Hoffenheim haven't won at home since the 4-0 drubbing of Hannover 96 on 31st October 2010. Therefore a win in the local derby with Kaiserslautern is a must. "We want to prove to our fans that we can continue playing at the standard we reached against Schalke", stated head coach Marco Pezzaiuoli. Ryan Babel is also looking forward to his first match in the Sinsheim Arena especially following the support he's received from the fans: "I'm really looking forward playing in front of my home crowd for the first time", explained the Dutch international, who added: I believe that with the young team we've got and the support from the fans we can achieve big things at this club."
Team is derby ready
Up against the struggling Schalke 04, Pezzaiuoli's men proved that they can hold their form, remain compact as a unit and are starting to click in terms of their link-up play. The ball found its' way through the backline on several occasions as 1899 created several chances, while the new signings impressed on most fronts. Sebastian Rudy, a summer signing from VfB Stuttgart believes the team have come leaps and bounds recently: "We're playing together as a team much better. I feel like I've personally been much more present on the pitch as a player." However, despite an attractive performance against the Royal Blues they are still "a long way from playing perfect football", explained Pezzaiuoli. The one criticism from last weekend was the conversion rate, something that the Kraichgau troop will be looking to improve against Kaiserslautern.
Both Pezzaiuoli and Rudy admitted in the pre-match press conference that they were expecting a competitive performance from their opponents. "We're in for a bit of a fight. FCK are a very physical team and we'll need to be strong as a unit and pressure them into making mistakes", said the 42-year old, who just signed the contract that officially makes him the new head coach. He knows that Kaisersluatern are strong in the air, dangerous on the wings and boast a good balance between attack and defence. Just like the match earlier this season in Betzenberg, which ended in a 2-2 draw, the fans inside the Rhein-Neckar Arena can expect an action packed derby.
Virus sidelines Vukcevic
Pezzaiuoli doesn't quite have the whole squad to choose from as Boris Vukcevic has been kept out of action by a stomach infection, having put together a string of performances in the first team recently. More worryingly perhaps are the questions marks surround the involvement of both Tobias Weis and Isaac Vorsah. Weis was recovering from a foot injury, while Vorsah could only complete a limited training session. They both returned to full training yesterday, while Salihovic's place in the team is unchanged despite missing training earlier this week. Chinedu Obasi, Manuel Gulde and Jens Grahl remain out with their long-term injuries.
Stats and Facts
1899 Hoffenheim picked up their first win in the second half of this competitive Bundesliga season with a 1-0 win away from home against Schalke last weekend, while Kaiserslautern are still waiting for theirs. They've only met once before in the Bundesliga in the 2-2 draw earlier this season. Both teams are deadly from long range, though, as the Kaisersluatern have netted 10 times from distance with Hoffenheim boasting 9 successful attempts.