Ibisevic madness could cost Stuttgart dearly


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Stuttgart striker Vedad Ibisevic (AFP)

Vedad Ibisevic was given five-of-the-best after his Matchday 20 bantamweight bout against Augsburg, just one of a host of numerically enhanced talking points to emerge from the German top flight last weekend.

The five-game ban slapped - you gotta love those tabloid verbs! - on the Stutttgart striker after his disgraceful antics at the Mercedes Benz Arena sends out a strong message that the German football authorities will not tolerate such behaviour. But more than the moral outrage at the Bosnia-Herzegovina international's deliberate, ill-intentioned elbow thrown at Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker is the justifiable ire of Stuttgart coach Thomas Schneider, which must be shared by the club's fans.

All right, at 2-0 down when Ibisevic lost his own, particularly convoluted plot, Stuttgart may not have made a miraculous comeback to win, but it was all but certain they would slip to a fourth straight defeat of the year as their top scorer traipsed off down the tunnel. Yes, in a derby, passions may run high, but it was scandalously unprofessional of Ibisevic, not to mention humanly reprehensible. Should Schneider (as is likely) forgive him, the former Hoffenheim man will now only return for the encounter with Hamburg in late March, 90 minutes which - given Ibisevic's damaging absence in the intervening period - could be a do-or-die moment in Stuttgart's survival fight.

While another man with strong Stuttgart connections, Joachim Loew, appears to be able to do without him quite nicely Danke schoen, Schneider would love to have a forward of the even temper and consistency of Stefan Kiessling. The 30-year-old will chalk up his 300th Bundesliga game against Schalke next Sunday, and has now featured in his club's last 106 top-flight encounters after playing all but the dying seconds of Leverkusen's defeat of Borussia Moenchengladbach last time out. Though still without the international recognition he undoubtedly deserves, Kiessling remains one of the Bundesliga's most formidable goalgetters. However, that impressive streak of appearances should have been broken with a ban after he claimed his 'ghost goal' earlier this season, an action arguably more out of kilter with the spirit of the game than Ibisevic's.

The Stuttgart striker's diabolical actions overshadowed what was a fantastic win for Augsburg, who have now registered nine victories this season, setting a new club record. Talk of a Europa League place may be premature, but the more understated ambition of manager Stefan Reuter - "We want to be a stable Bundesliga team" - looks much more easily achievable. It is a great testament to the talent of coach Markus Weinzerl, in his first top-flight job, that the club already finds itself virtually safe. With promise within the squad in the shape of André Hahn, who scored twice against Stuttgart and did not elbow anyone, and Matthias Ostrzolek, the future appears equally as bright, particularly with fixtures against Nuremberg, Freiburg and Hannover their next three outings.

Nuremberg were the latest side to be put to the sword by Bayern, but a 12th straight victory in a run in which Pep Guardiola's side have scored at least twice in every game to equal a Bundesliga record, is barely worthy of mention given the Bavarian club's penchant for history-making. What is - quite incredibly - is that sixth-placed Wolfsburg moved onto 33 points after 20 games with their 3-0 win over Mainz. Spookily (but surely not an omen!) the team Volkswagen built had exactly as many points and were also in sixth place at the same stage of the season when they won the Bundesliga title in 2008-09. However, they won a barely credible 36 points in their last 14 games of the campaign to pip Bayern Munich, something surely beyond Dieter Hecking's side. The club have never had 11 wins after 21 games of a Bundesliga season - Sunday's opponents Hertha Berlin will have taken note.

Ian Holyman, on Twitter @ian_holyman

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