High hopes for 1899 in Hannover

Ahead of their trip to Hannover 96 on Matchday 27, 1899 Hoffenheim are in a buoyant mood as they look to build upon last weekend's surprise success against league leaders Borussia Dortmund. The result is not the only thing adding to the Kraichgau outfit's impetus, as their record against this weekend's opponents is more than enough to boost their confidence. In the 5 meetings between these two sides, Hoffenheim have won on 4 occasions with the other finishing as a draw.

The memories of their encounter earlier this season will also be a source of motivation as 1899 will look to do the Bundesliga double over the Reds yet again. The match inside the Rhein-Neckar-Arena finished with an emphatic 4-0 win for the home side on Matchday 10. "We've been successful against a lot of the "big teams" already this season", stated head coach Marco Pezzaiuoli, referring to their results against BVB (1-1 and 1-0), the 2-2 draw against Bayer 04 Leverkusen as well as the aforementioned win over Hannover 96. One thing is for certain, the omens look good for 1899, but the landscape in the Bundesliga has changed considerably since these two last met.

Wary of 96's counter attack

Despite the head-to-head record between these two sides and their 4-0 loss in Köln last weekend, Hannover 96 remain the favourites ahead of this weekend's matchup. At least that's how Pezzaiuoli sees it: "They've got something to make up for after last weekend, but it hasn't affected the fact they've been having an amazing season". After being tipped to struggle at the bottom of the table, Mirko Slomka's side have proven everyone wrong and currently occupy a European qualification spot. The Reds unprecedented success has been a result of speedy counter attacks and the knowledge that they have yet to lose a game this season in which they have taken the lead. "Hannover are unbelievably quick in transition and, once they've won the ball, immediately look for a way to get it up front", explained Pezzaiuoli who went on to give some insight into the game plan for his side: "We've got to stay compact and put pressure on the man on the ball straightaway so that we don't give them the opportunity to hit us on the counter. Just like against BVB, we've got to play to our strengths and be ready to work for the ball."

The problems of recent weeks seemed to have vanished against Dortmund and the fans will be hoping they don't reappear against Hannover on Saturday. "For the team's confidence it was incredibly important that we won last weekend. Against BVB we knew that we had to be more aggressive and prove we were passionate", stated Sejad Salihovic, whose performance, just like that of the team, was greatly improved against Dortmund. Passion and fight are not necessarily the factors that lead to entertaining, free-flowing football, but they often affect the outcome of the game. That's why Pezzaiuoli stressed the importance of "not just playing for the spectators. Sometimes you just have to get rid of the ball by any means necessary."

Ibertsberger misses out again

Just like every week, there are two more training sessions to be completed before the match against the team currently sitting in third in the Bundesliga. Therefore, the 18-man squad set to travel to Hannover is yet to be decided. It is clear, though, that Josip Simunic will be given another chance to break into the team. "We'll assess his performance in training just like everyone else," said Pezzaiuoli. However, one player certain to miss out is Andreas Ibertsberger who is still recovering from a shoulder injury. Meanwhile, Tobias Weis, Chinedu Obasi and Manuel Gulde are still on the long-term injury list and although they have all returned to light training, it is still to early to bring them back.

Stats and Facts

Maybe it is time to call upon the lethal set pieces of Gylfi Sigurdsson once again. The Icelandic international scored twice against the Reds earlier this season, including a penalty, while every team in the Bundesliga fears his deadly accuracy from free kicks. Alongside second placed Bayer Leverkusen, Hoffenheim own the record for most goals scored from dead ball situations. Both teams have found the back of the net on 8 occasions, 1899 having scored 4 times from direct free kicks. However, on the other end Hannover 96 boast the best strike partnership in the league as they welcome back Didier Ya Konan back from injury to accompany Mohammed Abdellaoue up front. The two strikers have formed a formidable understanding, scoring 9 times when they've both been on the pitch together.


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