"The maths is straightforward. We have to win our three [remaining] games. We're well aware of that. We're not living in a fantasy world,“ sporting director Fredi Bobic baldly stated on the eve of the make-or-break encounter.
All still to play for
In the first meeting of the sides two weeks ago at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, VfB huffed and puffed their way to a goalless draw, a result which left them bottom of their group behind Molde FK (three points), Copenhagen (four) and front-runners Steaua Bucharest (seven). With only the top two teams progressing to the first knockout round of the tournament, Thursday's game offers Bruno Labbadia's men a golden opportunity to put themselves right back in the qualification frame.
"It's high time we started making better use of the chances we're creating," midfielder Christian Gentner asserted. On the domestic front, Stuttgart have certainly been moving in the right direction of late after a distinctly underwhelming start to the campaign. They are now unbeaten in five games in the Bundesliga, a run that has seen them concede just three goals, and put in a stout defensive performance at the weekend to hold champions Dortmund to a scoreless draw on their own turf.
Hometown encounter for Kvist
That upturn in form has taken VfB from the fringes of the relegation zone up to mid-table over the past few weeks and the 2007 German champions are now looking to confirm their resurgence in the wider arena as well. For William Kvist, the game marks a return to his old stomping ground and the club he first joined as an eight-year-old.
The midfield dynamo expects Copenhagen to "pressure us more and see more of the ball" than first time around, "although they know of course that if it ends as a draw, we're going to be in a difficult situation." As to Stuttgart's own game plan, Kvist has no objections to the home side enjoying "a bit more possession, because that will offer us more opportunity to counter-attack, which is one of our strengths."
On the downside for coach Labbadia, Tunay Torun, Cacau, Daniel Didavi, Johan Audel and Tim Hoogland are all unavailable for this one, considerably reducing his attacking options. VfB are, at any rate, geared up for a tough battle against opponents currently four points clear at the top of Denmark's Superligaen.
Copenhagen: Christensen - Jacobsen, Stadsgaard, Sigurdsson, Bengtsson - Bolanos, Claudemir, Kristensen, Delaney - Santin, Cornelius
Stuttgart: Ulreich - Sakai, Tasci, Niedermeier, Boka - Kvist - Gentner, Holzhauser - Harnik, Traore - Ibisevic