Wolfsburg - VfL Wolfsburg are holding out hope that Diego and Luiz Gustavo will feature in Saturday evening's Bundesliga clash with VfB Stuttgart (kick-off 18:30 CET).
The Brazilian pair have both missed training through injury this week, but with the clock running down until the Wolves' final home game of the calendar year, both were back on the training field in a bid to help out.
"If nothing bad happens, then I'll be able to play on Saturday," said the , who has figured in Wolfsburg's last nine matches, and been on the winning side five times, losing just twice in that streak. His more has missed the Wolves' last three games, including the DFB Cup , due to an adductor injury, although Hecking is optimistic that he will be able to feature against Stuttgart on Saturday.
Should either miss out, Hecking, whose side are now eight games unbeaten, has every faith in their potential replacements. "Even if they can't play, we should have a team who are good enough to beat Stuttgart," said the Wolfsburg coach. That team could include , who was back in the squad for the 3-0 win over SC Freiburg last weekend. The South Korean playmaker is now approaching full fitness again and could be chosen as part of an attack-minded team.
Strikers to the fore
Their assault on three points in their final home game of 2013 will be led by Ivica Olic, who is enjoying something of a second coming this season. The 34-year-old Croatian international has scored seven goals so far this season, only two fewer than a man lining up on the other side of the field, Vedad Ibisevic, who leads the chase of current Bundesliga top-scorer Robert Lewandowski.
Ibisevic is the man Stuttgart will be vesting their hope in as they look for a second straight win after putting four past Hannover 96 last weekend. The Bosnian scored one of those four as Thomas Schneider's young guns used all their youthful promise to snap a two-game losing streak. Stuttgart fielded their youngest team since 1987 in that game, and the likes of Moritz Leitner and Rani Khedira both did enough to recommend themselves for more of the action.
Khedira lauds youth development
Khedira, brother of Real Madrid CF and Germany midfielder Sami, lauded the club's youth set-up which was responsible for launching his sibling's career, and has also produced Alexandru Maxim and Timo Werner this season. "Stuttgart have been concentrating on youth development for a long time," said Khedira. "Right down to the very youngest age group, everybody does an excellent job here. Every player has the chance to learn something new every day."
Khedira has also learnt to remain humble, which is why he would have no qualms about making way for captain Christian Gentner, who could return from injury. "I hope he is fit again," Khedira said. "He's our captain and we need him. You've got to have the right mix – the elder players have got to lead the younger ones, who have got to keep their feet on the ground, and we all have to work hard on ourselves." By doing that, VfB's outside chance of European qualification could be realised.
Wolfsburg: Benaglio - Ochs, Naldo, Knoche, Rodriguez - Luiz Gustavo, Medojevic - Diego, Arnold, Caligiuri - Olic
Stuttgart: Ulreich - Sakai, Niedermeier, Rüdiger, Rausch - Gentner, Leitner - Harnik, Traore - Ibisevic, Werner