What: German Bundesliga
Who: VfB Stuttgart vs Schalke 04
When: Saturday 6th August, 2011, at 14:30 UK time
Where: Mercedes-Benz Arena, Stuttgart, Germany
Hoping For a Better Season
2007 seems such a long time ago for Stuttgart. Back then, players such as Mario Gomez, Timo Hildebrand and Thomas Hitzlsperger defied all the odds as the club clinched their fifth Bundesliga title, and the sky seemed the limit for Die Schwaben. But like many other German teams, they have fallen into an abyss, occupying 12th place by the time the German season unveiled its climax last spring. Now, Stuttgart will be hoping for better luck as they prepare to face newly crowned German Super Cup winners Schalke 04.
As defence was the main reason behind Stuttgart’s abysmal form last year, the sale of promising defensive midfielder Christian Trasch to Wolfsburg comes as a hard blow to the team. Time will tell how much the German international will be missed, but the Stuttgart fans already have a diamond in the rough in their hands, Serdar Tasci. The young player has been a target for some of Germany’s biggest teams, but has expressed his desire to stay and triumph with his homegrown club.
Yet all of this does not mean that Stuttgart are in a good spot against the Royal Blues when the two meet for their respective Bundesliga openers. Last season’s Champions League semi-finalists are tricky on any given day and if Bruno Labaddia’s team are caught out at any moment, it might end up as a game to forget.
Life After Neuer
Schalke fans had been bracing themselves for this day for quite some time: the day that their cult hero Manuel Neuer failed to reject lucrative advances and turned his back on Gelsenkirchen. With a basic bid of €18M, Neuer signed for Bayern Munich and became the third most expensive goalkeeper of all time, just €3M behind fellow starlet and new Manchester United custodian David de Gea. For Schalke, life after Neuer starts now.
Ralf Fahrmann might have done a good pre-season job at Schalke to start that transition, but the injury to the team’s new number 1 will come as a great setback just days before the start of the new season, such has been his impressiveness during a short time in the limelight. However, the cup holders have other heroes that can steer the blue ship into the path that it needs to sail, such as Benedikt Howedes, the legendary Raul and his former Real Madrid team-mate Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who recently admitted he is aiming for double digit statistics: “I want to make double figures next season for sure!", blasted the Dutch forward.
Huntelaar might be the man to make it happen for Schalke. After seeing his club career stall after his Ajax exit, the Dutchman has a chance to replicate his country form for his club.
Stuttgart 2-1 Sivassport (21/07; Friendly)
Stuttgart 1-2 Nottingham Forest (23/07; Friendly)
Wehen Wiesbaden 1-2 Stuttgart (29/07; German Cup)
Schalke 0-0 Borussia Dortmund; Schalke 4-3 on penalties (23/07; German Super Cup)
Duisburg 2-1 Schalke (26/06; Friendly)
FC Teningen 1-11 Schalke (31/07; German Cup)
VfB Stuttgart: Ermin Bicakcic; Georg Nidermeier; Shinji Okazaki; Johan Audel (doubt)
Schalke 04: Ralf Fahrmann; Jefferson Farfan (doubt)
Players to watch
Stuttgart – Cacau: The Brazilian-born Germany striker has been an integral part of Stuttgart in recent memory and was a member of the winning class of 2007. Regularly selected by Joachim Low to represent the national team, his presence upfront for the Schalke defence could create problems. No doubt they will be hoping that Cacau forgets his scoring boots.
Schalke – Raul: The legendary Spanish forward has enjoyed a good first season at Schalke after his departure from Real Madrid last summer, guiding the team to victory in the German Cup and a semi-final place in the Champions League alongside Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona. The forward has continued to defy his doubters and is capable of sublime brilliance.
The omens are not encouraging for Stuttgart, who are yet to truly show their genuine abilities. Schalke’s luck appears to be better at the moment, even without Neuer in the team, and their drive could see them clinch an important three opening day points. Stuttgart 1-2 Schalke.