Stuttgart want to start year on positive note

Now a somewhat disappointing 2013 is behind them, Stuttgart are keen to make the best of starts to the new year with victory over Mainz on Saturday.

Things were looking good for the home team.

Stuttgart started the season with high expectations, but a run of three straight defeats and a shock elimination from the Europa League in the playoffs saw coach Bruno Labbadia relieved of his duties.

Thomas Schneider took his place and, after he oversaw a rise up the table, a spell of inconsistent form saw them end the year in 10th position, five points adrift of their guests this Saturday, albeit with a game in hand against Bayern Munich to follow on Wednesday.

"It would be important for our self-confidence to make a positive start to the year," said Schneider, aware perhaps of how big the risk is that two defeats in the space of five days could dent morale.

"I think we've prepared pretty well. All the lads are fit."

Schneider's biggest selection headache is who to pick alongside Vedad Ibisevic in the attack.

Mohammed Abdelaoue scored four goals in two friendly games staged in the club's winter training camp in Cape Town whereas 17-year-old Timo Werner was on target on their return to Germany in their final test with Greuther Furth this week.

"I get on well with Moa," said Ibisevic on his club's website. "I feel I get good support with him up front."

Mainz coach Thomas Tuchel has yet to decide whether new signing Koo Ja-cheol will make his debut for the club.

"He already knows the language and the league, and he has arrived fully fit," Tuchel said without giving out any guarantees to the South Korean, who arrived from Wolfsburg during the winter break.

Defender Niko Bungert is also in contention after recovering from injury, but Makik Fathi, Julian Baumgartlinger and Sebastian Polter are still unavailable.



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