Do-or-die as Germans travel to Turin for Champions League decider in last group round.
|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.
“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.”
Tuesday December 8
Wednesday December 9
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.”
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.