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18.09.2021Bundesliga

Our next opponents: Stuttgart hit by injuries

Following the Europa League opener against Ferencváros, the Werkself now head for southern Germany. Bayer 04 are away to VfB Stuttgart on Sunday, 19 September (kick-off: 15.30 CEST) – against the club who are missing three absolute key performers.
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Position

The announcement on Wednesday afternoon came as a complete surprise to many: Thomas Hitzlsperger will not extend his contract as the CEO at VfB Stuttgart. The former midfielder, who became a champion of Germany with the Swabian team in 2007, will finish in the autumn of 2022. "I'm very grateful for the years together and I will remain emotionally connected to VfB in the future," said the 39-year-old. After taking up his post in 2019, he worked alongside president Claus Vogt, sporting director Sven Mislintat and coach Pellegrino Matarazzo and brought about a significant upturn at Stuttgart that saw the club return from the second division to Germany's top flight. As a newly promoted club, VfB impressed with young players and exciting attacking football and just missed out on qualifying for the Conference League in ninth place. The first two matches of this season also provided goal fests with a 6-0 victory over BFC Dynamo in the DFB Cup and a 5-1 win against SpVgg Greuther Fürth. However, since then there has been a spanner in the works for the Swabians. After two defeats away to Leipzig (0-4) and at home to Freiburg (2-3), Matarazzo's team picked up a point at Frankfurt despite being a man down and the coach categorised the side’s morale after the game as "extremely important." He added: "That can give us a boost in terms of mentality."

Personnel

The fact VfB are not yet fully up to speed is also due to bad luck with injuries that has affected the Swabians this term. The two shooting stars of last season, winger Silas and centre forward Kalajdzic are currently sidelined – and will probably be out for a long time. While Silas is likely to be out of action until November after suffering a torn cruciate in the spring, Kalajdzic will almost certainly not play again this year after suffering a shoulder injury in Leipzig. And beyond the two stars of the previous season, the VfB attack is also rather weakened at the moment. The 17-year-old striker Mohamed Sankoh suffered a serious knee injury in the first game and has been ruled out for months; for new signing Chris Führich, who has not yet appeared for the club due to a fractured collarbone, the game against the Werkself has also come to early. And Philip Förster is also a doubt for this match due to an infection. The injury list is shorter for the defence but Stuttgart do have one new absentee here: Central defender Waldemar Anton was shown a red card at Frankfurt for a professional foul and is suspended for the match against the Werkself.

Nevertheless: There are also positive announcements in terms of personnel. Midfielder Orel Mangala celebrated his comeback as a substitute at Frankfurt after being out injured for six months and he could be a candidate to start against Bayer 04. And: Omar Marmoush, brought in on loan from VfL Wolfsburg just before the end of the transfer window, impressed in his debut for VfB and he not only scored against Frankfurt to make it 1-1 but he was a constant threat in attack. "You could see he's very good even when he doesn't have much space," praised Matarazzo.

Peformers

After the serious injuries to Silas and Kalajdzic there is still one high flyer from last season: The Japanese player Wataru Endo is "already" 28 years old but he played his way into the hearts of the VfB fans last season and also came to the attention of people regularly watch Stuttgart matches. Endo wins a lot of possession in defensive midfield, is full of running and also knows how to set up counter-attacks. Together with Mangala, who is now back alongside him, Endo was at the heart of Matarazzo's 3-4-2-1 system last season. Endo, who just missed out on a medal in the Olympic Games at home in Japan in the summer, is now the captain at VfB – and he seems increasingly happy in front of the opposition net: He has scored one goal and provided one assist in the first four matches.

Problems

Stuttgart are still missing the balance that marked the team out over long stretches of last season. The team appeared susceptible in defence in the defeats at Leipzig and against Frankfurt with nine goals and a total of 63 shots on goal conceded, that is the fourth highest number after four matches in the Bundesliga. Matarazzo set up his team at Frankfurt in a clearly more defence formation to bring about the necessary stability. That worked – albeit at the cost of the attack, which really never got going; striker Marmoush was often left on his own up front.

Prediction

VfB have been hit hard by the injuries to a number of key players. The football the Swabians produced over large parts of last season is currently difficult to reproduce. Nevertheless, the squad has enough talent and potential development to be able to do well in the Bundesliga this season – and if Silas and Kalajdzic return to their former strength after their injuries, then VfB could be one of the top teams in the second half of the season.

 

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