Hoffenheim have already managed to rectify one poor record this season after they beat Werder Bremen on the opening day of the season, for the first time in their short Bundesliga history. However, a look at the season so far might suggest the gulf between Werder Bremen and Bayer 04 Leverkusen is bigger than expected, 10 points to be exact. "With Bayer, it's obvious they are a very strong team. Going forward Leverkusen have next to no weaknesses and, in my opinion, are the team playing the best football in the Bundesliga right now", stated 1899 trainer Ralf Rangnick. Even Andreas Ibertsberger admitted that against the Rheine based team, 1899 "have almost never had a good game".
Fighting till the final whistle
The build-up to this difficult match has been close to ideal for Hoffenheim. A 4-0 win in Frankfurt on Matchday 13 has given the team their confidence back. Leverkusen, on the other hand, travel to the Rhein-Neckar-Arena following a tough 1-1 draw against reigning champions FC Bayern München. "Against Frankfurt we played exceptionally well without the ball. It gives me confidence that we can also compete with a team like Leverkusen", said Ibertsberger. Rangnick was quick to agree with his defender. "We need to produce a similar level of performance as we did against Frankfurt. We've got to build on it and produce another top quality display. If we achieve that it should be a heated encounter that remains tight till the very end." To crack Leverkusen's system, who "boast quality in every position", as Rangnick pointed out, each player will have to understand and execute their responsibilities. Not just over the 90 minutes either, but as Rangnick emphasised, "until the 94th or 95th minute" is necessary.
No changes to the squad
Changes to the team that faced Frankfurt last weekend are not likely. Tom Starke, Chinedu Obasi, Josip Simunic and Manuel Gulde are all still missing. Meanwhile, Sebastian Rudy and Demba Ba have overcome their niggling injuries that kept them out of training at the beginning of the week, and were able to take part with the squad over the last two days. It means that Ralf Rangnick has an abundance of resources to choose from as he prepares for Saturday's match. Regardless of who is on the pitch, though, the most important thing for 1899 is that whoever plays, they remain patience until the bitter end when it counts the most.
Stats and Facts
Outside of their miserable Bundesliga record against Bayer 04 Leverkusen (played four, lost four), 1899 Hoffenheim have beaten this weekend's opponents once before in a DFB Cup match in the 2003/04 season, when the men from Kraichgau ran out 3-2 winners. Hoffenheim were still playing in the 3rd division at the time. When the two teams meet this weekend, though, it will see two of the most deadly teams in the Bundesliga face off against each other. 1899 have found the back of the net on 26 occasions, the second best in the league, while Bayer 04 have the fourth highest after scoring 24 goals so far this season. However, a worrying fact for Hoffenheim is that in their 6 away matches this season, Leverkusen have emerged victorious on 5 occasions, drawing the only other match and seem to be in formidable form on their travels. It all makes for a rather intriguing encounter that should provide a goal or two and maybe even some fireworks.