Gelsenkirchen - FC Schalke 04 are aiming to rediscover their taste for victory when they host VfB Stuttgart in Saturday's late game on Matchday 14 (kick-off: 18:30 CET).
'Stuttgart really strong'
The Royal Blues were held to draws in both their most recent outings, a UEFA Champions League stalemate against FC Steaua Bucuresti and a spectacular 3-3 draw at Eintracht Frankfurt last Saturday. "Now we're at home, and we want to give the fans something back for their sensational support in those games," said midfielder Jermaine Jones.
Having been deprived of a number of key players in Tuesday's goalless draw at Romanian champions Steaua, head coach Jens Keller received a welcome boost with the return to full fitness of Ghana midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng and Germany attacking starlet Julian Draxler. However, any joy has been tempered by the news that Dennis Aogo faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines, while Leon Goretzka, Christian Clemens, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Marco Höger and first-choice goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand all remain unavailable.
Keller, a former Stuttgart defender and coach, will be reunited with a number of familiar faces on Saturday evening, chief among them his erstwhile team-mates Thomas Schneider and Fredi Bobic, the VfB coach and sporting director respectively. Nevertheless, the Schalke tactician insists friendship will be put on ice for the encounter, focusing instead on the match itself: "Meeting my former team-mates is just a sub-plot to the game. VfB have a really strong squad this year."
Keller wary of Ibisevic
Keller singled out Stuttgart's leading goalscorer Vedad Ibisevic, who found the net five times against Schalke last season, as the visitors' main threat: "He's a real goalscorer, but they have a number of players in great form, amongst them Alexandru Maxim and Timo Werner."
Stuttgart boss Schneider, meanwhile, was equally complimentary of the hosts ahead of the clash in Gelsenkirchen, which could pit Japanese defenders Gotoku Sakai (Stuttgart) and Atsuto Uchida together. "They're one of the best Bundesliga best sides at the moment," said the 41-year-old, who has masterminded a remarkable improvement at the club since taking the helm in late August.
Stuttgart hope to bounce back
Their sparkle has waned somewhat recently though and Stuttgart's defeat to Borussia Mönchengladbach last weekend means they have now only managed a single win from their last six Bundesliga outings, a 3-1 success away to Baden-Württemberg rivals SC Freiburg on Matchday 12. “Schalke are a yardstick for us," said Bobic, "but we know we can beat them."
Defenders Georg Niedermeier and Konstantin Rausch are both available for Stuttgart after training individually in midweek, but left-back Arthur Boka and forward Cacau will not be making the trip up north due to injury.
Schalke: Fährmann - Uchida, Höwedes, Felipe Santana, Kolasinac - J. Jones, Neustädter - Farfan, K.-P. Boateng, Draxler - Szalai
Stuttgart: Ulreich - Schwaab, Rüdiger, Niedermeier, Rausch - Kvist, Gentner, Leitner, Ti. Werner - Maxim - Ibisevic
Check out EA Sports FIFA 14's prediction for Stuttgart's Matchday 14 visit to Schalke, courtesy of the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel: