THE COACH'S COMMENTS
The clashes against SV Waldhof are always a rather special occasion for boss Marco Wildersinn. "It's always something special to play against Waldhof, and in the past our meetings have usually been really nice games," said the young tactician. Last season's encounters between the two teams produced two 2-2 draws − although TSG twice squandered leads, having led 2-0 in Mannheim and 2-1 at the Dietmar-Hopp Stadion.
Both teams lost their openers. Waldhof lost 1-0 to SSV Ulm, while TSG were beaten 2-1 at TSV Steinbach Haiger. Wildersinn felt his charges deserved to be on the losing side: "You could see that for many players who've been promoted from the A-Youth, it was a different type of football than they're used to. But fortunately, my players are quick learners."
Besides, the coach was satisfied with what he had seen from his side in the opening stages: "We scored a super goal through Dome Alberico and had put ourselves in a really strong position, but then we got the red card and being a man down against Steinbach for 60 minutes is a very difficult task."
Robin Szarka's dismissal has also had a disruptive impact on Wildersinn's preparations for the derby against Waldhof, which the captain will miss as he begins to serve a two-match suspension. "We don't have so much strength in depth, so a loss always hurts. And it's an even bigger blow when the player in question is your captain."
The misery of losing "Capitano" Szarka in the Steinbach match was compounded by an injury suffered that same afternoon by midfielder Theodoros Politakis, who had to be stretchered off the field of play after sustaining a torn ankle ligament. It means the 20-year-old will be unavailable for the time being, as will fellow injury absentees Corey Lee Anton, Isa Doğan and Meris Skenderović. It has not yet been decided whether the duo of Alfons Amade and Christoph Baumgartner will leave the senior team training camp to re-join the U23s.
SV Waldhof have now failed in their bid to gain promotion to the third tier via the play-offs in three successive seasons, with the Blue and Blacks being denied the chance to go up by Sportfreunde Lotte, SV Meppen and KFV Uerdingen respectively. Now, though, they will be gunning for promotion once again. At least it can be guaranteed that they won't fail at the play-off stage: the Regionalliga has been reformed so that the winner of the south-west pool is now promoted automatically.
However, finishing top of the pile will be a mammoth task for SVW. The former Bundesliga club were handed a three-point deduction before the season had even started after their fans rioted in the return leg of their promotion play-off against Uerdingen, and they were unable to balance their account with a win against Ulm on the opening day.
The Mannheim squad was a hive of transfer activity over the summer. Key performers such as captain Hassan Amin (SV Meppen), midfield general Daniel di Gregorio (FC Homburg), dangerous striker Benedikt Koep (TSV Steinbach) and Nicolas Hebisch (Viktoria Köln) all departed the club. Nonetheless, they brought in some high-quality replacements with lots of Regionalliga experience in the form of Timo Kern (FCA Walldorf), ex-TSG man Maurice Hirsch, Jesse Weißenfels (both Stuttgarter Kickers) and Valmir Sulejmani (Hannover 96 II).
"I think Waldhof made up for the departures well with their new signings," said Wildersinn, who does not believe that Gerd Dais' men will feel pressurised after losing their opening game of the season against Ulm. "The Waldhof players always keep their cool and are not easily unsettled," he added.
RUNS AND PREVIOUS MEETINGS
"Hoffe zwo" have not faced any other team more often than Waldhof (24 matches). The head-to-head record is even, with nine wins and nine defeats for each side as well as six draws. However, TSG have failed to secure victory in each of their last eight derbies against SVW. The latest victory came back in May 2014, when they ran out 3-1 winners at home thanks to a brace from Kenan Karaman, who now plays for Dusseldorf in the Bundesliga, and a goal from Maurice Hirsch, who may feature for the opposition on Saturday.
A LOOK AT THE LEAGUE
Saarbrücken, Offenbach, Elversberg, Homburg and Mannheim were the five clubs consistently cited by the pundits as the biggest contenders for promotion, yet they all failed to win on the opening day. Homburg (2-1 loss in Worms), Mannheim (1-0 loss against Ulm) and Saarbrucken (3-0 loss against FSV Frankfurt) were all defeated. That is likely to mean the favourites will all be even hungrier heading into the second matchday.
FSV Frankfurt, who played in the second tier for many years, top the table after the first round thanks to their surprise win at 1.FC Saarbrücken. They will be hoping to cement that lead when they take on Eintracht Stadtallendorf in all-Hesse encounter at the weekend.
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim II vs SV Waldhof Mannheim
Saturday 4 August, 14:CET, Dietmar-Hopp-Stadion, Hoffenheim