The weeks of limited travel are over for TSG Hoffenheim – and they were not at all successful. There were defeats in the nearby away games at Stuttgart and Augsburg and the south-west clash with Mainz 05 ended in a reverse at home. That meant no points from three games where Hoffenheim were looking to banish any worries about being involved in a relegation battle. TSG are currently a comfortable seven points ahead of the play-off spot but they need to get back on track to ensure a worry-free run-in – particularly as the next four opponents are all above TSG Hoffenheim in the table. "Of course, we aren't happy with the results or performances," star striker Andrej Kramaric recently made clear. "That's below our expectations." Last season, Hoffenheim qualified for the Europa League by finishing sixth in the Bundesliga and – like the Werkself – an impressive group stage was followed by then going out in the knockout rounds.
"We want to show what we can do," said Kramaric. TSG have done that several times this season – in particular against supposedly stronger opponents. The standout result was a 4-1 win against Bayern Munich on matchday two. And TSG also produced impressive performances in 2021 against Champions League hopefuls Borussia Dortmund (2-2) and VfL Wolfsburg (2-1).
Probably the most important personnel issue ahead of the game against the Werkself affects the star of the team. Andrej Kramaric, the player to make the difference at TSG, missed the game in Augsburg due to an ankle problem. However, it looks likely that the Croat is set to return against the Werkself. Kramaric was back in full training on Wednesday. If the ankle stands up then the TSG top scorer should be in the line-up against Bayer 04.
The situation is different for a number of other players as Hoffenheim have an extensive list of long-term injuries. A particular bitter blow: Captain and key defender Benjamin Hübner (knee) has not been able to play a single game this season and will not be available again this term. This campaign is also over for the home-grown midfield talent Dennis Geiger (thigh). Central defender Ermin Bicakcic is hoping to make a comeback this season following his torn cruciate in September as is the former Leverkusen player Konstantinos Stafylidis (shin) but neither are available against the Werkself.
In contrast, there are hopeful signs for the two strikers Sargis Adamyan and Munas Dabbur who, like Kramaric, were absent through injury against Augsburg. While there is still a question mark over the possibility of Adamyan playing against Bayer 04, Dabbur is expected to be return. Coach Sebastian Hoeneß therefore has significantly more options in attack.
Particularly with Kramaric and Dabbur, Hoffenheim have an attack with an incredible amount of quality, penetration and lots of different weapons. While Kramaric is both a goalscorer and playmaker, Dabbur is a traditional penalty box player with great finishing ability. On top of that, there are the talented midfielder Christoph Baumgartner and the lightning fast forward Ihlas Bebou. The TSG attack, as often shown this season, can hurt any team in the league – and in a number of ways. Not for nothing have Hoffenheim scored the most goals of all the teams in the bottom half of the table and have created the sixth highest number of clear-cut chances in the division.
Hoffenheim again and again have difficulties when not in possession. Only bottom of the table Schalke 04 have currently conceded more goals than TSG. A big factor in that respect: Hoffenheim have the lowest number of challenges of all the teams in the Bundesliga. That is definitely due in part to the absence of Hübner and Bicakcic as they are normally extremely reliable in tackles and challenges plus being an important steadying factor – but they have hardly been able to play if at all this season. It is not only the weakness in challenges that presents a problem. Hoffenheim have already conceded eight goals from counter-attacks and nine goals in the last 15 minutes of the game – both the highest number in the Bundesliga. And life for the Hoeneß team has not been made any easier with four players sent off this term, the highest number in all the Bundesliga teams.
This Hoffenheim team may be too strong to risk being involved in the relegation battle. Up front, TSG have a number of players who can make the difference – and Hoffenheim have produced very good performances several times against supposedly stronger opposition as they are due to face the remaining fixtures. The management of the club are looking to secure top-flight status as soon as possible – and then aim to finish higher next season. This team definitely has the ability to achieve that aim.
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