Third-placed TSG 1899 Hoffenheim host Borussia Mönchengladbach in what will be a good opportunity for the former to close the gap on RB Leipzig, who face a difficult challenge in SC Freiburg. Toppling Mönchengladbach, now coached by Dieter Hecking, will be no easy task however.
Since the former Wolfsburg head coach moved to Borussia-Park, the side have been repairing the damage left by André Schubert and are fourth in the Rückrunde table. Their thrilling 3-2 victory against 1. FC Köln in the Rhein-Derby last weekend once again proved their good form.
The home side, who are continuing to impress thanks to the work of their young coach, are also upbeat since the return of the Bundesliga having earned one more point than their opponents. Despite the away defeat against Hamburger SV, who haven’t lost at the Volksparkstadion since January, the form of the team remains very good. Beating Bayern Munich was further proof of that.
Otherwise, the game can be considered as key in the race for Europe, especially for Gladbach, who are only two points from the sixth. This is no longer a worry for Nagelsmann and his side, who have already secured a Europa League spot at the very least. The only thing they need fight for now is third position, also courted by Borussia Dortmund.
Dieter Hecking is aware of what his team will face in the coming weeks
During the press conference ahead of the game, the head coach of Gladbach - who has been there for at least 100 days now - declared that the next weeks will be though: “In Hoffenheim and Dortmund we have two of the strongest teams in the league waiting for us."
But he believes in his players: “At the moment we are picking up points pretty regularly and we want to maintain that form going into the final few weeks of the season. We can achieve a goal that did not seem possible during the Winter break, but we are looking at things game by game."
The former Gladbach player remains focused on Saturday though as he expects a strong opposition: “Hoffenheim is a very difficult away hurdle to clear. To get points at the home of the team third in the league would be fantastic. But to get those we will have to defend strongly and hurt them going forward when we get the chance. We have achieved a lot in recent weeks and we want to keep playing good football."
Julian Nagelsmann praises their opponent
The young head coach of Hoffenheim talked to the press on Friday afternoon and he discussed the upcoming opponents: “I’ve often said that Gladbach are on of the teams in the Bundesliga that I really enjoy watching because they play very good football. They have some very good players. They always have pace on the wings, irrelevant of who plays. They’re a good team and like to play good football. They’ve developed really well under Dieter Hecking and they’ve looked good in the second half of the season."
Nagelsmann also talked about the recent defeat against HSV, as well as the games against Bayern Munich and Hertha BSC: “We looked to be a little fatigued in the game against Hamburg after running a lot in the two previous games against Hertha and Bayern. Then we sustained a few injuries and we didn’t have enough energy to overcome a pressing opponent. Hamburg were good and aggressive and they deserved to win."
Who will not be fit enough for that game?
For Hoffenheim, Pavel Kaderabeck is still out due to back problems though Sandro Wagner, Kerem Demirbay and Jeremy Toljan should be back as they all recovered from their injuries.
The away side aren’t as lucky – Tony Jantschke, Christoph Kramer, Fabian Johnson, Marvin Schulz and Mamadou Doucouré are all out. There are a few doubts for some other players, but Hecking wants to wait and test them again just before the game. For Raffael, who twisted his knee, the head coach does not know if he will have recovered already to play on Saturday or if he will have to wait until next weekend for the game against Borussia Dortmund.