Gisdol: Standpoint against a top-three team

Two weeks have passed since the 2-2 draw in Mainz. Two weeks in which manager Markus Gisdol has had to go without a number of his players due to the international break. “It's not always easy to keep up with all of the players,” Gisdol said at the press conference ahead of Hoffenheim's game against Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Friday evening at 20:30 CET in the WIRSOL Rhein-Neckar-Arena.

Before Gisdol talks to those individuals that are returning, two things are for sure. There are no injuries to be concerned with and Sejad Salihovic “will certainly bring a lot of euphoria to the club.”

Maybe he can transfer that joy of Bosnia and Herzegovina qualifying for their first World Cup to the Kraichgau and his club team. This feeling alone won't be enough to beat the side third in the table though. “We have concentrated on the players who have been here throughout the last two weeks,” said Gisdol. “We worked really intensively with individuals as well as in a collective, tactical sense.” More than most of the exercises focused on work off the ball – a necessity against Leverkusen's strong attack. “They have established themselves as a top-three side over the past few years. They currently have a great deal of quality available to them with the likes of Sam, Son and Kießling,” explained Gisdol.

Bonus games and points

It is for exactly that reason that he doesn't see his side as favourites. Alongside the games against the strong-at-home Hannover, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, the match against Leverkusen is a “bonus game”. “No one is expecting us to pick up points in those games, but we will do all we can to do just that,” said Gisdol. The fact that TSG's current head-to-head record doesn't make for good reading is irrelevant for the manager. “Bayer 04 are not a bogey side. We are in a new set-up now, as are Leverkusen.” The comparison is not important. An old footballing saying applies – the game starts at 0-0. “We need a top day to pick up something. Without that, it just won't happen,” said Gisdol.

Ahead of what will hopefully be a top performance, Gisdol has nearly a full squad to choose from. Anthony Modeste returns to team training after his adductor problem. Niklas Süle, Jannik Vestergaard and Sven Schipplock are also all fit. Fabian Johnson's inclusion remains doubtful as the wing back continues to recover from his ankle injury incurred against Schalke.

Regardless of what starting eleven will play, Gisdol believes that there are weaknesses to be found in Bayer 04. How successful his team will be in exposing them will be revealed on Friday night. One thing is for sure – the team and the manager are looking forward to their showdown against Leverkusen. The 5-0 loss of last year remains in Gisdol's mind - an “important defeat”, one that showed him a great deal, one that revealed Gisdol's defiance. “We never want to play like that again,” he said. A subtle challenge to one of Germany's top-three teams.

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