Pellegrino Matarazzo steered VfB Stuttgart to ninth place in the Bundesliga in his debut top-flight campaign last season. - © Lukas Schulze/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images
Pellegrino Matarazzo steered VfB Stuttgart to ninth place in the Bundesliga in his debut top-flight campaign last season. - © Lukas Schulze/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images
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Pellegrino Matarazzo eager for VfB Stuttgart reaction

VfB Stuttgart's American head coach Pellegrino Matarazzo wants his players to "show a reaction" following last week's 3-1 defeat at home to Bayer Leverkusen.

That reverse was his side's third in their last four Bundesliga outings, leaving them down in 14th with just four points on the board so far. Stuttgart's next opportunity to pick up points arrives on Sunday, when they travel to promoted side Bochum, who sit one point and three places below them.

"There was some sand in the gears [against Leverkusen] and I wasn't happy with the performance," Matarazzo said at his media briefing this week.

Watch: Stuttgart's defeat to Leverkusen on Matchday 5

"I wasn't happy because I was certain that if we'd played to our limit against them, we'd have seen a very different game. We weren't determined or purposeful enough in the final third.

"For me, it's now about showing a reaction. The energy you can create is also a question of character. This is an important game to see what we're capable of and what we want to achieve."

Among those objectives is likely avoiding the dreaded "second season syndrome", when promoted sides suffer in their second year, having enjoyed a successful first campaign in the top flight.

By way of contrast, at this stage of the 2020/21 season, Stuttgart were fifth with eight points from five games, 10 goals scored and six conceded. This time around they've scored almost as many, nine, but have conceded 12.

Borna Sosa's crosses were one of Stuttgart's most dangerous weapons last season - can he be influential again this weekend? - imago images

Matarazzo believes that, too, is more a matter of his players needing to have the right mindset, rather than them playing badly. "Having that absolute determination when you're defending, to block a cross or to win an aerial challenge, that's all down to your attitude," said the 43-year-old.

"We need to start defending with that ultimate desire again. Matches are decided by the duels inside the penalty boxes and we want to get back to winning those."

The team's inability to win aerial battles in the opposition area is largely down to the injury-enforced absence of 6'6" striker Sasa Kalajdzic, whose emergence into a reliable top-level goalscorer last season paved the way for fellow forward Nico Gonzalez to depart for Fiorentina.

Omar Marmoush has one goal in two games for Stuttgart since joining on loan this summer. - imago

Omar Marmoush arrived as a deadline-day loan signing from Wolfsburg to fill the gap, and he has done well in his two games so far, even scoring on his debut against Eintracht Frankfurt, but he will inevitably need more time to settle.

For now, though, Matarazzo is gearing everything towards steering his team to a first away win of the season.

"We've shown good energy in training and I hope we can do the same on Sunday. Our focus with this game is on doing things better. The only way we can get anything from it is by pushing ourselves to the limit."