VfB Stuttgart and Olympique Lyonnais meet on Tuesday without a Group E point between them – and both coaches agree that this is a must-win encounter.
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Swabian radio stations have been giving away tickets for VfB Stuttgart's pivotal UEFA Champions League Group E fixture with Olympique Lyonnais, informing listeners that it is "the last chance to see their local team's last chance" (or words to that effect). Neither Stuttgart nor Lyon picked up a point in their first two outings against Rangers FC and FC Barcelona and the two coaches are united in one belief: it is a must-win game.
"We need to hold our heads high and play our hearts out," said Stuttgart's Armin Veh. "We worked hard all last season in order to get here, so we can't let it end so quickly. We're going into the game to win." Rousing words, but nobody, least of all the coach, needs reminding that victories have been hard to come by for the German title-holders this term. Saturday's 4-1 defeat by Hamburger SV was their sixth in ten Bundesliga matches, leaving them in the lower reaches of the table. Memories of their championship parade five months ago, like the flags showing the winning squad outside the ground, are fading fast.
Veh cuts a positive figure, though, and it is testament to his happy nature that he can still raise a smile at VfB, drawing complicit laughter among reporters as he ducked question after question about his team selection for the Lyon game. An injury list headed by striker Ciprian Marica, defender Arthur Boka and midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, invites such queries and while Veh welcomes back Fernando Meira from domestic suspension, the 46-year-old coach is just thinking about how to overcome Lyon. "We need to win our games against Rangers and Lyon," Veh said. "Like us, Lyon began their campaign badly but they have found their stride now – we need to do the same."
Lyon's latest triumph came on Saturday when they earned a seventh victory in eight domestic outings with a 3-1 win against AS Monaco FC to take the outright Ligue 1 lead. Their coach Alain Perrin believes the time is right to take those performances on to the European stage, saying: "Our last two league games were very good. We showed real intensity, a fight that was lacking in our first two UEFA Champions League matches."
Those both ended in 3-0 losses, first at Barcelona then at home to Rangers, and Perrin is keen for the team to put such results behind them. "This is our chance to make amends," said the Lyon boss, who will be without suspended striker Fred and midfielder Jérémy Toulalan who twisted his knee on Sunday having been rested against Monaco. "The games against Stuttgart will decide our destiny. I am realistic: our chances aren't great but the team won't give up, they'll fight until the end."
It is a mantra echoed by Stuttgart, with Veh observing that however much you may want to, "as a coach you can't shed a tear because your side are losing". Judging by the response to those radio competitions their supporters remain stoical too, and belief is high that there is still time to turn things around – just like Lyon did.