Stuttgart - Basement boys VfB Stuttgart will be hoping to pick up a first win of the year in Matchday 24's curtain-raiser when they welcome fellow strugglers Hertha Berlin to the Mercedes-Benz-Arena in an archetypal relegation scrap (Kick-off 19:30 GMT/20:30 CET). previews the Swabians' clash with die alte Dame...

The stakes could hardly be higher on Friday night. The hosts, propping up the table and five points off the relative safety occupied by 14th-placed Hertha, know any slip-ups could be fatal in their efforts to avoid the drop. Pal Dardai's visitors, meanwhile, could give themselves breathing space in the relegation dogfight with victory.

The absence of Martin Harnik through suspension means that there will be changes. Youngster Timo Baumgartl (r.) should return to the defence after flu kept him out of last week's draw with Hannover 96. Daniel Schwaab could shift to right back with Florian Klein filling in for Harnik.

Hertha's creative heartbeat, Valentin Stocker, is expected to return after completing a one-game ban, while Peter Pekarik will play with a mask after breaking his nose. With midfield duo Per Skjelbred and Peter Niemeyer out, Japanese international Hajime Hosogai (l.) could return to the starting line-up for the first time since Matchday 19.

So often Stuttgart's saviour after netting ten times in 2013/14, Vedad Ibisevic has been conspicuous by his absence in the goalscoring charts this campaign. Having notched five in his last six games against the capital-city outfit, however, the Bosnian will be hoping that his season-long goal drought ends on Friday.

With Julian Schieber out for the foreseeable future, Hertha's Ivorian international Salomon Kalou picked the perfect time to score his first goal of 2015 when he popped up with the winner in the 88th minute against Augsburg last weekend. After a brace against Stuttgart on Matchday 7, the veteran forward will be raring to go.

Huub Stevens, VfB Stuttgart coach: "We have 11 games left and we're concentrating on what we can control. There's always pressure. It's not the first time I've been a coach in the Bundesliga. Every game is important and the next one is always the most important. We're concentrating on our preparation for the next game."

Pal Dardai, Hertha Berlin coach: "Before the game, I'm never happy with a draw. Sometimes that's how a game unfolds, but it's always about winning. The players have better body language and team spirit but we have to keep improving."

Without a win since mid-December, Stuttgart are stuck in the relegation mire, even if there was plenty of fight on show in last week's 1-1 draw away to Hannover 96. For their part, Hertha have been more up and down, picking up two wins from four games under Dardai, including last weekend's morale-boosting win over Augsburg.

Hertha prevailed 3-2 in a thrilling Friday-night encounter on Matchday 7 thanks to Kalou's brace, but historically at the Mercedes Benz Arena, Stuttgart have the upper hand. The Swabians have 16 wins on home soil, including a spectacular Ibisevic-inspired 5-0 success in 2011/12 and only five defeats, while there have been eight draws.

Possible line-ups:

VfB Stuttgart:
Ulreich - Schwaab, Baumgartl, Niedermeier, Sakai - Serey Die, Gentner - Klein, Maxim, Werner - Ibisevic

Hertha Berlin: Kraft - Pekarik, Langkamp, Brooks, Plattenhardt - Lustenberger, Hosogai - Ndjeng, Stocker, Schulz - Kalou

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