Hoffenheim vs. 1. FC Köln – seventh time lucky?

Markus Babbel will take charge of his fourth game as Hoffenheim manager when the club host 1. FC Köln on matchday 24 in the Bundesliga this Sunday. Having drawn their last six games at home, the objective is to seal a first win at the WIRSOL Rhen-Neckar-Arena since October. “We have a great opportunity to make some progress and climb the league”, said Babbel at his pre-match press conference.

Staying solid at the back and hitting the opposition on the break with speed will be one way which will give Hoffenheim some joy this weekend. And an early goal will help TSG's cause no end as well. In last week's 2-1 victory away at VfL Wolfsburg, Roberto Firmino struck inside the first six minutes. Chances were missed by 1899 in that game, but Babbel was ‘impressed by the team's reaction after conceding the equaliser.' The victory was Hoffenheim's first since November and the manager is hoping it will act as a springboard for the team. “If we deliver what we are capable of producing, we are the better team”, he is convinced.

Williams suspended

Babbel will have to do without the services of Sejad Salihovic and long-term injury victims Matthias Jaissle and Andreas Ibertsberger. Versatile midfielder Daniel Williams will also be missing for tomorrow's clash. He picked up a yellow card against Wolfsburg last week and must serve a one-match suspension. Fortunately, however, Babbel has the luxury of choice when he considers who he will pick to replace the American in central midfield. Dominik Kaiser, Tobias Strobl and Sandro Wieser are all possible options, while defender Isaac Vorsah could also be moved forward to midfield. “We have a lot of options for central midfield”, confirmed Babbel. He also hinted that Sandro Wieser may make his debut this weekend. “Sandro played a full 90 minutes for Lichtenstein this week and that was good for him. He has a good brain, a good left foot and isn't afraid to get stuck in.” The manager also reserved praise for striker Sven Schipplock, who came off the bench to score the winner against Wolfsburg. “Schippo works very hard, for himself and the team. I knew him from when I was at Stuttgart. He has improved a lot at this club.”

An even record

These two sides have met seven times in the Bundesliga since Hoffenheim were promoted to Germany's top flight in 2008, and there hasn't been much between them. Two of those games ended in a draw, while Köln have two wins and Hoffenheim three. Earlier on in the season, Köln won 2-0 at the Rhein Energie Stadium, but 1899 got their revenge when they knocked Köln out in the second round oft this season's German Cup.

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