1899 host league leaders

On Sunday (24 January, 17:30 CET), 1899 Hoffenheim welcome league leaders Bayer Leverkusen to the Rhein-Neckar Arena.

Ralf Rangnick is hoping his side can latch onto the first-half performance they showed last Friday against Bayern München: "Bayer Leverkusen are even better than Bayern München at the moment," said the 1899 boss looking ahead to Sunday's match. Centre-back Josip Simunic advised that "a will to win is the most important thing. We need to be ready to fight for victory."

Carlos Eduardo doubtful

Luiz Gustavo could well be the ideal man for the job in that department. The Brazilian is returning to the side after completing his suspension, though Demba Ba (muscle tear) Chinedu Obasi and Isaac Vorsah (both African Cup of Nations) are all unavailable. Whether Carlos Eduardo will be fit in time is still unclear. The playmaker trained on Thursday, but Rangnick remained coy on his availability: "It depends how his knee reacts."

Bayer to remain unchanged

Similarly to 1899, Leverkusen played a friendly in midweek, beating 2. Bundesliga side Alemannia Aachen 6-1 thanks in large part to four goals from Patrick Helmes. The Germany international looks set to make a full return from his cruciate ligament injury and could well earn a place on the bench on Sunday. Either way, Leverkusen coach Jupp Heynckes has little reason to change a winning formula.

Leverkusen still unbeaten

In the reverse fixture on Matchday 2, 1899 Hoffenheim went down 1-0 at the BayArena, with Stefan Kießling netting the decisive goal. The Werkself also won both encounteres last season, winning 5-2 and 4-1 respectively. A Hoffenheim win on Sunday would not only come as a great result for the hosts, it would also make them the first side to beat Leverkusen this season, motivation enough, says Simunic: "Leverkusen have a very good team, but we'll be giving everything to beat them on Sunday."

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