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10.02.2023Bundesliga

Our next opponents: Aiming high with Pellegrino Matarazzo

TSG Hoffenheim are experiencing stormy weather. The club announced the departure of coach André Breitenreiter on Monday and presented his successor Pellegrino Matarazzo on Wednesday. The aim is to stop the nose dive of ten games without a win and move away from the drop zone. The change in fortune is supposed to begin on Saturday 11 February (kick-off: 15.30 CET) in the home game against Bayer 04.
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Position

Last weekend's 5-2 defeat at VfL Bochum caused consternation amongst many people involved with TSG. "For some inexplicable reason, we weren't at it for the whole game and this negative run has to finally come to an end," said goalkeeper Oliver Baumann after the tenth match without a win. Hoffenheim stalwart Sebastian Rudy was equally baffled: "I don't know what we've done here. We give away goals, lose challenges and mess up our games." Eight defeats, two draws: That is the sobering return for TSG since the middle of October 2022.

TSG Hoffenheim did make a convincing start to the season and they were in a Champions League spot on matchday ten just two points behind FC Bayern. The 2-0 home defeat against the record champions on 22 October marked the start of the negative run. TSG did not manage to achieve the hoped-for turnaround after the long World Cup winter break. They rapidly dropped down the table and are currently fourteenth just three points above the play-off position. And last week they were knocked out of the DFB Cup in a 3-1 defeat to RB Leipzig in the Round of 16.

Given this development, which happened in a similar way last season, the sporting director at TSG, Alexander Rosen, made his opinion clear after the 5-2 defeat in Bochum: "In twelve months, we've twice been in a phase with a similar massive drop in form. Perhaps we have to look everything." The first response from TSG came on Monday this week when they parted company with head coach André Breitenreiter.

Personnel

TSG presented a good old familiar face in Pellegrino Matarazzo as the successor to the 49-year-old who only took over the helm in the summer of 2022. Matarazzo, head coach at VfB Stuttgart up to October 2022, has already worked in Sinsheim before. He was at the TSG Academy from 2017 to 2019 and later assistant coach to Julian Nagelsmann. The 45-year-old Italian American is now tasked with the job of putting TSG back on track. "Rino not only knows our club but also a large part of the team first hand," said Alexander Rosen. "In turn, we know him and are therefore convinced that he's the right man for the position as head coach. He can deal with pressure and knows what's required in this situation. With his playing philosophy, his approach to the game and the way he deals with people makes him 100% right for TSG and our future far beyond the current situation." The recipient of such praise is aware of the degree of difficulty of the task ahead: "The situation is undoubtedly demanding." But Matarazzo said he is "convinced by the quality of the team." Now he wants to rediscover the football that was the trademark of the club for many years: offensive, brave, lively football.

It will be interesting to see which starting line-up the new coach will field in the home game against the Werkself. He will definitely have to manage without defender Pavel Kaderabek (thigh), midfielder Grischa Prömel (rehab after broken ankle) and striker Jacob Bruun Larsen (rehab after a groin operation). Defender Kevin Vogt, sidelined with a thigh problem in recent weeks, could return to the back three in place of the former Wolfsburg player John Anthony Brooks, who was signed from Benfica in January. Recent starters at the back are Ozan Kabak and Stanley Nsoki. The Spaniard Angelino is having an impressive season on the left flank with the 26-year-old being the best provider for TSG this term with six assists.

The homegrown Hoffenheim player Dennis Geiger is a regular first choice in central midfield. The club brought in former Dortmund player Thomas Delaney from Sevilla in this position in the winter. Christoph Baumgartner is the main man in attacking midfield and, alongside goalkeeper and captain Oliver Baumann, is the only player to start in all 19 league games. Baumgartner and striker Andrej Kramaric are the best scorers and providers in the team (both have five goals and four assists). Matarazzo has a number of options in attack. Munas Dabbur has scored five goals to date. TSG signed the Dane Kasper Dolberg in January also on loan from Sevilla like Thomas Delaney. In addition, Ihlas Bebou is available. Giorginio Rutter is no longer in the squad. The 20-year-old Frenchman, scorer of an impressive goal in the 3-0 win for Hoffenheim in Leverkusen in the Hinrunde, joined Leeds United in the Premier League in January.

Performers

TSG Hoffenheim are traditionally one of the strongest teams in the Bundesliga on the break. Left-back Angelino and midfielder Christoph Baumgartner have often provided the launching pad for quick counter-attacks this term. Four goals from transition play represents the third most in the league. A lot happens down the wings and TSG Hoffenheim have a top position in the rankings both in terms of crosses and accuracy of crosses. The offensive capability of the side has also been evident this season as in the 3-0 Hinrunde victory at the BayArena, in the 4-1 win against Mainz 05 as well as two convincing wins against Schalke 04 in the league (3-0) and the DFB Cup (5-1).

Problems

TSG have conceded 14 goals in four league fixtures in this calendar year, more than any other team over that period. Keeper Oliver Baumann is understandably frustrated: "At times we concede strange goals but we are letting them in too easily and we have to stop that extremely quickly." You could also add too simple and too early as the first shots from the opposition have often landed in the back of the net. "No player is close the goalscorer and it's not to do with the tactical approach but rather attitude," declared Alexander Rosen after defeat in Bochum. Grit, passion and determination are now required. A look at the stats reveals how porous the TSG defence has been recently: Seven goals conceded on the break and seven goals conceded from corners are both the worst numbers in the league. No wonder that the dip in form away from home has left its mark on players. There is a lack of confidence and body language according to winter signing Thomas Delaney

Prediction

Without doubt: TSG urgently need a win. And they will be looking to achieve that against the Werkself on Saturday. Pellegrino Matarazzo has only had three days to work with his team since being appointed. One advantage could be that he already knows a large part of the team from his first time at Hoffenheim. In terms of mentality, it is now question of clearing minds and overcoming uncertainty. "We now have to press the reset button and move forwards," demanded the new coach. On the pitch, defensive stability should be the main focus of attention. "The beautiful game comes later," said the 31-year-old Delaney. He has sufficient experience along with other TSG players like Oliver Baumann (32), Sebastian Rudy (32), Kevin Vogt (31), John Brooks (30) and Andrej Kramaric (31) to overcome this difficult situation. If everybody is prepared to be involved in the battle against relegation that captain Baumann has called for, then everything should soon be on the up for TSG given the great potential of their squad. At the end of the day, the club were in a Champions League position on matchday ten for a reason.

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