Stuttgart digested their relegation in the past couple of months and target a direct return to the Bundesliga under the command of “promotion specialist” Jos Luhukay, who has brought several clubs back up already in past decade. The fans did not desert the club, 20.000 showed up at last week’s season opening and a massive 51.000+ tickets already have been sold for Monday’s game vs St. Pauli. The pre-season campaign was good under Luhukay as progress was made and a good-looking starting 11 was formed in which four or five new signings should find spots. Of the new arrivals Hosogai, Zimmer, Grigic and Terodde look to find starting spots. Stuttgart kept a backbone intact despite the summer departures and captain Gentner is the leader once more. Grosskreutz, who also stayed, is out with upper leg problems, so Zimmer should definately start. The fresh injury of Baumgartl calls for improvisation in central defence, where youngster Sama could start now unless Luhukay finds an alternative solution. The joy about attacking all-rounder Werner joining from Augsburg did not last long as the sad news followed just one day later when his wife lost their baby son while giving birth. The winger is not expected to appear in the squad soon now. Defensive balance is important for Luhukay, whose setting is a compact 4-2-3-1 with two holding midfielders. Quick attacks should be launched when capturing the ball by picking moments to play pressing. Having digested relegation, Stuttgart are in good spirits after a fine pre-season with new coach Luhukay having built a new team during a solid pre-season campaign. The vibes are definitely positive.
St. Pauli lost quality over the summer with the departure of key trio Rzatkowski, Maier and Thy, who combined for 18 goals last season. Of the new signings Avevor and Bouhaddouz look to claim starting spots, Hedenstad and Duksch are useful options, while Sahin and Neudecker are not yet fit. There are issues on the flanks where the regular duo Sobota and Miyaichi missed out in the final friendly match vs Sevilla, which resulted in a 1-2 home defeat. Hedenstad and Kalla filled in the positions instead, but neither are typical wingers. It could force coach Lienen to abandon his regular 4-2-3-1 for now and play a 4-4-2 with Picault as an extra striker, such as was the case vs Sevilla. Lienen ideally would want to stick to last season’s 4-2-3-1 setting, but it would need a pair of fit wingers, so he might be forced to stick to a 4-4-2 such as used in the last friendly. Expect a compact approach, looking to play the counter. Apart from the quality loss during the summer, the pre-season campaign was rather unconvincing as Pauli struggled for results and coach Lienen mostly could not field his ideal 11, even now there are some doubts with the season about to start.
Verdict & Prediction
Stuttgart have digested relegation and a massive 50.000+ crowd will attend this game as the fans give full support. The mood is positive under new coach Luhukay, who formed a team from the backbone that stayed and the new signings. Despite a few absentees, most notably central defence is hit, Stuttgart will want to win this first home game, a draw would be disappointing.
Prediction : VfB Stuttgart -0.75
Odds : 2.08 Pinnacle
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