George Tsitsonis

What: German Bundesliga
Who: Schalke (17th; 4 points) vs Stuttgart (18th; 3 points)
When: Saturday 16th October 2010, at 14:30 UK Time
Where: Veltins-Arena, Gelsenkirchen, Germany

Magath Still Has Belief

Schalke boss Felix Magath probably summed up most people’s views when he stated earlier this week that “Nobody before the season would have thought it possible that this game would be between the teams lying 17th and 18th in the table.” It has been a dismal start for both Schalke and Stuttgart, though Magath has rejected talk of a crisis at the Ruhr giants insisting that in the summer he began a “revolution” when he signed 14 new players and released 15.

It remains to be seen how long the 57-year-old will be given to see out his project. The manager received a vote of confidence from Schalke chairman Clemens Tonnies on Tuesday and though currently there are no substantiated claims to suggest Magath’s job is in danger, the truth is that his side face a massive week. Two home matches, the first against Stuttgart and then a Champions League fixture against Hapoel Tel-Aviv on Wednesday could end up defining the team’s entire season. After their worst-ever start to a Bundesliga campaign, the meeting against fellow basement dwellers is first and foremost on the minds of all involved with the club and the three points are an absolute must.

Christian Gross Out

While talk of crisis at Schalke has been brushed off for the time being, Stuttgart cannot say the same and earlier this week, coach Christian Gross paid the price and was sacked just seven games into the season with the club sitting in last place. No one is beating around the bush at how bad things are at the moment with president Erwin Staudt commenting, “We are in a state of emergency. This is the most difficult situation in the Bundesliga history of our club.”

Though Gross suffered the axe, the truth is that there are several reasons Stuttgart find themselves in this position. Key players that left the club (Sami Khedira, Jens Lehmann) have not been replaced and new recruits have either underperformed or been unable to play due to injuries. Gross, who led the team to their best ever points total in the second half of the Bundesliga season last year, also bemoaned the lack of funds available to him, suggesting the club were more interested “in buying bricks rather than legs”, a reference to the money being spent on renovations at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. On paper, the team still appear to have enough talent to escape their current predicament and caretaker boss Jens Keller has asked for the team to display heart, will, passion, and commitment and to “roll up their sleeves and get stuck in” against Schalke.


Recent form

Schalke 2-2 Borussia Monchengladbach
(25/09; Bundesliga)
Schalke 2-0 Benfica
(29/09; Champions League)
Nurnberg 2-1 Schalke
(02/10; Bundesliga)


Stuttgart 1-4 Bayer Leverkusen
(25/09: Bundesliga)
Odense 1-2 Stuttgart (30/09; Europa League)
Stuttgart 1-2 Eintracht Frankfurt (03/10; Bundesliga)

Key absences

Schalke: Jermaine Jones; Joel Matip; Tim Hoogland

Stuttgart: Matthieu Delpierre, Mauro Camoranesi;  Daniel Didavi

Players to watch

SchalkeKlaus-Jan Huntelaar: The Dutch striker has been in superb form this season for club and country. Already with eight goals to top the charts in Euro 2012 qualifying, Huntelaar has been one of the bright spots in Schalke’s poor start too, with his four goals in five appearances. Always a talented frontman, the 27-year-old appears to be peaking and Schalke will only benefit from his recent ruthless streak in front of goal.

Stuttgart – Cacau: The Brazilian-born Cacau has had a quiet start to the season, overshadowed a little by fellow striker Pavel Pogrebnyak’s five goals. Still, Cacau is the main man up front for Stuttgart and has a proven track record of scoring as evidenced by his 64 goals in his time with the club. If the German international can begin to rediscover the form of last season then Schalke will have their hands full.

Match prediction

No one could have possibly predicted these two sides would be playing out a true relegation clash when the fixture list came out. For the neutral however this adds even more spice to an already interesting match. This clash should have all the passion of a final as both teams attempt to climb out of the Bundesliga cellar. The edge has to go to Schalke with home advantage and as poor as they have been, Stuttgart look to be a side in even more disarray at the moment. Schalke 3-1 Stuttgart.