Hoffenheim 1-3 Wolfsburg

LORENZ Günther-Köstner’s temporary spell as Wolfsburg coach continues to get better and better, as his side registered their fourth win from the five games they’ve had under the 60-year-old’s control. Crucially, the result also lifted Wolfsburg out of the relegation zone and above Hoffenheim, who paid the price for their woeful first-half performance (and an improved, if not much better, second-half showing). Markus Babbel’s side, coming into this game with their spirits buoyed after learning on Friday that popular, talented midfielder Boris Vukčević – involved in a nasty car crash in September – had finally woken up from his coma, just never got going, and played like a side who have only won one of their last seven games.

But, credit where it’s due to Wolfsburg, who deserved all three points this afternoon. Defensively, they were mentally, tactically and physically solid, and in attack, were enterprising, creative, fluid and confident. If Günther-Köstner’s side can win against Werder Bremen at the Volkswagen Arena next weekend, it’s hard to see how the former Hoffenheim coach won’t be given the Wolfsburg job on a permanent basis. Today’s hosts, meanwhile, booed regularly by the home fans, welcome Bayer Leverkusen – coached by Sami Hyypiä, Babbel’s former Liverpool teammate – to the Rhein-Neckar-Arena. It’s hard to see how Babbel, once a coach of such promise, will be able to hold onto his job if his players fail to pick up even a point from that encounter.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Hoffenheim (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Tim Wiese; Andreas Beck, Pelle Jensen, Matthieu Delpierre, Fabian Johnson; Sebastian Rudy, Daniel Williams; Roberto Firmino, Sejad Salihović, Kevin Volland; Joselu

Wolfsburg (4-2-3-1, from right to left): Diego Benaglio; Fagner, Naldo, Simon Kjær, Marcel Schäfer; Josué, Jan Polák; Makoto Hasebe, Diego, Ivica Olić; Bas Dost Continue reading

Hoffenheim-Wolfsburg preview

TWO 1. Bundesliga clubs who have been making headlines for positive reasons this week come face to face tomorrow afternoon. On Friday, Hoffenheim attacker Boris Vukčević awoke from the coma he had been in since a car crash on September 28, giving the club and its squad a timely boost. Wolfsburg, meanwhile, travel to the Rhein-Neckar-Arena buoyed by last weekend’s Diego-inspired win over Bayer Leverkusen, and the news that sporting director Klaus Allofs has left northern rivals Werder Bremen after 13 years to join Germany’s 2009 champions.

Wolfsburg have been in fantastic form in recent weeks, winning three of the last four matches. That run, unsurprisingly, has coincided with the aftermath of coach/manager Felix Magath’s departure, with the players verbally expressing and physically playing like a weight has been lifted off their shoulders. The popular Lorenz Günther-Köstner – who was head coach at Hoffenheim in the third-tier for several months in 2006 – is now in temporary charge, and most fans seem to want the 60-year-old to stay on. What Allofs has in mind, though, remains to be seen. Continue reading

Hoffenheim-Eintracht Frankfurt preview

ONE of Germany’s more storied clubs take on the footballing epitome of the nouveau riche this weekend, as Eintracht Frankfurt travel to Hoffenheim. While Frankfurt may not be Germany’s most fashionable or celebrated club these days, they do have a UEFA Cup and several DFB-Pokal trophies in the cabinet. Hoffenheim, on the other hand, were playing in the fifth-tier as recently as 1999. Since then, though, software mogul Dietmar Hopp has ploughed a small fortune into Hoffe, building a 30,000-seater stadium – that is usually at least 90 per cent full – and turning the club into an established top-flight side: albeit one unpopular with football fans who deem them to be a soulless club, and an un-German-like rich man’s plaything.

Despite having history on their side, Armin Veh’s Frankfurt spent last season in the second-tier. They returned to 1. Bundesliga with a bang, defeating Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 at their Commerzbank Arena last Saturday evening. Markus Babbel’s Hoffenheim, meanwhile, slumped to a 2-1 defeat at Borussia Mönchengladbach. This will be the seventh time these two sides have met in the top-flight, with Hoffenheim winning the last encounter – in April 2011 – 1-0. A 19-year-old Roberto Firmino scored his first goal for Hoffenheim that day, and continued his new club’s streak of never having lost to Eintracht Frankfurt. Continue reading

Borussia Mönchengladbach 1-2 Hoffenheim

Borussia Mönchengladbach turned in an awful performance to suffer a second defeat in the space of four days, although Hoffenheim were worthy winners. From the first minute, Lucien Favre’s side showed signs of fatigue from their penalty shootout exit – to Bayern Munich – at the semi-final stage of the German Cup, and were lazy in their passing and movement for the majority of the match thereafter. Markus Babbel’s side, on the other hand, looked sharp and hungry throughout, and didn’t lose belief despite falling behind – very undeservedly – in the first half. Gladbach’s performance did improve in the second half – primarily because they put everything they had into sitting in their own half. But, Hoffenheim kept coming and coming, and struck twice in the final quarter of the match to take all three points. Favre’s side never looked like equalizing thereafter, and will now have to spend the next few days mentally and physically getting over their worst week of the 2011/12 season. The mood on the Hoffenheim bus, meanwhile, will be jubilant, as this win means they are now six points above the final relegation spot, which is currently occupied by Hamburg.

Match preview here.

Starting formations

Borussia Mönchengladbach (4-4-2, from right to left): Marc-André ter Stegen; Tony Jantschke, Roel Brouwers, Dante, Filip Daems; Patrick Herrmann, Thorben Marx, Roman Neustädter, Juan Arango; Igor de Camargo, Marco Reus

Hoffenheim (4-4-1-1, from right to left): Tom Starke; Andreas Beck, Isaac Vorsah, Marvin Compper, Fabian Johnson; Boris Vukčević, Daniel Williams, Tobias Weis, Sebastian Rudy; Sejad Salihović; Ryan Babel Continue reading

Borussia Mönchengladbach-Hoffenheim preview

Champions League qualification hopefuls Borussia Mönchengladbach will be looking to forget their midweek German cup heartache as they host a Hoffenheim side who remain too close to the relegation zone for comfort. Gladbach suffered a penalty shootout defeat to Bayern Munich – a side they have beaten twice this season – on Wednesday at the semi-final stage of the DFB-Pokal, thereby ensuring that the club’s dream-like campaign will end without silverware. Hoffenheim can only fantasise about being where Lucien Favre’s side are, however, as even since Markus Babbel took over as coach at the Sinsheim side a few weeks ago, results haven’t exactly improved.

Like Holger Stanislawski, his predecessor on the Hoffenheim bench, Babbel is struggling to get the team going after club patron Dietmar Hopp commissioned the sales of several star players in the January transfer window (in a move that suggests the board have now perhaps realised their folly, sporting director Ernst Tanner left the club this week). One of those players was creative-midfielder Gylfi Sigurðsson, who is currently in fantastic form for Wales’ second-biggest club, Swansea City, in the English Premier League. Another, Vedad Ibišević, scored twice last weekend as Stuttgart – the side Babbel played for and then coached between 2004 to 2009  comfortably defeated an invention and confidence-lacking Hoffenheim team by two goals to one. It’s not just players who have been sold this season giving Babbel headaches either – Ryan Babel has intimated that he is ready for a new challenge, Roberto Firmino has been out of form for months now after a scintillating start to the current Bundesliga campaign, and Sejad Salihović was recently handed a two-week suspension for a breach of club discipline by Babbel, who is not yet even a quadragenarian. Continue reading

Hoffenheim-Augsburg preview

With the Bundesliga table being so tight 19 games in, joint-bottom Augsburg travel to eighth-placed Hoffenheim tomorrow afternoon knowing that a win at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena could put them a mere four points behind the Sinsheim side. However, taking all three points back to Bavaria is easier said than done for Jos Luhukay’s side, as they have only won once in ten Bundesliga away games this season, scoring the second least amount of goals – behind Hannover – in the process. Added to that, Hoffenheim have conceded the second-least amount of goals at home in the league this season – the impressive Tom Starke letting only six strikes evade him (unsurprisingly, Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer leads the way having let in just three Bundesliga goals at the Allianz Arena so far in the 2011/12 campaign). Continue reading

Hamburg-Hoffenheim preview

Holger Stanislawski and his right-hand man André Trulsen return to the city of Hamburg for the first time since leaving St Pauli in the summer. They go back to take on HSV with a Hoffenheim side who are falling into mid-table obscurity a little earlier than normal. Professionalism aside, Stanislawski will not only be desperate to win in a bid to ensure his side keep up with the early-season European-spot pace-setters, but also because he has the chance to keep St Pauli’s arch-rivals mired in relegation trouble. Hamburg, who are now off the bottom of the table after a several-month stint, could feasibly end the weekend as high as 12th if they beat Hoffenheim. However, despite a decent 2-2 draw away at Bayer Leverkusen in the fixture played before the disruptive two-week international break, Hamburg, Augsburg and 2. Bundesliga side FSV Frankfurt are the only teams in Germany’s top three divisions yet to win a home game so far this season. Continue reading

Hoffenheim 1-0 Borussia Dortmund

The formations in the first half, which Hoffenheim won 1-0.

Tactically adventurous Hoffenheim deservedly beat champions Borussia Dortmund, who put in a performance bereft of energy, imagination, confidence and precision. Jürgen Klopp’s side have now lost 1-0 at the Rhein-Neckar Arena twice in the space of six months, but the credit must go to the seemingly staunch-4-4-2 man Holger Stanislawski and his players, who showed discipline, zip and tremendous spirit to decisively earn their first three points of the new season.

Match preview here.

If you were being cruel/brutally honest, you would suggest that Hoffenheim coach Stanislawski sent out a side consisting of one goalkeeper, five defenders and five midfielders. Continue reading

Hoffenheim-Borussia Dortmund preview

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. Continue reading

Rapid Vienna 0-0 Hoffenheim

The first half formations

A superior yet tactically avant-garde Hoffenheim failed to overcome their average Austrian opponents in this Sunday teatime friendly match between two sides gearing up for the 2011/12 season with new coaches.

Match preview here

Rapid drew their guests onto them right away, before scooping a ball over the caught-out Fabian Johnson for Christopher Drazan to chase and win a corner from. That was as good as it got for the hosts in the opening ten minutes,however,  as their German opponents soon got a hold on things. Holger Stanislawski’s side pressed high and fast through the miniature but fierce centre-midfield duo of Tobias Weis and Dominik Kaiser: this ensured that they kept Rapid penned back in their own half and in the habit of giving the ball away whenever they did get on it. However, Hoffe’s former St Pauli coach deployed an intriguing 4-2-4-0 system during the first 45 minutes, which although giving his side width and creativity, meant that there was no one in and around the box to feed. Continue reading

Rapid Vienna-Hoffenheim preview

At the end of December 2008, a period which marks the conclusion of the winter campaign for many leagues across Europe, Ralf Rangnick’s Hoffenheim sat proudly on top of the German Bundesliga, and just over the border in Austria, Peter Pacult’s Rapid Vienna were in the runners-up spot behind SV Ried.

But how times change.

Hoffenheim collapsed spectacularly in the second half of the 2008/09 campaign, eventually missing out on a Europa League spot: and in the two seasons played since then, they’ve dropped even further away from the division’s European qualification places. Rapid Vienna, meanwhile, are a shadow of the side which dominated the domestic league in the 1980s, and didn’t go on to win the title in the aforementioned 2008/09 season either. Yet, at least they qualified for Europe in that campaign: the capital city side finished fifth in a ten-team league last season, just as close to the team which finished third-bottom as the newly-crowned Austrian champions (Sturm Graz). Continue reading

Hoffenheim 1-3 Wolfsburg

The table before the round 34 fixtures kicked off simultaneously. Hoffenheim could finish the season no higher than seventh, but for Wolfsburg, staying in 15th place was the aim. A win would see them achieve that goal, regardless of what Borussia Mönchengladbach, away at Hamburg, and Eintracht Frankfurt, away at Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund, did.

A Mario Mandžukić-inspired Wolfsburg preserved their Bundesliga status after coming from behind to beat Hoffenheim on the last day of the 2010/11 season.

Unlike Hoffenheim, dozing in mid-table obscurity, Wolfsburg came into this game sitting just one place above the drop zone. St Pauli had already guaranteed themselves second division football next season, but the other automatic relegation spot was still up for grabs, along with the relegation play-off spot – a tie likely to be played against Bochum, who look favourites for third place in 2. Bundesliga. As the table on the left-hand side indicates, we had a three-team league towards the bottom going into the final day, with the team topping that table ensuring themselves first division football in 2011/12. Continue reading