WHAT THE COACH SAYS
Marco Wildersinn and his coaching staff have had six weeks to transform the team comprised of the new arrivals from outside the club, the cub's own U19 talents and the remaining U23 players into a genuine fighting unit. The coach is convinced they have achieved this: "The troop has mingled well, and our pre-season went very smoothly in any case. We have trained very well and have played in valuable friendly matches. The anticipation ahead of the new season is keen now."
Pre-season included five matches, four of which were won, and some emphatically: 6-0 against Arminia Ludwigshafen, 5-2 against Viktoria Aschaffenburg, 2-1 against FSV Bissingen, and 2-1 against 1. CfR Pforzheim. Only the 0-5 defeat to last year's Regional League West champions, Viktoria Cologne, still hurts a little. "It was, nonetheless, a match which was important for the boys' development", countered Wildersinn. "It was also a good foretaste of Steinbach given those two teams are very similar. For that reason, I hope that my boys have learned something from the Cologne match and will now put in a better performance."
Wildersinn is certain that the opposition from Central-Hessian Haiger belong to the extended circle of favourites, even though he would put the teams from Saarbrücken, Offenbach, Elversberg or Homburg ahead. "Steinbach are a very experienced and robust outfit who have now become a well-oiled machine. They have also strengthened very well with players such as Moritz Göttel and Benedikt Koep."
Despite a good pre-season, "Hoffe two" have also had to deal with a serious setback. Goalkeeper Isa Doğan injured his shoulder badly during training, and will be sidelined for quite some time. Luca Philipp, the U19s goalkeeper, will travel to Haiger as a consequence. Right-back Corey Lee Anton and striker Meris Skenderović are doubtful too having not yet completely recovered from their injuries.
In contrast, new arrival Andreas Ludwig could be fit in time after being forced to miss out on some of pre-season due to injury. He is finally feeling better. Whether back-up is required from the senior squad will be decided shortly before the match.
TSV Steinbach Haiger enter their fourth Regional League season. Up until last season the team was still only operating under the name of TSV Steinbach, but now wish to identify themselves with their city – Steinbach is a district of Haiger. The Central-Hessians have not been involved in the relegation battle in each of the last three seasons. To the contrary: they were normally competing for the greater part of the season for the upper berths in the table.
The enlarged team has also been strengthened through top Regional League players such as Moritz Göttel (SV Elversberg) and Benedikt Koep (Waldhof Mannheim). They both round off the already dangerous attack comprised of Shqipon Bektasi and Steinbach's top goalscorer of last season, Fatih Candan. In addition, TSV are well-stocked at the back with the chiselled central defensive pairing of Nico Herzig and Daniel Reith.
RUNS AND PREVIOUS ENCOUNTERS
After TSG had previously lost four consecutive matches to Steinbach, the Kraichgau boys finally put things right by winning their last match against them. They defeated them 2-0 in the Haarwasen Sports Centre thanks to goals from Skenderović and the on-loan professional Robin Hack in the middle of March.
Overall, Steinbach do indeed have the advantage after six matches played with four victories, but the two teams' head-to-head in Haiger speaks in favour of Wildersinn's squad, who have been able to win two of three away matches. Incidentally, there has never been a draw between TSV and TSG.
HOW THE LEAGUE STANDS
Well of course, prior to matchday 1, everything is possible for all the teams involved. Nevertheless, certain teams gravitate towards the top or the bottom of the table before the first ball has even been kicked. Steinbach certainly belong to those at the top, but so do the TSG talents. The absolute favourites for the competition must be last year's champions, 1. FC Saarbrücken, but Offenbach, Mannheim, Elversberg or the strong newly promoted Homburg all have expectations placed upon them.
The main objective for the other three newly promoted teams, namely, FK Pirmasens, TSG Balingen and Hessen Dreieich, is simply to remain in the division.
A detailed overview of the new season in the Regional League South West is available here.
TSV Steinbach Haiger Vs. TSG 1899 Hoffenheim II
Sunday, 29 July, 14:00 CET, Haarwasen Sports Centre, Haiger