TSG 1899 Hoffenheim welcome Hamburger SV to the Rhein-Neckar Arena on Friday evening, with both sides in contrasting runs of form.
Hapless Hoffenheim need three points
Hoffenheim have struggled this season, so much so that they are in the relegation zone and just one point off the bottom. It is a far cry from what the Sinsheim side usually produce, but their leaky defence is still there for all to see and continues to cost them points.
Only VfB Stuttgart (19) have conceded more goals that Hoffenheim (18), which is a surprise given the additions made by Markus Gisdol during the summer. Pavel Kaderabeck and Fabian Schär looked like two inspired signings, and Niklas Süle is also fully fit once more. Things have not gone to plan, however, and it could be a case of miscommunication between new bodies that are costing them in defence.
Hoffenheim are still scoring goals, albeit not with the regularity people have become accustomed to, but they still have 12 goals to show for their efforts and with Kevin Volland and Eduardo Vargas leading the line it should only increase. Last time out, neither managed to get on the scoresheet though they did manage to claw themselves back from 2-0 down against VfL Wolfsburg. However, Max Kruse had the last laugh as the Wolves won 4-2.
Due to the close nature of the Bundesliga this term, only four points separate 4th and 12th going into the weekend, Hoffenheim can still be confident of turning their season around. However, they need to start that fight-back with a win on Friday evening.
Hamburg hoping to pick up another win
Despite a recent run that has yielded few points, it has been a very promising start for Hamburg. This is massively different to what Bundesliga fans are used to. After two seasons of hurt and relegation play-offs, the Northerners finally seem to have stabilised as a club once more.
That success has been built upon a settled and well-drilled midfield and defensive unit, which Bruno Labbadia must take huge credit for. The additions of Albin Ekdal and Gotou Sakai have added a solidity to their play, as well as the up-turn in form from Aaron Hunt and Lewis Holtby.
The main problem has been scoring goals, something that has prevented them from picking up more points than they possibly should have. Sven Schipplock will be desperate to net against his former club, and that may spur him on an extra yard or two to score his first goal this season.
In their last game, HSV picked up a very credible home draw with Bayer Leverkusen. As per usual, this was a feisty affair once more and Tobias Welz handed out no fewer than eight yellow cards. Overall, a point apiece was a result that both could have been happy with.
Hamburg are the previously mentioned 12th place side and a win would boost their hopes of securing safety this season. A win would put them in the European spots ahead of the remaining matches on matchday 10, a fantastic achievement for the team.
Gisdol is all too aware of the challenge facing his side, "The team have a point to prove so I’m confident we’ll be able to get a win." He added that his staff have been working tirelessly to get them back to winnings ways, "My coaching staff and I are devoting all our time and energy into making this a possibility, day in, day out."
Schipplock is, unsurprisingly, fired up for the game: "I am certainly up for it and full of emotion. It is a special game for me and I am relishing it." The forward is keen to make his mark on the game, too: "Of course it would be perfect if I could set up or score a goal to help the team. In the end though the coach decides on who plays."
Apart from the doubts over Steven Zuber and Primin Schwegler's fitness, Hoffenheim should have their full-strength starting eleven on the pitch. Jiloan Hamad and Kai Herdling are both out, but it's unlikely that they would have taken up a starting beth.
HSV are only without Aaron Hunt, Emir Spahic and Gojko Kacar for the trip, with the rest of the squad fully fit. The only real decision for Labbadia to make is between the sticks, as Jaroslav Drobny and René Adler continue to do battle for the number one spot. Michael Gregoritsch will likely replace Hunt, in a switch to a slightly more attacking 4-2-3-1 formation.
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim: (4-4-2) Baumann; Toljan, Bicakcic, Süle, Kim; Rudy, Strobl, Polanski, Schmid; Volland, Vargas.
Hamburger SV: (4-2-3-1) Adler; Diekmeier, Djourou, Cleber, Ostrzolek; Ekdal, Holtby; Müller, Gregotisch, Ilicevic; Lasogga.
Quotes from the respective club websites.