VfB Stuttgart: Searching for safer waters with the survival specialist

VfB Stuttgart were hoping for a slightly calmer time of it after staying up by the skin of their teeth last season. But the Swabians spent the winter break languishing down in the relegation play-off place and are firmly embroiled in another survival battle this term. They have now handed the coaching reins to a familiar face: Bruno Labbadia, who has built himself a reputation as a survival specialist, is back in the hot seat in Stuttgart following a previous spell between 2010 and 2013. The Swabians picked up a point against 1. FSV Mainz on Labbadia's return. Next up is the local derby against TSG Hoffenheim on Tuesday evening (kick-off 20:30 CET).

For a long time, there were hopes that Pellegrino Matarazzo would manage to turn the tide. But the plug was pulled in October, and the American was shown the exit door after exactly 100 competitive games in charge. No other coach has overseen a triple-digit number of matches in Stuttgart for many years. The last was Bruno Labbadia.

More than nine years after being dismissed in August 2013, the Darmstadt native is now back again, having been appointed as the successor to Matarazzo and interim coach Michael Wimmer. Labbadia has been charged with guiding VfB to safety. The 56-year-old has already proven himself capable: he has never been relegated with any of the eight clubs he has coached since 2003, even in precarious situations like the ones in Hamburg or Wolfsburg.

The tactician will bring all his experience to bear – and that could be necessary given the look of the squad. No player is over 29 years of age. VfB have the youngest team in the division by some distance, with an average age of 22.9 years. Stuttgart's new generation of young guns urgently need to pick up points to ensure they have a calmer second half-season.

While Stuttgart did manage to take the lead on the new coach's debut against 1. FSV Mainz 05, they ultimately could not hold on. "To some degree, we would've deserved to win the match," commented Labbadia after the 1-1 stalemate.

On Tuesday, TSG Hoffenheim will do everything in their power to ensure VfB do not add any more points to their tally in 2023. Bruno Labbadia will have almost a full squad at his disposal, with Dan-Axel Zagadou the only definitive absentee, while there are also question marks over Borna Sosa. Important points are at stake for both teams in the final round of the first half-season – the second match of Bruno Labbadia's second spell in Stuttgart.

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