Bruno Labbadia's charges are currently in a precarious position with four being the magic number. Despite being only four points behind Hoffenheim, they are four places below their rivals and only four points adrift of the relegation zone. 1899 head coach Marco Pezzaiuoli is well aware that Stuttgart aren't safe just yet and that his Hoffenheim side could still play a decisive role in the final three games. "VfB are still fighting against relegation, just like Wolfsburg, while Nürnberg are looking to make it into the Europa League. It just shows that we've got three very important games left and we're looking to collect as many points as we can to try and set the best second half of the season record in Hoffenheim's Bundesliga history", explained Pezzaiuoli.
1899 yet to win against Stuttgart
These two local rivals have met five times in the Bundesliga and the three points has eluded Hoffenheim on every occasion. Could it possibly be sixth time lucky for Pezzaiuoli's side? "This is the match of the year for our fans. There's always a lot of emotion involved in a derby, but we're incredibly motivated and determined to add another three points to our season's tally", stated the 42-year old. The mood surrounding the derby hasn't gone unnoticed by Gylfi Sigurdsson and Isaac Vorsah though. "Derbies are incredibly important for the fans and the club and we're going to give everything we have to win the match", began Sigurdsson, with Vorsah adding: "We want to got out there and play for the fans and the coach, but most important is that we take all three points."
Stuttgart have been riding a wave of success in the later stages of this season and their form is being particularly kind to them on their travels having won 10 out of a possible 12 points in their last four away matches. "VfB are enjoying a much better second half of the season and a very good side in their opponent's stadium. We've got to be wary of their attacking qualities and when possible, hit them on the counter-attack", explained Pezzaiuoli. The recipe for success surely lies in the wing play and pressing ability of the Sinsheim side. "In Leverkusen attacking down the flanks served us well in the first half", recalled the Mannheim native. Attacking midfielder Sigurdsson, who scored his eighth goal of the season last weekend, is keen to lend the helping hand and determined to add to his collection: "I'm hoping to score one if not two more goals before the end of the campaign", stated the resolute Icelandic international.
Ibertsberger fit again
In comparison to the match against Bayer 04 Leverkusen, in which he had only 16 players to choose from, Pezzaiuoli is able to once again call upon Andreas Ibertsberger and Matthias Jaissle. Ibertsberger returns after completing a full weeks training putting him back in contention for a starting place. Jaissle also returns after a period on the sidelines, but Boris Vukcevic, Tobias Weis, Manuel Gulde, Sejad Salihovic, Denis Thomalla and Chinedu Obasi are all still unavailable.
Stats and Facts
In the Baden-Württemberg derby against VfB Stuttgart this weekend 1899 Hoffenheim will be marking their 100th Bundesliga appearance as well as their 50th home match in Germany's top flight of football. Under Marco Pezzaiuoli the Kraichgau outfit have only lost once in seven home matches and are on a three-match run without conceding inside the Rhein-Neckar Arena. VfB are certainly not to be underestimated, though as they continue to be a force to reckon with away from home.