The Bundesliga season continues today with last season’s champions Borussia Dortmund visiting perennial mid-table finishers Hoffenheim. However, when the sides last met at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena back in March, Hoffe surprisingly won 1-0. Fatigue might well have played a factor in that result, so as this is a round two fixture, both teams should be fresh enough to battle it out fair and square.
Several players set to be involved in this game also featured and starred in midweek friendly internationals, including the German national team’s 3-2 win against Brazil (BVB pair Mario Götze and Mats Hummels), and the Germany U21 side’s victory against Cyprus (Hoffe duo Peniel Mlapa and Sebastian Rudy). After yet another superhuman performance against the 2002 world champions, following on from being at the heart of everything during last weekend’s highly impressive 3-1 victory at home to a shellshocked Hamburg, it’ll be interesting to see whether 18-year-old Götze is a marked man in this game.
Götze’s coach, Jürgen Klopp, is expected to be without first-choice left back Marcel Schmelzer today, who is back in training but not yet at 100 percent fitness. Resultantly, Chris Löwe will step in for Schmelzer again, something he did to great success against HSV, even if the majority of the wing action was coming down the Eljero Elia/Łukasz Piszczek side. Elsewhere, Neven Subotić is still out, meaning Felipe Santana will continue to play alongside Mats Hummels in defence. With Lucas Barrios and Patrick Owomoyela also out injured, it is likely that no changes will be made to last week’s starting XI – not that the latter pair would get in if fit anyway given the performances of Polish duo Piszczek and Robert Lewandowski against Hamburg.
Hoffenheim and their young squad of promising talents – Matthias Jaissle, Gylfi Sigurðsson and Rudy, to name but a few – come into this game on the back of a 2-1 defeat at Hannover. This will be Holger Stanislawski’s official debut at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena after joining the club from relegated St Pauli in the summer. The squad, however, seems little different to the one which finished in 11th place last year: the only significant departure being David Alaba, who returned to Bayern Munich after a loan spell, and the only arrivals of note being defender Fabian Johnson and striker Sven Schipplock, underused squad players at Wolfsburg and Stuttgart respectively. However, for now, Andreas Beck and Vedad Ibišević are still with Hoffenheim and played their part in pre-season. If that duo stick around to complete another 34-game campaign with the Baden-Württemberg club, Hoffe should have enough in their locker to secure their place in next season’s Bundesliga.
Missing several key players in that opening day defeat, Stanislawski tried to play his favoured 4-4-2; but question marks remain as to how comfortable the players feel in the new man’s system right now. During a summer friendly at Rapid Vienna, the 41-year-old coach even tried experimenting with a strikerless formation! Of course, it must be noted that nothing will be resolved tactically until players start returning from the treatment room. Some of the key first-teamers expected to miss out today, as they did last week, will be Vedad Ibišević, Andreas Ibertsberger, Sigurðsson, Jaissle, Tobias Weis, Manuel Gulde and Boris Vukčević.
Hoffenheim vs Borussia Dortmund kicks off at 2.30pm in the UK and can be watched live on Bet365.com.