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Oct 8, 2012

Stuttgart's struggles continue

Stuttgart's 2-2 draw with Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday was overshadowed by events off the pitch, with an outburst from Die Roten coach Bruno Labbadia revealing worrying rifts inside the club.

With the match tied at 2-2 thanks to doubles from Vedad Ibisevic for Stuttgart and Stefan Kiessling for Leverkusen, Labbadia's decision to substitute 19-year-old Raphael Holzhauser was greeted with cries of "Bruno raus!" (Bruno out).

The coach took the chants personally and hit back after the match, saying the fans had been "stirred up" by the local media in recent weeks and accusing journalists of "propagating falsehoods that are clearly below the belt".

Despite qualifying for the Europa League, Stuttgart have had a lot to cope with in recent seasons, including a €22 million budget cut which has reduced overall salaries from €67 million to €45 million.

When the club qualified for the Champions League in 2009, salaries were increased and players purchased who did not make an impact. In recent interviews, club president Gerd Mauser has admitted that Stuttgart stepped into "the Champions League trap".

Before the season, Stuttgart lost five players for a total of €6.5 million, signing just two - Tunay Torun and Tim Hoogland - for a total of €300,000.

This cautious policy has been bemoaned by Labbadia, who said: "We could not buy the players we wanted over the summer.

"We have a clear competitive disadvantage. It is a thin line. We must give 100% all the time and nothing much can happen. We have got six to eight matches every month until December."

The situation has not been helped by the recent departure of youth coaches Frieder Schrof and Thomas Ahlbeck to fourth division Red Bull Leipzig. The duo, who have overseen the development of internationals like Mario Gomez, Sami Khedira and Kevin Kuranyi, will link up with former Stuttgart boss Ralf Rangnick, who was appointed director of football at Leipzig this summer.

After their departures, the promotion of Holzhauser to the starting XI was questioned by the local media - but Labbadia countered those claims, saying: "Raphael Holzhauser would not be here any more if I had not vetoed against loaning him out."

Labbadia explained that Holzhauser picked up an injury and had asked to be substituted against Leverkusen, adding: "I have to speak bluntly... the coaches in Bundesliga are not the dustbins for all people here."

Director of football Fredi Bobic has backed Labbadia's comments, saying: "The coach has every right to speak out and let off steam. I am not on the board here and try to enforce predefined decisions. That's not easy."

Stuttgart have collected just six points from their opening seven matches and sit 15th in the Bundesliga. Additionally, they have picked up only one point in two Europa League matches and, with Labbadia's outbursts, the focus on the team's struggles will not lessen any time soon.

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