1899 ready for the restart

We're back underway. The Bundesliga is ready to kick-off the second half of the season and for 1899 Hoffenheim, Matchday 18 sees them travel to Werder Bremen for their first game back. After a brilliant start to the season the anticipation is great amongst the players and coaching staff according to captain Andreas Beck: “Everyone's excited that the season is getting back underway.”

Marco Pezzaiuoli is another person eagerly anticipating the restart as it means he will get to take charge of his first competitive match since taking over from Ralf Rangnick as manager of 1899. He is "not nervous", explained Pezzaiuoli, "that tingling feeling is there though", which is something he also believes he has seen in his players over the past week. "The players are hungry and are definitely looking out for one another." Naturally it was a huge benefit for 1899 that Pezzaiuoli was already familiar with the set-up and the players, knowing their strengths, weaknesses and defining characteristics. "The fact that Marco already knows us all well is a huge positive for the players. He knows what we're good at and instead of trying to change things, has encouraged us to continue playing with a similar style," stated Andreas Beck.

Staying tight in the middle

Therefore during the winter training camp in La Manga, as well as the training sessions since their return, the team have been fine-tuning what they have already taken to heart earlier this season. "We worked hard on the balance of when to have the ball and when not to, as well as how to go about playing when we're not in possession", revealed Pezzaiuoli. It should prove to be a key aspect of the first match against Werder Bremen. "Bremen have a strong core through the middle of their team and are efficient in the air. That's why we have to make sure we stay tight in the middle of the park and keep their front two quiet", said the new manager. The 42-year old also highlighted the wealth of experience the northerners boast with the likes of Torsten Frings and Per Mertesacker having spent numerous years in the Bundesliga. Up until now 1899 Hoffenheim have failed to win in Bremen, but Thomas Schaaf's team would be foolish not to respect their opponents. During the first half of the season Werder had to leave the Rhein-Neckar Arena with their tail between their legs after a humbling 4-1 defeat. "We've got to use that respect to our advantage", believes Pezzaiuoli.

Who's available?

The question still remains open as to who Marco Pezzaiuoli will pick in his first ever 1899 Hoffenheim starting 11. There are still uncertainties regarding the involvement of Andreas Ibertsberger and Matthias Jaissle. The Austrian is trying to overcome a dead leg, while Jaissle, who just signed a new contract with the club, is struggling to deal with swelling in his knee. New signing Roberto Firmino may have to wait a little longer to make his debut as 1899 are waiting for playing permission for the Brazilian youngster, but if it does arrive in time he will most certainly be in the 18-man squad. For David Alaba, the only other new signing, there is a good chance he will be in the starting line-up. "I reckon his strengths are best used as a defensive midfielder in the number 6 position", said Pezzaiuoli of the 19-year old Austrian player. Question still remain about who will start in goal for the Kraichgau outfit and is likely to be touch and go up until kick-off. Tom Starke is fit again, but Daniel Haas proved his capability of stepping in as the number 1 while Starke was injured. Elsewhere, Sejad Salihovic is suspended after picking up too many yellow cards, while Jens Grahl, Manuel Gulde and Chinedu Obasi are also out of action for the time being, but have all returned to light training recently

Stats and Facts

With their opening day win over Bremen, 1899 Hoffenheim were able to rid themselves of the bad fortune against Werder. Before the 4-1 win, 1899 had lost 3 and drawn 1 against the northern outfit. Right now, though, Werder are experiencing their worst ever season having only taken 17 points in the first half of the season, whereas Hoffenheim have exactly the same amount of points they had at this time last season.

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