilla

Kick-Off: Tuesday, October 20, 2009. 20:45 CET.
Mercedes-Benz Arena, Stuttgart, Germany.


On The Ropes


Stuttgart's form going into Tuesday night's tie with Group G leaders Sevilla doesn't make for impressive reading. The Schwaben have lost their two Bundesliga games, both at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, since their 1-1 draw away to Unirea Urziceni. In fact, the only game they have won at home all season is a league success over Freiburg in mid-August.

Despite this dreadful Bundesliga form and sporting director Horst Heldt stating that they are in a relegation battle in the Bundesliga, coach Markus Babbel declared himself happy with his side's display in the weekend defeat to Schalke, insisting that they have reason to be confident going into this game against Sevilla.

Having already dropped points at home to Rangers, the German outfit must look to secure a minimum of two points against Los Nervionenses in the next two games or they could find themselves with an impossible task with an away trip to Glasgow and a home tie against Urziceni still to come.

The omens are not favourable though. The last meeting between the sides, which was in the UEFA Cup, was almost a year ago to the day, ending in a 2-0 win for Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium. In nine attempts Stuttgart have only beaten Spanish opposition once in their history, and that was 20 years ago.

Knock-Out In Sight


Prior to a narrow weekend defeat to Deportivo La Coruna, everything was going perfectly for Manolo Jimenez's side. They had won seven games on the spin in all competitions, including a 2-1 victory over Real Madrid before the international break, and had scored an impressive 20 goals along the way.

While the defeat came as something of a surprise, the absence of first team regulars Andres Palop, Sebastien Squillaci and Luis Fabiano may have contributed somewhat to the result - by no means a disgrace against an in-form Depor side. They will be keen to put that fixture behind them and concentrate on flooring the next opponent in Europe.

Sevilla have hit the ground running so far in the Champions League and are odds-on favourites to complete the objective Jimenez set for his side when the draw was made by topping the group.

A win here for the Andalusian side would virtually ensure their place in the knockout stages and Jimenez will certainly be keen to guarantee their place in the next round as soon as possible so they can focus on domestic duties between now and February.

RECENT FORM

Stuttgart


Oct 17 Stuttgart 1-2 Schalke 04 (Bundesliga)

Oct 4 Stuttgart 0-2 Werder Bremen (Bundesliga)

Sept 29 Unirea Urziceni 1-1 Stuttgart (UEFA Champions League)

Sept 26 Eintracht Frankfurt  0-3 Stuttgart (Bundesliga)

Sept 23 Lubeck 1-3 Stuttgart (DFB Pokal) (a.e.t.)


Sevilla

Oct 17 Deportivo La Coruna 1-0 Sevilla (La Liga)

Oct 4  Sevilla 2-1 Real Madrid (La Liga)

Sep 29 Rangers 1-4 Sevilla (UEFA Champions League)

Sep 26 Athletic Bilbao 0-4 Sevilla (La Liga)

Sep 22 Sevilla 2-0 Real Mallorca (La Liga)


TEAM NEWS

Stuttgart

Aliaksandr Hleb missed the draw away to Urziceni but is back in the side, while Martin Lanig remains a long-term absentee for the hosts.

Probable Starting XI (4-4-2): Lehmann; Magnin, Boulahrouz, Tasci, Celozzi; Trasch, Kuzmanovic, Hitzlsperger, Hleb; Cacau, Schieber.

Sevilla

Andres Palop will not travel so Javi Varas will continue to deputise. Sebastien Squillaci and Luis Fabiano are back in contention after missing the defeat to Depor. Konko and Renato are out after picking up knocks at the weekend.

Probable Starting XI (4-4-2): Varas; Sergio Sanchez, Squillaci, Dragutinovic, Adriano; Capel, Zokora, Perotti, Navas; Fabiano, Negredo.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Stuttgart

On-loan Barca midfielder Aliaksandr Hleb may have what it takes to give the hosts that little bit of magic to grab a much needed three points.

Sevilla

After a rest at the weekend Luis Fabiano returns to the team no doubt looking to demonstrate the ability that has made him one of the most in-demand strikers in European football at present.

PREDICTION

The visitors will be keen to get a victory here, which would virtually guarantee their place in the next round. Although the hosts will pose a stern test, Sevilla should edge it on sheer attacking quality.

Stuttgart 1-2 Sevilla


Paul Madden, Goal.com