The season that was: 2011/12

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim's fourth season in the Bundesliga has been one of ups and downs, of trials, tribulations and transition. Despite a shaky period, there was some success to celebrate in the end, as the club successfully retained its Bundesliga status and can now look forward to the future under Markus Babbel. At the end of a gruelling campaign, now takes a look back at the season just gone.

Among the chasing pack, BVB put in their place

The team was still riding the crest of a wave following the popular appointment of Holger Stanislawski as the club's new manager and André Trulsen as his assistant when the champions Borussia Dortmund visited the WIRSOL-Rhein-Neckar Arena in August for club's inaugural home game of the season. In front of a roaring crowd, Hoffenheim's set-piece specialist Sejad Salihovic smashed in an unstoppable 30-yard free-kick to give TSG a brilliant 1-0 win. It was the team's first win of the season and naturally proved to be a springboard going forward. They went on to record impressive victories away at FC Augsburg (2-0) and 1. FSV Mainz 05 (4-0) and were as high as fifth in the table after five games.

Struggles in winter

Fifth was the highest league position that 1899 would reach, as results began to dip. Despite encouraging performances, scoring goals became a problem and the wins just wouldn't come. The fans were able to celebrate only one victory in the next fourteen league games. The first half of the season ended with a frustrating 1-1 draw at home to Hertha BSC Berlin, although a 2-1 success against 1. FC Köln in the German Cup did provide some cheer going into the Christmas break.

2012 sees changes

It was a new year but Hoffenheim's problems remained. Matches against Hannover 96, Dortmund and Augsburg yielded just two points and increased the pressure on Stanislawski after some low-key transfer activity during the winter break. The final nail in the coffin for the ex-St Pauli boss was Hoffenheim's exit in the Cup at home to 2. Bundesliga side SpVgg Greuther Fürth. He was dismissed as manager the following day.

Babbel comes in

Barely three days after Stanislawski had departed, the club had announced his successor. The new manager was to be Markus Babbel, previously a player with FC Bayern Munich and Liverpool FC and the former manager of VfB Stuttgart and Hertha Berlin. His arrival had an immediate impact on the confidence of the squad. Only a last-minute equaliser from Werder Bremen's Marko Arnautovic denied him three points victory in his first game in charge. Home form was still an issue, however, as draws against Köln and Mainz were TSG's sixth and seventh in succession at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena. Babbel's first victory was a 2-1 win away at VfL Wolfsburg on matchday 23, Sven Schipplock grabbing the headlines with the decisive goal late on.

Tough run of games, Ibisevic returns

Perhaps the most disappointing day of Babbel's reign at the club to date was the trip to Bayern Munich on matchday 25. TSG had held the German record title winners to a creditable 0-0 draw at home earlier in the season, but this game could not have been more one-sided, with Hoffenheim coming away with a 7-1 defeat. There also followed a 2-1 home loss to local rivals VfB Stuttgart, made even bitterer by the fact that both goals for VfB were scored by ex-Hoffenheim star Vedad Ibisevic, who had moved to the Mercedes-Benz Arena in the January transfer window. Soon afterwards, Sporting Director Ernst Tanner and the club went their separate ways after a difference of opinion on Hoffenheim's sporting direction. TSG had slipped to 12th place, just five points above the relegation play-off place.

Key win against Gladbach

1899 were up against it when they travelled to Champions league-chasing Borussia Mönchengladbach on matchday 27. The Foals had not a lost a home game in over a year, but TSG showed the ruthless streak Babbel had promised to instil by recording a stunning 2-1 win at Borussia Park. It was the start of a solid run of form, as wins against 1. FC Kaiserslautern (2-0) and Hamburger SV (4-0), the latter being the club's first win at home since October, followed. Now well clear of the relegation scrap, the fans were even daring to dream of an unlikely seventh–placed finish and a spot in the Europa League.

Journey ends in Berlin

The supporters' hope of qualifying for Europe was short-lived, however, as defeats against direct European rivals Bayer 04 Leverkusen (0-1) and 1. FC Nürnberg (2-3) meant Hoffenheim dropped out of contention going into the final game of the season. The season finale took the team to the capital to face Hertha in the Olympic Stadium. For the hosts, their very survival in the Bundesliga depended on the result, as they needed a win to guarantee they would finish in the relegation play-off place. Having been sacked as Hertha coach in December however, Babbel took his team there with revenge on his mind. But helped by a dubious red card shown to Ryan Babel, the Berliners managed to scrape a 3-1 victory, with Hoffenheim ending the season in 11th place. With the help of a few new faces in the summer, it is an end-of-season result that they will hope to better next term.

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