The changes in personnel isn't the only thing different to last year. Hoffenheim, following wins against Bremen (4:1) and St. Pauli (1:0), have taken maximum points from their first two games and are joint top in the Bundesliga. The "Königsblauen", however, have suffered somewhat of a false start and are yet to claim any points, a complete role-reversal from last season. Despite the impressive start to the campaign, trainer Ralf Rangnick was quick to point out that this match is not a foregone conclusion: "We are not the favourites and we still have to step it up a level from the Bremen match. If we are successful that then we can definitely beat Schalke too."
Felix Magath struck 12 times in the transfer market during the summer and managed to sign some top quality players such as Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Raul and Jurado from Atlético Madrid. Lots of individual class has been added but their ability to gel together is still under scrutiny. 1899 trainer Rangnick believes this could provide an advantage for his team: "Schalke have strengthened their squad with well-known, experienced players while we have signed three up and coming talents. The advantage for us is that the team is a strong unit who have grown together and understand each other well. It will not be an easy match, but we are looking forward to it."
Rangnick to name unchanged side
Ralf Rangnick has a strong squad to choose from. Players that represented their teams at international level last week: Vedad Ibisevic, Josip Simunic, as well as new signing Gylfi Sigurdsson, Sebastian Rudy, Boris Vukcevic, Prince Tagoe and Isaac Vorsah have all returned without any injury worries. Even Peniel Mlapa, who picked up a knock on U-21 duty, is ready to face Schalke. The only small question mark is regarding Marvin Compper. The wing-back was injured in training and Rangnick was unwilling to speculate about whether the defender would play just two days before the match. "The squad looks good for Friday. Mlapa was able to take part in training so we have the same starting line-up as we did against St. Pauli," stated the coach. It remains to be seen if Gylfi Sigurdsson, the latest signing for Hoffenheim, will be in the squad on Friday. The Icelandic midfielder returned from international duty on Wednesday and trained with the team for the first time just a day before the match.
Matthias Jaissle and Chinedu Obasi are still out of contention due to long-term injuries. Jaissle's recovery is ahead of schedule which means the 22-year old could return to training within the next few weeks. Obasi, however, is still facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines. The fact that Rangnick can field the same starting line-up for the third competitive match is a row is a huge bonus, acknowledged by the trainer: "Right now we are heading in the right direction. We have continually improved. If we can build on our performances and improve again we can beat Schalke."
Ba set to face his idol
Demba Ba is a player who is especially looking forward to the match against Schalke as it provides him an opportunity to line-up against Raul. "Raul's career is an example to all players. The amount of goals he has scored during his career and his movement in the box is fantastic to watch", said the 25-year old who added: "He will only my idol until 20:00 on Friday!" Raul and other big names will enter the Rhein-Neckar-Arena on Friday but the last thing the Hoffenheim players want to do is hide. "Our respect of the dangers Schalke pose is equal to the appreciation we had before the St. Pauli match. We're set to play against 11 strong player, whoever lines-up against us. The only thing that counts on the field: 11 men against 11 men", explained Ba.
Facts and stats to the Schalke 04 match.
These two teams have met 4 times in the Bundesliga. Their head-to-head record is fairly even. Twice the match has ended without a winner, meanwhile 1899 have won once (3:2 in 2008/2009) with Felix Magath and Schalke winning the other (2:0 in 2009/2010).