Bundesliga matchday 9 kicks-off on Friday evening with a clash between Hoffenheim and Werder Bremen at the PreZero Arena in Sinsheim.
The hosts were not able to give trainer Andre Breitenreiter the perfect birthday present of three points on Sunday against Hertha Berlin, but he would take a belated gift of a win at home to Werder in order to keep his side within touching distance of the top toppers.
TSG are unbeaten at home so far this season with wins over Bochum, Augsburg, and Mainz as well as a draw against Freiburg. Breitenreiter has got his side playing some really good football since taking over from Sebastian Hoeneß and has blended a really good mix of experience and youth. Oliver Baumann, Kevin Vogt, and Andrej Kramaric offer the experience, while Georginio Rutter, Christoph Baumgartner and Denis Geiger bring the youthful energy to the table.
Summer arrivals Grischa Prömel, Stanley Nsoki, Ozan Kabak and Angelino have all settle well into the squad and are key performers already, while the loss of David Raum to RB Leipzig has hardly been felt.
Their last two matches have been drawn so a return to winning ways would be welcome before they face a double header with Schalke (league and Cup) and a trip to the Allianz Arena to take on Bayern. Hoffenheim have however lost only one of their last eleven Bundesliga clashes with Bremen (five wins, five draws).
Visitors Werder will want to carry on where they left off last Saturday when they destroyed Borussia Mönchengladbach at the Weser Stadion to claim their first home win of the season. The Grün-Weißen were three goals up in the opening quarter of an hour, although there were plenty of worrying lapses defensively that coach Ole Werner will want to see eliminated for the trip to Sinsheim.
Werder are unbeaten on their travels this season so far with wins over Borussia Dortmund (that game!) and Bochum and draws at Wolfsburg and Leverkusen.
Niclas Füllkrug took over the lead in the scoring charts with a brace against Gladbach and continues to garner support for a surprise World Cup call-up. Adding more goals against Hoffenheim would only strengthen his case.
Trainer Andre Breitenreiter has a full squad to choose from except for long-term absentee Ihlas Bebou, Ermin Bicakcic and Benjamin Hübner. Selection wise, Nsoki and Akpoguma are vying for a berth in the back three, while Angelino could replace Robert Skov. Angelo Stiller, who wants more game time could be an option instead of Denis Geiger.
Possible line-up: Baumann, Kabak, Vogt, Nsoki, Kaderabek, Geiger, Skov, Prömel, Baumgartner, Kramaric, Rutter
Amos Pieper should return to the back three following his suspension with Niklas Stark returning to the bench. Ex-Hoffenheim midfielder Leonardo Bittencourt is an option to start after his brief substitute appearance last week against Mönchengladbach.
Possible line-up: Pavlenka, Pieper, Veljkovic, Friedl, Weiser, Groß, Jung, Schmid, Gruev, Füllkrug, Ducksch
What they’re saying:
Andre Breitenreiter: “Bremen has a clear way of playing, very defined actions. The team is disciplined and that currently makes them strong opposition. We want to neutralise exactly that and show our strengths.
“Ducksch and Füllkrug complement each other very well. They are a dangerous attacking duo, and we need to be ready for them. But it is also clear that we are TSG, we have a home match and want to come out confident.
“Kevin Akpoguma has performed his role in the last few matches really well. Even before the Hertha game, he also put his arm around Stanley, gave him motivation and advice. I really liked that.”
Ole Werner: “Hoffenheim are a strong team and try to develop a game from the back. In terms of character, it’s certainly a similar task to that against Gladbach.
“We try to play offensively and become dangerous in all phases. We certainly have a lot of players who have their strengths in going forward. That’s why it’s only logical that we try to play football like that.
“Situations arise for which one is prepared, but which cannot be prevented because the individual quality of the players is very high. In certain situations you know that there will definitely be a clear chance to score, where it is still the case in the second division that you wait and see how a counterattack is played or whether another mistake is made.”
02.10.22 Hertha Berlin (a) 1-1 D (Bundesliga)
18.09.22 Freiburg (h) 0-0 D (Bundesliga)
10.09.22 Mainz (h) 4-1 W (Bundesliga)
02.09.22 Borussia Dortmund (a) 1-0 L (Bundesliga)
27.08.22 Augsburg (h) 1-0 W (Bundesliga)
01.10.22 Borussia Mönchengladbach (h) 5-1 W (Bundesliga)
17.09.22 Bayer Leverkusen (a) 1-1 D (Bundesliga)
09.09.22 Augsburg (h) 0-1 L (Bundesliga)
03.09.22 Bochum (a) 0-2 W (Bundesliga)
28.09.22 Eintracht Frankfurt (h) 3-4 L (Bundesliga)
The corresponding fixture at the Pre-Zero Arena in the 2020-21 season saw the home side run out 4-0 winners with Werder slumping towards the dreaded drop. Goals in the first half from Ihlas Bebou and Christoph Baumgartner put Hoffenheim in control. Goals in the second period from Munas Dabbur and a debut strike from 18-year-old Georginio Rutter sealed the win for the Sinsheim club.
Players to watch:
Georginio Rutter marked his first ever Bundesliga appearance with a goal as a substitute against Werder Bremen two years ago and now a firm part of the Hoffenheim first-team, he will be looking for a repeat performance on Friday. So far this season the 20-year-old has one goal and one assist- figures he would like to add to against Werder.
The man of the moment Niclas Füllkrug grabbed another brace against Borussia Mönchengladbach to lead the Bundesliga scoring charts in his own right ahead of Sheraldo Becker. The whispers calling for him to be called up to the World Cup squad are becoming louder with every goal and impressive performance.