#S04TSG preview: "Piggyback on Naldo"
JULIAN NAGELSMANN on...
... the opponent.
"Schalke 04 are having a very good season and are in the fight for the European places. They’ve not had the start they would have liked to 2018 and that can quickly unsettle the team. Schalke definitely want to go to Europe with this squad. For that reason, of course there’s a bit of pressure, but not loads. Against Schalke it’s always hard to find space – that’s the basics of Domenico Tedesco’s style. They vary how high up the pitch they attack, especially after going ahead they like to sit back very deep and compact, but sometimes they also like to press high. In attack, he likes to be very direct and have a physical presence up front. It’s important that we avoid set pieces, because that’s one of their main strengths. On top of that, we also need to be aware of Naldo – he’s big and powerful and is strong in the air. We need to try and stop him in his tracks and block him from reaching the ball. We have to defend a player of his size. As a last resort, we’ll just have to piggyback on him."
"Unfortunately things aren’t looking so good. Dennis Geiger (thigh) will miss out, as will Nico Schulz (muscular problems) Serge Gnabry (cold) and Stefan Posch (groin, pubic bone). Obviously Kerem Demirbay will also miss out. It’s all not looking good for us.”
... the sporting situation I
"I’m not a friend of saying an entire season boils down to one game. Of course it would be nice if we could be level with Schalke come full time, but we need a top performance for that. I don’t think it’s a good idea to talk about the consequences of a game before you play it. We only worry about the things we can influence. If we do those things right, then the positives results should follow.”
... Mark Uth
"I can’t see inside his head, but his pending transfer at the end of the season will definitely be on his mind and definitely play a role when he walks out onto the pitch. That’s normal and human. He knows that he will be playing there more often next season. But I know him very well and know that he will give his all. We had the same situation last season with Niklas Süle and Sebastian Rudy and they both delivered. Mark is currently not physically 100%. I think you saw that against Mainz. But that’s normal after an injury. We’ll see if he’ll be an option for the starting XI. The main thing is that a player of his quality and goal scoring record will always be in the coach’s considerations."
The record between the two teams is level after 19 previous meetings in the Bundesliga – both have won seven matches, while the remaining five ended in draws. TSG have come away with all the points from Schalke, but the last time was back in January 2011 when Isaac Vorsah scored the only goal in a 1-0 win for TSG. Hoffenheim also won in the last 16 of the DFB-Pokal in December 2013: Kai Herdling, Kevin Volland and Roberto Firmino were the goalscorers in the 3-1 victory.
Schalke currently sit sixth after 22 matchdays and are in the DFB-Pokal semi-finals after the 1-0 win against VfL Wolfsburg. They lost both of their last two league games, however, firstly away at record champions FC Bayern, before a 2-1 injury-time defeat to Werder Bremen, despite having led.
Who will be more effective in front of goal on Saturday? The outcome of the match will most likely depend on the answer to that question. Neither side can boast a particularly high goalscoring record, with TSG registering just 36 goals this season and Schalke two fewer. Hoffenheim’s shooting accuracy is marginally better than Schalke’s (50% vs. 49%) as is their chance conversion rate (16% vs. 15%). As always, it’s the small things that can prove decisive in the big games.