"They can be awkward to play against“

Match day 21 of the Bundesliga is nearly here. Hoffenheim welcome Darmstadt 98 on Saturday afternoon and Julian Nagelsmann has been giving us his thoughts on the clash against the ‘Lillies’.

Julian Nagelsmann on: 

The opponents:

Darmstadt really found their stride again against Borussia Dortmund and put in their best performance of the season without a doubt. They were so awkward in the final few minutes, and we know this already from the corresponding fixture earlier in the season, and a new coach in the dugout will not change that. Their basic character has not changed, they are hard to beat and don’t give opponents any space, and have very quick wingers, and that is where they can be dangerous.

Despite their league position, their wingers, their strikers or their experienced team who can turn a game, they have a lot of potential in their squad. I am not a fan of complacent thinking, just because they are bottom of the table does not mean we will win. This is a regular Bundesliga game, with three points up for grabs. They have their backs up against the wall, and need to give everything, which they will. In the game against earlier in the season we found it so hard to get that second goal, and we want to change that on Saturday.

The squad:

Mark Uth is still struggling with bruised ribs, and the test yesterday did not go well, so we do not know if he will be ready for Saturday. But we do know Benjamin Hübner won’t be available through suspension, so his place in the starting eleven will be taken by Ermin Bicakcic.

Footballing matters:

We were not aggressive enough in our hunt for the second goal against Wolfsburg, which is always going to encourage the opponent to come at you. At times like that it is always better to go for the second and third goals and not sit back. Conceding a goal always hurts, but it’s particularly tough to take when it comes in the last minute.

Footballing matters 2:

We’re looking forward to having Sandro Wagner back with us on Saturday. He has trained so well in the last few weeks while he has been out, he’s certainly not dropped off the pace. He would definitely have helped on Sunday, as I don’t think we would have backed off with his energy on the pitch. He would have made the boys wake up and stay alert as usual.

Past battles:

Ten regional games, three meetings in the Bundesliga, but TSG haven’t beaten Darmstadt in any of their three top flight meetings. In the first clash between the sides this season in Darmstadt, the two sides couldn’t be separated. TSG took the lead through Andrej Kramaric, but the Lilies struck a 90th minute equaliser. Hoffenheim are yet to beat Darmstadt in the WIRSOL Rhein-Neckar-Arena. In February 2016 they suffered a 2-0 defeat, a game in which Sandro Wagner was still wearing the blue of Darmstadt. On Saturday he could appear for TSG as he is back available after suspension.

Opponent’s Form:

It’s been tough for Darmstadt. Last season they narrowly avoided relegation, but achieving that feat again this season looks even more difficult. The team managed by Torsten Frings, who took over from Norbert Maier during the winter break, sees his side rock bottom of the table with three win and only twelve points to their name. However, in their last game, the Lilies pulled off a shock 2-1 win against Borussia Dortmund. Signs of recovery? The victory certainly gave Darmstadt courage: “We’ve shown that we’re still alive,” said Frings.

The Key duel:

"They’re dangerous on the counter", said Pavel Kaderabek and his coach is also aware of this: "When they switch the play, they move the ball quickly down the wings and can attack dangerously.” Dortmund found this out last weekend. Therefore, this means that when TSG do lose the ball, Darmstadt will look to counter attack quickly.

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