Last Friday's opening fixture of the second half of the Bundesliga campaign witnessed a free-kick goal from James Rodriguez that sealed a 3-1 win for league leaders FC Bayern. The strike from the Colombian finally put paid to a run of 14 games without defeat (eight wins, six draws) for the Werkself. It was also the first defeat for coach Heiko Herrlich with Bayer 04 at the BayArena.
One Black and Red run did carry on. However, it is not very positive. In the game against the record champions from Munich, Leverkusen conceded goals number 13 and 14 (out of a total of 26) from set pieces this term. That means Bernd Leno and Co. have let in more than half of the goals conceded from dead-ball situations (54%). Hard to accept. Herrlich's team will do all they can in Sinsheim on Saturday to defend better at set pieces.
A look at the Bundesliga record against TSG provides reasons to be hopeful: Bayer 04 have won 13 of the previous 19 meetings in the league (three draws, three defeats) – the best return for the Werkself against teams currently in the top flight (68 per cent). But be aware: In the last four matches, the Black and Reds have only picked up two points (two draws, two defeats). The home form of TSG cannot be ignored either: Hoffenheim only suffered defeat on their own turf once in the Bundesliga in 2017 . That was at the end of October against Borussia Mönchengladbach (1-3) on matchday ten, when the TSG coach Julian Nagelsmann threw a drinks bottle in the direction of the stands in a fit of pique.
The fixture between these two teams has yet to end in a goalless draw. The average of three goals per game could well promise more excitement on Saturday. Especially as the hosts – including Europa League matches – have scored in front of their own fans in all of the 13 home games this season (a total of 21 goals, including 16 in the Bundesliga). At the same time, Bayer 04 will not need to sit back: The Werkself have scored at least one goal in all of the last 23 Bundesliga matches. That is currently by far the longest such run in the league. That means the Werkself are just one goal away from equalling the club record (24 games in the period between October 1999 and May 2000).
The trip to Sinsheim represents a return to a former club for Kevin Volland and reserve keeper Rambo Özcan. Volland played for TSG Hoffenheim from 2012 to 2016 (144 games, 36 goals, 23 assists) before moving on to Leverkusen. Özcan was at the Sinsheim club from January 2008 to the summer of 2011 (29 appearances) and was in the squad that won promotion to the Bundesliga in 2008. And several Germany internationals on both sides will be reunited: Together with Bernd Leno, Julian Brandt and Benjamin Henrichs, Hoffenheim's Kerem Demirbay won the Confed Cup in the summer, Dominik Kohr and Hoffenheim's Nadiem Amiri won the U21 European Championships in 2017. Moreover: Kohr made his Bundesliga debut in Sinsheim in April 2012 in 1-0 win for Bayer 04.
After the pre-match press conference at 11.00 CET and the last training session on Friday afternoon, the Werkself will set off on the 300-kilometre journey to the team hotel in Bad Schönborn in north-west Baden-Württemberg at around 15.00 CET. The team meeting in the evening will be followed on Saturday morning by breakfast and a communal walk before later setting off after an afternoon rest to the Wirsol Rhein Neckar Arena. The #TSGB04 match kicks off two hours later. The Werkself will play in red and the hosts in blue.
All Bayer 04 fans, unable to follow the Werkself to Sinsheim, do not have to miss out on getting behind the team amongst fellow Black and Red support at the Schwadbud: The fan pub in the East Stand at the BayArena, as is usual with away fixtures, is open for fans to watch the game together. The doors open one hour before the kick-off at 14.30 CET: Come on down and join other Bayer 04 fans in cheering on the Werkself against the North Baden team. Here we go, Black and Red.
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