Leverkusen - Bayer 04 Leverkusen will be looking to steal a march on their UEFA Champions League-chasing rivals when they host bottom-of-the table VfB Stuttgart in 's opener on Friday night (kick-off 20:30 CET / 19:30 GMT).

bundesliga.com has the lowdown on two teams searching for a win at the BayArena for very different reasons...

Three points would be a massive reward for either side in this one. Leverkusen moved back into the top four on Matchday 24 but are nevertheless clinging to fourth spot by a single point. Stuttgart, meanwhile, are three points adrift of the relegation play-off place having not won in the league since mid-December.

Bayer coach Roger Schmidt will have to do without combative defender Emir Spahic (suspended), so Kyriakos Papadopoulos (pictured), on the scoresheet last week, should start. Robbie Kruse and Tin Jedvaj remain long-term absentees with ankle and thigh complaints respectively.

Stuttgart coach Huub Stevens is missing some key names, with Moritz Leitner (pictured) and Martin Harnik suspended, and Konstantin Rausch, Antonio Rüdiger and Sercan Sararer all unavailable. Daniel Didavi is also out with a knee problem, but Daniel Ginczek is fit and should lead the line, while new signing Geoffroy Serey Die will start.

He tends to fly under the radar but Gonzalo Castro has been a pillar of consistency for Leverkusen for over a decade now. Originally a right back, he has excelled in midfield in recent years and has regularly impressed this term. He provided two of his five season assists on Matchday 24 and could be the man to unlock the VfB doors.

A rare ray of light in what has been a wholly dim campaign so far, Timo Werner has repeatedly shown an appetite for Stuttgart's relegation fight and is one of few players that have managed to get the VfB fans on their feet. The last of his three goals this term came on Matchday 13, but he did hit the target when these two sides met in October.

Schmidt: "Defensively, we've been performing at a high level for a while now, and that's been the basis for our recent good run. None of us can make the mistake of judging Stuttgart by their position in the table. It's never easy playing a team fighting against relegation and we'll need to give it everything to beat them."

Huub Stevens (l.): "They press very early and high up the pitch. We need to make sure we don't make mistakes in possession at the back."

Florian Klein: "We showed in the home game that we can come back from conceding against these top teams like Leverkusen. We'll obviously take strength from that."

Bayer are aiming for a fifth win in a row in all competitions following league victories over SC Paderborn 07 and SC Freiburg, a 1-0 success against Atletico de Madrid in the Champions League and a 2-0 win over 1. FC Kaiserslautern in the DFB Cup. VfB, meanwhile, are without a win in eight games and have failed to score in five of them.

Leverkusen have the edge in this fixture traditionally, with 30 wins to Stuttgart's 19, and have also won six and drawn three since VfB's last success back in April 2010. VfB came from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 back on Matchday 8, but will be wary of Stefan Kießling, who has 14 goals in 18 appearances against them.

Possible line-ups:

Leverkusen: Leno - Hilbert, Toprak, Papadopoulos, Wendell - Bender, Castro - Bellarabi, Calhanoglu, Son - Kießling

Stuttgart: Ulreich - Klein, Schwaab, Niedermeier, Hlousek - Serey Die, Gentner - Kostic, Maxim, Werner - Ginczek

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