Our next opponents: Nagelsmann's farewell tour

After the final international break of the season, Bayer 04 start the final run-in in the Bundesliga on Friday night (20.30 CET) away to TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. For their coach Julian Nagelsmann, the match against the Werkself is the start of the last chapter as coach in the Kraichgau – although the latest developments indicate that Nagelsmann's approach to the game will continue.


There had been speculation for months, lots of well-known names had been thrown into the ring but in the end it came down to somebody not really on the radar. TSG 1899 Hoffenheim announced their new coach at the start of the international break. The Dutchman Alfred Schreuder will take over from Julian Nagelsmann for the start of next season after he has left for RB Leipzig. Before that, Nagelsmann wants to complete his final mission and in his third complete season ensure qualification for Europe. That is still on the cards: TSG are currently four points behind Bayer 04 and the European places so the home game against the Werkself will be extremely important for Hoffenheim's ambitions. The first Champions League campaign in the club's history ended at the group stage without a win, in the DFB Cup TSG went out to Nagelsmann's future club RB Leipzig. Time to gather strength for the final attack on the top third of the Bundesliga.


The most exciting change of personnel at the moment is definitely Alfred Schreuder. As surprising as his appointment as head coach was, it appears logical at closer inspection. Schreuder initially came to Hoffenheim in 2015 as the assistant to Huub Stevens, but remained as assistant coach when Julian Nagelsmann took over just after that. In January 2018 he left to go to Amsterdam as the assistant to Erik ten Hag at Ajax. The duo are currently making waves in the Champions League where they knocked out Real Madrid, winners of the competition for the past three seasons. Nagelsmann wanted to take Schreuder with him to Leipzig as assistant coach but the Dutchman refused. Instead he now takes over as the successor rather than the assistant to Nagelsmann. This shows that Nagelsmann and Schreuder have the same way of thinking about football and follow a similar approach. Given the success under Nagelsmann, it is clear to understand the reasons for the Schreuder appointment – Hoffenheim have opted for the tried and tested with the change of coach not representing a complete change in terms of the approach to the game and the 46-year-old Dutchman is expected to further develop Nagelsmann's system. He would be keen to be able to count on Andrej Kramaric. The Croat (pictured above with Nagelsmann) is currently in outstanding form, scoring the last three Hoffenheim goals before the international break. That is no secret to top European clubs. It remains to be seen whether Schreuder will be able to include Kramaric in his plans. One thing is certain however: The striker will pose a constant threat to Bayer 04 on Friday.


Hoffenheim could be higher up the table if they stopped giving away leads. TSG have been ahead in 19 of their 26 games this season with only FC Bayern and Borussia Dortmund exceeding that number. But in over half of the matches that has not led to victory with the 1-1 draw, after being 1-0 up, at Stuttgart before the international break being the tenth match where Nagelsmann's team failed to pick up three points after being in the lead - the highest number in the Bundesliga. For the game against Bayer 04, Hoffenheim have suffered a setback: Nico Schulz picked up a fifth yellow card against Stuttgart and is suspended – definitely a miss as the left back is one of the key performers in the team with his impressive performances taking him into the Germany team where he scored the winner in the 3-2 victory over Holland in the European qualifiers.


Hoffenheim are looking to continue their success over recent seasons with the appointment of Schreuder. In terms of structure and finance, the club meets all requirements to be able to establish themselves on the European stage. Nagelsmann's approach to the game should act as the example for the whole club and be continued and developed by Schreuder in the future. The youth development policy started in the second division is slowly bearing fruit: Nadiem Amiri is a homegrown talent and a regular first choice, central defender Stefan Posch and the currently injured Dennis Geiger also play an important role, the forwards Robin Hack, Christoph Baumgartner and David Otto are in the first team squad from time to time and have made their debuts this term. The future looks bright in the Kraichgau..


The quality is definitely there to achieve a European finish. A crucial factor in the successful conclusion to the final Nagelsmann mission: Hoffenheim have to pick up the points that their good performances deserve and they need to overcome dropping points after being ahead. The game on Friday will show the direction of travel: A win against Bayer 04 would put Hoffenheim in touch with their declared target and a defeat put them further behind. So one thing is certain: Hoffenheim will do all they can to get a result against the Werkself.

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