The Foals are currently neck and neck with Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the race for the fourth and final UEFA Champions League qualification spot, while only goal difference is keeping Stuttgart out of the relegation play-off place with five matches of the 2013/14 season remaining.
With four wins from their last five league encounters, Gladbach are certainly in better form than fifth-place Leverkusen, but Lucien Favre is keeping his feet firmly on the ground as the campaign moves into the final stretch. “All our matches recently were very close,” said the 56-year-old. “Things could have gone differently against Dortmund, Hertha, HSV and Nürnberg. That just shows how tight the Bundesliga is.”
Gladbach’s final four games of the season see them face a potentially tricky trip to SC Freiburg, before matches against third-place FC Schalke 04 and fellow European hopefuls VfL Wolfsburg and 1. FSV Mainz. “From now on we’re only playing teams that have something to play for,” said Favre. “They’re either fighting against relegation or for a place in Europe. Like many of the teams around us, we’ve got five finals left to play. We’ll keep taking things one game at a time, though, starting with Stuttgart.”
Daems in contention
Favre will be without defensive duo Martin Stranzl and Oscar Wendt for the Swabians’ visit, but captain Filip Daems is back in contention for a starting place against Huub Stevens’ side after missing last week’s victory over 1. FC Nürnberg through illness. “He’s been able to train more or less normally this week and is available for selection,” confirmed Favre. The Swiss coach may decide to stick with Alvaro Dominguez at left-back, however, after the Spaniard impressed against der Club last time out.
Centre-back Georg Niedermeier is set to return for Stuttgart after missing their crucial derby win over Freiburg through suspension, with Daniel Schwaab set to revert to right back. Daniel Didavi, who made only his second appearance of the season against the Black Forest club, is suffering from an infected toe and is considered doubtful for the clash at Borussia Park.
Stevens enjoying life at Stuttgart
Compared with their opponents, Stuttgart’s prospects look altogether less rosy. Die Schwaben are locked together with 16th-placed HSV on 27 points, but VfB’s marginally superior goal difference is just about keeping their heads above water going into the final five games of the campaign. Stevens’ team will travel to North Rhine-Westphalia in high spirits, however, after recording their first victory under the Dutchman’s tutelage against die Breisgauer.
Nonetheless, Stevens is expecting a tough challenge from in-form Gladbach. “They had a bit of a sticky spell, but they’re doing a lot better now,” said the former Hamburg and Schalke coach, who says he is enjoying life in the South West despite his side’s precarious league position. “It gives me great pleasure working with my team,” he said. “But the most important thing is that we keep playing as a unit. You can’t win games with individuals.”
Gladbach: ter Stegen - Korb, Jantschke, Brouwers, Alvaro Dominguez - Kramer, Nordtveit - Herrmann, Arango - Raffael - M. Kruse
Stuttgart: Ulreich - Schwaab, Rüdiger, Niedermeier, Boka - Gruezo, Gentner - Traore, Didavi, Harnik - Ibisevic