Gross takes measure of Stuttgart

New Bundesliga coach wants players to 'fight for every centimetre' in Champions League.

    Head coach: Christian Gross says his players have to pay back Stuttgart's fans [AFP]

    New Stuttgart coach Christian Gross is demanding his players battle "for every centimetre" as they gun for a European Champions League knockout stage place against Romania's Unirea Urziceni.

    The German Bundesliga side have been flying in Europe but sacked coach Markus Babbel on Sunday as they battled in the domestic league's relegation spots.

    Gross was named as coach 18 minutes after Babbel left the building and the 55-year-old Swiss has his work cut out.

    'Early impression'

    "On Wednesday I want to win. That is where the focus lies. I want to make an early impression," former Basel and Tottenham Hotspur coach Gross said late on Sunday, before going for an evening training session with his new players minutes after taking over.

    "I want that we battle for every centimetre in every match. That is what I demand from my team."

    ECL fixtures

    Tuesday December 8

    Juventus v Bayern Munich
    Maccabi Haifa v Bordeaux
    Wolfsburg v Man Utd
    Besiktas v CSKA Moscow
    FC Zurich v AC Milan
    Marseille v Real Madrid
    Chelsea v Apoel Nicosia
    Atletico Madrid v Porto

    Wednesday December 9

    Liverpool v Fiorentina
    Lyon v Debrecen
    Inter Milan v Rubin Kazan
    Dynamo Kiev v Barcelona
    Stuttgart v Unirea Urziceni
    Sevilla v Rangers
    Olympiakos v Arsenal
    Standard Liege v AZ Alkmaar

    Stuttgart, on six points from five matches in Group G, will book a knockout-stage spot with a win over the Romanians, who have eight points.

    A defeat or draw would send them to the Europa League.

    Stuttgart, while doing well in the Champions League, are locked in a Bundesliga relegation battle, lying in 16th place after 15 matches with only two league wins to their credit.

    Playmaker Thomas Hitzlsperger was stripped of his captaincy days ago while the team let a precious win against Bochum slip through their fingers on Saturday when the visitors equalised a minute from time.

    Fans blocked the team bus before the match and police were called in to disperse an angry crowd of several hundred after the game.

    "(On Wednesday) I want the players to bring out their best so that the fans are again satisfied with them," said Gross.

    "I want courageous players and players who will pay back their fans."

    Wary

    The Romanians are wary of Stuttgart's change of coach, saying it will give the German side's players extra motivation.

    "Everything happening there is against us. It will be twice as hard for us to accomplish our goal," team official Mihai Stoica said.

    "In the first game with a new coach, all the players get more motivated."

    Urziceni will be without suspended key central defender Vasile Maftei.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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