An emotional first game of the year

TSG Hoffenheim will kick off the football year of 2024 on Friday evening (20:30 CET / Live Ticker at, with Pellegrino Matarazzo's team away to FC Bayern Munich in their final game of the first half-season. But sporting matters have taken a back seat, with the death of football icon Franz Beckenbauer set to shape the first competitive game of the year. But once it kicks off TSG can expect a big challenge – as is always the case in Munich.

Germany's greatest ever footballer has passed away – Franz Beckenbauer died on Sunday at the age of 78. The name of the "Kaiser" is inextricably linked to Bayern Munich. "Franz Beckenbauer is the greatest personality Bayern have ever had. As a player, coach, president, human, he was unforgettable. No one will ever reach his level," said Uli Hoeness. The Allianz Arena will be lit up in honour of Beckenbauer, and there will be a minute's silence before kick-off.

However, as soon as referee Benjamin Brand starts the game, TSG can expect a difficult task on top of the challenge of tackling the icy temperatures – the mercury is expected to drop as low as -11 °C. Bayern have won 12 of their 15 Bundesliga games so far this season – a return that is usually enough to secure top spot, but this year, the team from Bavaria have to accept the role of chasers, as Bayer 04 Leverkusen have a four-point lead, albeit having played one more game than Munich.

Despite that respectable points tally, coach Thomas Tuchel was not completely happy with his squad. For example, he only had three recognised centre-backs available to him, and even Leon Goretzka had to help out in the heart of defence due to injury problems. On top of that, Min-jae Kim is currently away on international duty at the Asia Cup. 29-year-old Eric Dier, just signed from Tottenham Hotspur, will now give Bayern another option. Star striker Harry Kane will be delighted, having has already played 359 competitive games with Dier. 

The Englishman, who signed in the summer, has proved to be a real hit, scoring 21 goals in 15 Bundesliga games and setting up five more. Bayern's front line, blessed with quality even before the arrival of the star striker thanks to exceptional talents such as Jamal Musiala, Leroy Sane and Kingsley Coman, has become even more dangerous following the addition of the 30-year-old. "We need a good day as a defensive unit," said TSG coach Pellegrino Matarazzo, who is aware of the threat posed by Kane: "He's a world-class striker, his movement is very clever and he is a great finisher."

But despite the threat Bayern pose, TSG are not going to Munich just to make up the numbers: "We need a really good performance. If we can do that over the 90 minutes, then of course we also have a chance, as we have already proved in the past. That is our mission as we go there," said Matarazzo.

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