Wolfsburg match the ideal yardstick

On the back of last week's 1-0 away victory over Freiburg, 1899 Hoffenheim welcome reigning Bundesliga champions VfL Wolfsburg to the Rhein-Neckar-Arena (kick off Saturday, 15:30 CET). "Our fans have been fantastic so far. I don't think anyone expected them to support us so passionately this season," exclaimed sporting director Jan Schindelmeiser. No doubt he will be hoping for a similar show of support on Saturday.

Head coach Ralf Rangnick was respectful of Saturday's opponents: "They are after all the reigning Bundesliga champions and the only German side still in with a realistic chance of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League. It's a challenge we're looking forward to. We need to be on top form to get the three points." The Wolfsburg attack is beginning to hit form, scoring three goals in each of their last two outings against Mainz and Besiktas. Still, coach Armin Veh is mindful of his side's frailties in defence. The Wolves have conceded 19 goals this season - among the four worst records of any side in the league overall this term. Certainly Saturday's match promises to be a clash of two attack-minded teams. Indeed, last season's corresponding fixture resulted in a thrilling 3-2 victory for 1899.

A home victory over one of their direct competitors would firmly establish Hoffenheim among the leading pack, although both Schindelmeiser and Rangnick are well aware that Wolfsburg pose a very different threat to their previous two opponents: "It's a good yardstick to measure ourselves by," said Schindelmeiser, while Rangnick praised the attacking prowess of the visitors: "They can afford to leave the likes of Grafite and Martins on the bench at the moment. That says a lot about their attacking options." The Hoffenheim supremo also reckons that Wolfsburg's Champions League success has given them the boost they needed to recapture their Bundesliga form. Maicosuel agreed that the match against Wolfsburg will be no easy encounter: "Wolfsburg are a quality side, but we're capable of getting a good result and establishing ourselves at the top of the table. That's our goal." The Brazilian appears to have found his feet after a difficult settling-in period and will go into the game full of confidence.

Rangnick is likely to stick with the majority of the side which won against Freiburg last week. Chinedu Obasi remains sidelined, while Andreas Ibertsberger is likely to be out until Christmas following his facial injury. Matthias Jaissle again finds himself on the treatment table after exploratory surgery on his knee, while the Wolfsburg match will come a tad too soon for Tobias Weis, who appears to be making good progress. There is a glimmer of hope for Demba Ba, with a decision over his fitness expected imminently.

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