Sunday’s 1-0 win over 1899 Hoffenheim was not only good for morale, it also ended a five-game losing streak in the Bundesliga for Bruno Labbadia’s men.
“It was the first small step in the right direction,” said the club’s sporting director Fredi Bobic after Sunday’s much-needed win. The next should follow in Genk, where Stuttgart need either to win or play out a high-scoring draw to progress.
“I don’t care if we thrash them, get a high-scoring draw, or go to extra time,” said midfielder Christian Gentner as VfB took off from the Baden-Württemberg capital on Wednesday. “I’m optimistic we’ll go through.”
Optimism had been in rather short supply until Sunday. Conceding a last-gasp equaliser to Genk in last week's first leg was symptomatic of their current plight, but there are certainly promising signs on the horizon.
Stuttgart’s reward may be an all-Bundesliga clash with Borussia Mönchengladbach, should the latter see off S.S. Lazio in Rome, although nobody is getting carried away after just one league victory in 2013.
“We’ve got a really good chance,” said Sunday’s matchwinner Martin Harnik. “We’ve got to know that.”