Christian Gross looks for more unity ahead of Stuttgart reunion

Christian Gross returns to his old stomping ground on Saturday (27.02, 15:30 CET) when FC Schalke 04 take on VfB Stuttgart. The Royal Blues head coach, who managed VfB between December 2009 and October 2010, believes it’s important his team are more compact and communicate more on the field than in recent weeks.

Christian Gross

With Ralf Fährmann missing with a broken rib and Frederik Rönnow still on his way back to full fitness, Michael Langer will start between the sticks at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. Like Gross, he too has history with tomorrow’s opponents, where he spent four-and-a-half years between 2003 and 2008. Sören Ahlers from the U23s will be his back-up on the bench.

Kolasinac and Mustafi expected to return

Sead Kolasinac, who could only train in small doses due to a cold, should also be part of the 20-man squad, as should Shkodran Mustafi. The central defender missed the derby after pulling up with a thigh injury in the warm-up. The coach is also hopeful Nabil Bentaleb can make a return. “He had a flared nerve in his thigh,” Gross said on Friday. “That’s not easy to treat, but hope he’ll be available.”

The players know exactly what we have to do. For many people in and around Gelsenkirchen, Schalke is what gives their life purpose.

Christian Gross

There will be no risk taking, however. “My motto has always been that a player needs to be 100% fit in order to help the team,” Gross told. In addition to the two goalkeepers, Gross will be without the following players in Stuttgart: Mark Uth, Matija Nastasic, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Goncalo Paciencia, Steven Skrzybski, Salif Sané and Kilian Ludewig.

But the huge injury list cannot be used as an excuse, according to the 66-year-old. “I don’t want to look for any excuses. We’ve made too many mistakes recently. That shouldn’t be happening. With more compact defending and greater unity, we can achieve our goal of survival. The players know exactly what we have to do. For many people in and around Gelsenkirchen, Schalke is what gives their life purpose.”

Only Daniel Didavi still plays for VfB

Plenty has changed in the ten years since Gross left Stuttgart, but one player still remains: Daniel Didavi. His old club are having a good season since returning to the Bundesliga in the summer.

“Stuttgart are compact, keep things tight in the middle and attack with pace on the wing before finding their forwards in the middle,” analysed Gross. But for the Schalke boss, it’s about focusing on ourselves and, above all, creating more chances than recently and making the most of them. “We need goals,” he emphasised.

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