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14.12.2021Bundesliga

Our next opponents: The 'brothers' from the Kraichgau

The last home game of 2021 is round the corner. On Wednesday, 15 December (kick-off: 20.30 CET), there is the 27th Bundesliga meeting between the Werkself and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim at the BayArena. The hosts will have to be particularly alert in this encounter right up to the last second. Why? The lowdown on our next opponents.
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Position

The TSG Hoffenheim players approached the microphones with broad grins last Saturday afternoon. No wonder as they secured a last-minute win in the big match against SC Freiburg. Central defender Chris Richards headed the winner in a 2-1 victory in the fourth minute of added time to secure the fourth win on the bounce. "We're training very hard, we feel good and are very happy about another three points," declared the 21-year-old after the final whistle. The team led by head coach Sebastian Hoeneß have performed incredibly well so far this term. Fourth place and 26 points make a clear statement after 15 matchdays. In the last ten games, TSG have clocked up seven wins (three defeats) and were the second most in-form Bundesliga side during that period behind league leaders Bayern Munich (eight wins, two defeats). "We feel like brothers and give our all for each other on the pitch," said Richards in explaining the formula for success at Hoffenheim recently and he added: "You can see that and it’s what we’re about."

Personnel

Coach Hoeneß has injury problems ahead of the clash with the Werkself and he will have to manage without Ermin Bicakcic (rehab after torn cruciate), Jacob Bruun Larsen (training deficit), Marco John (flu) and Robert Skov (thigh injury). In contrast to the 2-1 win in Freiburg, Dennis Geiger may well return to the starting line-up. The 23-year-old midfielder has recently suffered with muscular problems but is an option again for Wednesday night. Alternatives in central midfield are Angelo Stiller and Sebastian Rudy. If defensive all-rounder Florian Grillitsch, who missed the Freiburg game due to a cold, comes back into the starting eleven, then Richards or Stefan Posch will have to make way. Striker Georginio Rutter is also a candidate for a start after only coming on as a substitute on the last matchday.

Performers

Bayer 04 against Hoffenheim – a battle between the quick starters and the late finishes. The Werkself have scored 11 goals in the opening 15 minutes; the top stat in the Bundesliga. TSG lead the ranking of the 18 clubs with goals in the final 15 minutes (nine). In addition, the team from the Kraichgau also have the fourth best attack in the league. Five of their 32 goals have been scored by Ihlas Bebou who is the club's top scorer in the Bundesliga. The forward missed the start of the season due to a Covid-19 infection but is now right back in the saddle. Sebastian Hoeneß is a fan of the Togo international and he describes him as a lad with a "super character" who works hard on the pitch and is therefore "enormously important" for the team. It's no wonder the 27-year-old has been a regular starter for TSG since matchday five. In Andrej Kramaric, Hoffenheim have the third best provider in the league (seven assists) in their ranks – only Thomas Müller (11, Bayern Munich) and Werkself youngster Florian Wirtz (eight) have set up more goals.

Problems

As much fun as TSG fans have in the attacking strength of their team, they very much yearn for defensive stability. The Hoeneß team have conceded 23 goals in 15 games. There is undoubtedly a need to find a better balance between the different parts of the team. A problem that Hoffenheim and Leverkusen share with each other: No other teams in the top half of the table have conceded more goals than the Werkself and TSG (24 and 23 respectively).

Prediction

TSG are currently not only amongst the most in-form teams in the Bundesliga but also amongst the most consistent – after conceding there have almost always been results in the end and they have only suffered two defeats in succession once this season. The Hoeneß team are currently in outstanding shape and are definitely one of the teams capable of finishing in a European spot, in particular due to their offensive qualities. The impressive attacking duo of Kramaric and Bebou are supported by young players like David Raum and Georginio Rutter who have really emerged this season. If these Hoffenheim "brothers" continue to consistently pick up points then there are several possibilities for the players from the Kraichgau in this current Bundesliga season.

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