Team spirit is the key to defeating Chelsea FC according to the VfB Stuttgart coach, Felix Magath.
By Alois Urban in Stuttgart
Teamwork is the key to beating Chelsea FC - so VfB Stuttgart coach Felix Magath believes ahead of Wednesday's UEFA Champions League first knockout-round match.
Visitors Chelsea spent a world-record sum buying in new players this summer under new owner Roman Abramovich, and added English international Scott Parker in January. But Magath, who admits it will be "a new situation to play against such superstars," said his players should have nothing to fear.
Magath said: "The match on Wednesday is a clash between our teamwork and their individuality. And though they are the bigger name in international football, I think our chances of getting through to the next round are pretty good." He will not be able to field new attacking signings Marco Streller and Hakan Yakin, as both are ineligible for Europe.
Chelsea's Frank Lampard was quoted in the British press as saying he did not know any of the Stuttgart players, but Magath can certainly not be accused of ignorance about his opponents. "We have seen them many times, as a coach I have never watched an opponent so closely before," he said.
He will not need telling then that Chelsea, third in the English Premiership, have lost their last two matches, both key games in the league and FA Cup against Arsenal FC. Stuttgart themselves have not had the best time lately, falling ten points behind Bundesliga leaders SV Werder Bremen after taking just one win from eight matches. On Saturday they were beaten 1-0 at 1. FC Kaiserslautern.
Pressure on Chelsea
"A win would be a big boost for us, as we had a tough time in the past weeks in the Bundesliga," Magath said. "But Chelsea's situation is definitely worse. They have no chance of winning the Premiership any more, they are out of the FA Cup, so they have to stay in Champions League. The pressure is on them."
Magath is hoping the home fans at the Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion will play their part, even if the stadium's capacity has been reduced from 48,000 because of building work. "With 42,000 people behind us, we want to continue our good run from the group stage and decide this tie early."
The sides' one previous meeting came in the 1997/98 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final, which Chelsea won 1-0. Stuttgart's sole survivor from that game, captain Zvonimir Soldo, said: "That was six years ago so you cannot compare the two teams. But we have beaten Manchester United [FC] in the group stage, so why should not we win against Chelsea as well?"
Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri welcomes back midfield player Damien Duff from an achilles injury and forward Hernán Crespo after illness, while goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini has overcome a groin problem and returns in place of Neil Sullivan. Adrian Mutu's thigh injury keeps him out.
Ranieri, asked if he feels the pressure after recent losses, added: "I am here to build something important and you cannot do this in one year. We try to win match after match, but I never said we will win this or this title."
Central defender John Terry confirmed this, saying: "We cannot forget the two recent defeats, but we will try to get through to the next round." As for Stuttgart, Terry added: "Both sides did a good job in the group stage, so it will be worth watching. They have a lot of fantasy in their game. They are very young and talented players."