Against Köln: “We've just got to play our game!”

“I'd rather lose 4-0 once, than 1-0 four times”, were the words of manager Ernst Tanner following last weekend's loss to FC Bayern München. So the loss to the reigning champions is forgotten as 1899 Hoffenheim turn their attention to the task ahead. On Matchday 23, the Kraichgau outfit welcomes 1. FC Köln to the Rhein-Neckar Arena in the first of two back-to-back home matches that 1899 will be hoping to use to their advantage.

First up are a resurgent 1. FC Köln side who have enjoyed consecutive victories over Bayern München and Mainz 05, which has naturally filled them with confidence. "Köln are on a high. They'll remain compact the whole game and try and hit us on the counter-attack", conceded 1899 head coach Marco Pezzaiuoli. The encounter earlier this season, certainly left something to be desired from Hoffenheim's perspective ending in a 1-1 draw and Pezzaiuoli remembers, that "we didn't play well when we met last time". However, despite a disappointing defeat, the belief has not been lost. "Our confidence hasn't suffered. As professionals you can, and need, to put losses behind you. Of course we weren't happy with the result, but the key is to get the players to remember their strengths", explained Pezzaiuoli.

Patience needed to pick the lock

During the pre-match press conference both Pezzaiuoli and Boris Vukcevic believed that the Köln team will always look to exploit the middle, leaving the flanks open for 1899 to take advantage of. Vukcevic himself operates best on the wings and there is a good chance he will have a familia face in front of him in the form of Christian Eichner. Born in Sinsheim, Eichner was a Hoffenheim player up until this winter when he made the switch in search of first team football. However, this is not play on the youngsters mind: "I'm simply going to play my game."

Pezzaiuoli is already expecting a tight affair and he believes it will demand patience of his team as he looks for them to spring the odd surprise here and there. "That's how we'll create our chances. But we've got assert ourselves on the match and ensure they can't hit us on the counter-attack." In Lukas Podolski and Milivoje Novakovic, the Cathedral City side boast two, very much in-form strikers, who have both scored more goals so far than they did in the whole of last season. "With Podolski, Novakovic, Clemens and Peszko, Köln have a lot quality in attack. We've worked very hard in training this week, but we're hoping our fans can give us the extra support we need", said the 42-year old.

Vorsah variable still unsolved

The atmosphere in the squad ahead of this weekend is good and Marco Pezzaiuoli has a full squad to choose from excluding the long-term injuries, Chinedu Obasi and Manuel Gulde, as well as Edson Braafheid who is still suspended. Sebastian Rudy is likely to be involved despite a poor performance against Bayern that saw him brought off after 20 minutes. "Up until the match against Bayern, Rudy had been putting in some splendid performances. After the disappointment, he has reacted well in training and proven his worth to the team", explained Pezzaiuoli. The questions concerning Isaac Vorsah after he picked up a knock to the knee last weekend have been laid to rest after Pezzaiuoli gave the centre-back the all clear. "Vorsah is available. When he's fit, naturally he's first choice." Big changes aren't expected either although whether Gylfi Sigurdsson will be allowed to start in midfield is questionable. "There are strategic reasons behind Sigurdsson coming off the bench. His favoured position is in midfield, but he's got a lot of competition in that role."

Stats and Facts

Köln are fantastic at home, but on their travels they're the worst in the league. Up until now the Cologne based team have only picked up five points on the road having only won once, a feat only equaled, albeit surprisingly, by Werder Bremen and VfB Stuttgart. On top of that the fans inside the Rhein-Neckar Arena could potentially see their fair share of goals as in the last eight meetings between these two sides there have been a minimum of two goals scored.


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