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Christian Gross said he needed "eleven captains" as he is thrown straight in at the deep end in his first outing as VfB Stuttgart coach,
the German side needing to beat FC Unirea Urziceni to progress from Group G at their opponents' expense.
Week of turmoil
In a week of major upheaval at Stuttgart Markus Babbel was replaced by former FC Basel 1893 coach Gross, but in one of his final acts in charge the former Germany defender switched team captain, with Matthieu Delpierre replacing the out-of-sorts – and now out-of-action – Thomas Hitzlsperger. Now the club need to get their heads together for a crucial meeting with Unirea: if they win they will be through to the UEFA Champions League first knockout round; fail and the UEFA Europa League round of 32 beckons.
Gross and Delpierre presented a united front as they fielded questions on Tuesday, even if the defender admitted it will take time for the squad to get on the same wavelength as their new trainer. "We need more time to understand what the coach wants to teach us," said the 28-year-old. "There is one thing I know for certain: he wants to win, as do the rest of us. A new coach breathes life into a team. Every player is being given a new chance to prove himself."
Third from bottom in the Bundesliga where they are without a win in eight games, Stuttgart have everything to prove back at home as they welcome the Romanian champions, with Delpierre looking almost relieved to be off domestic topics. "Unirea are hard to play against," said the Frenchman. "They will play on the counterattack. They did not go for it back in Romania [when the sides drew 1-1] and as they only need a draw I don't think they will do so here. They are very well organised."
Given what he has had to deal with in his first days in his new job, the 55-year-old Gross said he was not considering another change of captain, the armband having recently been taken off the under-performing Hitzlsperger. "There are other more pressing issues," he told uefa.com. "But Delpierre will be captain until the winter break. Then we will see. I don't know the exact reason why there has been a change of captaincy, but I know I am going to need eleven captains tomorrow."
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