Stuttgart - The Mercedes-Benz Arena hosts its first competitive match of the 2013/14 campaign on Saturday with Bayer 04 Leverkusen's visit to VfB Stuttgart (kick-off 15:30 CET).
The Swabians were forced to play their first “home” match of the campaign - a 0-0 draw against PFC Botev Plovdiv in the UEFA Europa League - in a nearby stadium due to a Robbie Williams concert at their own ground. Stuttgart fans will be happy to return to more familiar surroundings this weekend.
That said, Saturday's opponents Leverkusen have been something of a bogey team for VfB over the years. The Werkself have recorded more wins over Stuttgart (28) than any other Bundesliga club. Furthermore, visiting striker has found the net more often against VfB than any other top-flight side, firing in twelve in his last eight meetings with the club.
He won't be lacking for motivation either, as the 29-year-old goes into Saturday’s match just one away from his 100th league goal for Leverkusen. As if that were not enough, fellow frontman will be high on confidence following his debut Bundesliga strike for his new club against SC Freiburg last weekend.
Thriller on the cards
With that in mind, midfielder Stefan Reinartz is confident the guests can continue their recent good run against the Swabians. ”We’ve done well against Stuttgart recently and there’s always been lots of goals in these games,” he said. “Both teams will get stuck in and try to get forward.”
While that promises an entertaining tie for the spectators, coach Sami Hyypiä is wary of the threat posed by his opponents. “We have to work hard on our defensive game," said the Finnish strategist. "Stuttgart are very dangerous up front, but our players have taken our style of play on board after the hard work in pre-season. We’ll get sharper game by game.”
Labbadia: "Have to be brave"
His opposite number Bruno Labbadia was equally respectful in his pre-match press conference: “Leverkusen are good on the ball, well organised and very versatile going forward. Against top sides like them, it's important we avoid making errors, but also that we're brave going forward.”
He will need to continue his recent rich vein of form, with the Bosnian scoring four goals in all competitions for VfB so far this season. At the other end of the pitch, Stuttgart will be without central defensive duo Georg Niedermeier and Serdar Tasci after both picked up knee injuries.
Stuttgart: Ulreich - G. Sakai, Schwaab, Rüdiger, Rausch - Gentner, Boka - Harnik, Leitner, Traoré - Ibisevic
Leverkusen: Leno - Donati, Toprak, Spahic, Boenisch - L. Bender, Reinartz, Castro - Sam, Kießling, Son