It’s 12th versus 11th in the Bundesliga this weekend as TSG Hoffenheim hosts Werder Bremen at the PreZero Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Hoffenheim has been the model of inconsistency this season, and that only continued this past week. Last Saturday they managed to get a point on the road against Borussia Dortmund, which was an impressive result despite BVB’s poor form as of late.
However, Hoffenheim then blew a 3-1 lead in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 tie against Molde on Thursday, ultimately drawing 3-3 on the night. They’re still favorites to go through, of course, but it’s hard to be too sure with Die Kraichgauer at the moment.
It’s been a similar story for Bremen on the year. Almost every game they’ve been involved in has been close, whether it ends in a win, a draw, or a loss. That was especially true last Saturday as the Green-Whites tied SC Freiburg 0-0 in one of the worst matches of the entire campaign. There are just so many versions of this Bremen team that trying to predict which side will show up on any given day is nearly impossible.
With all that in mind, this contest could be a fun one.
Hoffenheim have been cursed by injuries all year, and that is still the case as eight players have been ruled out for the contest, with another four listed as questionable.
Kevin Akpoguma, Ermin Bicakcic, Benjamin Hübner, Stefan Posch, Havard Nordtveit, Konstantinos Stafylidis, and Dennis Geiger are all dealing with various injuries, and former Werder defender Kevin Vogt is suspended.
In terms of those who could still potentially feature, Andrej Kramaric and Mijat Gacinovic are both coming back from ankle issues while wingbacks Ryan Sessegnon and Robert Skov might be able to play depending on how their respective recoveries go.
Bremen are a lot more fortunate. Patrick Erras is the only confirmed absentee, while the likes of Ludwig Augustinsson, Marco Friedl, and Milos Veljkovic are all game time decisions. Manager Florian Kohfeldt did confirm that striker Niclas Fullkrug still isn’t ready to start, though.
Hoffenheim: Baumann, Adams, Grillitsch, Richards, Kaderabek, Rudy, Baumgartner, Samassekou, John, Bebou, Dabbur
Werder Bremen: Pavlenka, Toprak, Moisander, Friedl, Gebre Selassie, Eggestein, Mohwald, Bittencourt, Agu, Rashica, Sargent
Ones to watch
The in form man for Hoffenheim at the moment, Munas Dabbur has done well to step up in recent games.
With the aforementioned injury to Andrej Kramaric, the team needed someone to take on the goalscoring responsibilities. Thankfully for them, Dabbur has done just that.
The striker found the back of the net this past weekend against Dortmund, sneaking in behind the backline before slotting home from close range. Dabbur then grabbed two more during the week versus Molde, both coming courtesy of headers in the area.
These goals showcase the type of forward he is. Incredibly intelligent, Dabbur knows how to find space in the final third before then pouncing on it. He’s a clinical finisher, but he also knows how to link up play and pick out teammates in dangerous positions.
This will be his third game in the span of just nine days, though, so he’ll have to battle fatigue as well as the Bremen backline. Whether or not he can do just that remains to be seen, but Dabbur will fancy his chances of continuing his purple patch on Sunday.
A part of that Bremen backline will be Niklas Moisander.
The Bremen captain hasn’t featured much this season, but he’s going to get an opportunity in the side this weekend due to the club’s defensive injuries. However, that might not be the best news for the team.
Moisander began the year in the starting lineup, but he was eventually removed due to poor play. He just seemed a bit off the pace, making careless mistakes while failing to properly mark the opposing forwards. The Finland international cost the Green-Whites on a few occasions, so manager Florian Kohfeldt had no other choice than to drop him.
Sunday will give Moisander the chance to redeem himself, though.
There are some benefits to him playing, as he’s a true leader that can rally the team around him. The 35 year old is also incredibly experienced, so he’ll likely know what to expect from the opposition. There’s also the fact that Bremen like to play out from the back, which will allow Moisander to showcase his passing ability as well.
It’s going to be a tough test against a Hoffenheim team that can run riot on occasion, so the Green-Whites will hope Moisander is ready to go. Who knows, maybe he’ll be able to cement a spot back in the starting eleven with a strong performance here.
Last time out
It was far from a classic the last time these two sides faced off as a lackluster contest at the Wohninvest Weserstadion ended 1-1.
That didn’t seem like it was going to happen early on, though, as both teams scored in the opening half hour.
Bremen took the lead after just five minutes. Theodor Gebre Selassie flew forward on the wing before whipping a cross into the area, picking out the late run of Maximilian Eggestein. He made no mistake with the finish, slamming a first time shot past Philipp Pentke.
Hoffenheim responded well, and it didn’t take them too long to equalize. A long range effort from Robert Skov deflected into the path of Sebastian Rudy, and his cut back to Dennis Geiger was quite clever. The pass was good, but the finish was even better as the diminutive midfielder’s shot flew into the roof of the net.
The away side had the better chances later on, even hitting the crossbar at one stage, but they just couldn't find a winner as the two sides ultimately had to settle for a point each.
How to watch
Those in the UK can watch the contest on BT Sport 2, while fans in the United States will be able to see the action unfold on ESPN+.