1899 Hoffenheim v 1.FC Köln (04.03.2012 – 16:30 GMT)
The curtain will be drawn on Bundesliga Matchday 24 when under pressure Koln, travel to the Rhein-Neckar Arena for Sunday’s encounter with Hoffenheim.
Hoffenheim, under the guidance of newly appointed coach Markus Babbel, are looking for back to back wins after an impressive victory away to Wolfsburg on Matchday 23. The Sinsheim side are now undefeated in four and will see this home tie against a Koln side, low on confidence, as a great opportunity to grab another morale-boosting victory. Last week’s victory was their first since December, and you have to go back to Matchday 10 in October for their last win in Upper Rhine country. Currently sitting mid-table, Hoffenheim are still in danger of being dragged into a relegation dogfight by some sides, including this week’s visitors, but could with a couple of victories, consolidate a healthy 7th or 8th in the table. FC Augsburg have ventured out of the relegation zone in recent weeks could leapfrog Koln if their poor form continues – The Billy Goats are heading in the wrong direction and have lost six out of the last seven Bundesliga matches shipping thirteen goals in the process.
The return of talisman Lukas Podolski to Solbakken’s team did little to inspire Koln, as Bayer Leverkusen easily dispatched their Rhineland Rivals last week amid further rumours of the German internationals’ possible departure from the RheinEnergieStadion in the summer. This may well have been unsettling the fan’s favourite but further developments this week suggest Poldi has now agreed personal terms with long-term admirers, Arsenal, and that he will be set to join the Gunners in the summer. General Manager Claus Horstmann has also issued under-fire manager Stale Solbakken the dreaded vote of confidence amid rumours the clubs recent poor run of form would see the end of the Norwegian managers’ leadership prior to Matchday 24.
One positive to take out of last week’s defeat for Koln was Mitchell Weiser, who became the youngest ever player to turn out for the side in the Bundesliga at the ripe age of seventeen years, three hundred & ten days – but even his youthful exuberance could not inspire his side as they lacked any real purpose and appeared very lackadaisical in defence.
1899’s German defender Matthias Jaissle is still out with an achilles tendon problem and joins Andreas Ibersberger on the sidelines for Hoffenheim. Bosnia-Herzegovina international, Sejad Salihovic has been ordered by Babbel to train with the under 23 squad and sits this out due to the disciplinary measure. Salihovic, who will miss out against Bayern Munich next week as well, was recently banned for four games by the national team due to “unsporting behaviour”. Koln midfielders Petit & Adil Chihi are still long-term absentees along with defender Henrique Sereno, however Slawomir Pezko and Miso Brecko are available again after sitting out the Leverkusen match through suspension. Left-back Ammar Jemal started light training again on Tuesday while captain Pedro Geromel could return to the Koln midfield after nursing a calf problem. Kevin Pezzoni is also back in training and should be available for selection following a successful operation on his broken nose –Pezzosustained the injury after being attacked in a nightclub following the cities’ carnival a fortnight ago.
Die Geißböcke have the upper hand in the most recent encounters taking eight points from a possible fifteen in the last five – with the only defeat, a heavy one at that, back in the Rhineland in November 2009 when Hoffenheim ran out comfortable four nil winners.
Last 5 Matches
2009/2010 21.11.2009 1.FC Koln 1899 Hoffenheim 0:4
2009/2010 10.04.2010 1899 Hoffenheim 1.FC Koln 0:2
2010/2011 24.09.2010 1.FC Koln 1899 Hoffenheim 1:1
2010/2011 19.02.2011 1899 Hoffenheim 1.FC Koln 1:1
2011/2012 25.09.2011 1.FC Koln 1899 Hoffenheim 2:0
Sven Schipplock v Kevin McKenna
The young German striker has only had 128 minutes of Bundesliga action so far this season, but repaid the faith shown in him by the new coach by coming off the bench to grab the winner at Wolfsburg. Hoffenheim’s number nine will be hoping his impressive display has done enough to give him the nod over Croatian forward Srdan Lakic, who recently came on loan from the Wolves but has failed to find the net in his last three starts. Canadian defender Kevin McKenna will be hopeful of using his vast experience to keep the youthful 1899 front line in check.
Daniel Williams v Slawomir Pezko
German born US international, Daniel Williams will be looking to control the centre of the park and dictate the tempo for Markus Babbel’s side as he did last week, turning in a masterful performance at the Volkswagen arena. Pezko returns from suspension and his slick passing and interplay could give Koln the upper hand in the attacking third – Leverkusen were able to capitalise on their poor ball distribution last week and bossed large parts of the game.
Bundesliga Football Prediction 2:1