Two clubs at opposite ends of the Bundesliga table will battle it out in front of an empty PreZero Arena on Saturday as professional football kicks off for the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Hosts TSG 1899 Hoffenheim will be looking to bolster their challenge for the UEFA Europa League spots. Die Kraichgauer sit in ninth place, just two points adrift of the Schalke 04 in the Europa League qualification position. The long break will have allowed Hoffenheim to refocus after they had been through a poor series of results leading up to the suspension of the league.
They come into this bout having gone without a win in their last five league outings, and this will be the first match at home since the infamous 6-0 loss to Bayern Munich.
The visiting side, also-out-of-form Hertha BSC come out of the break teetering on the edge of relegation. Although languishing in mid-table, Die Alte Dame are only six points off of the drop in an excruciatingly tight fight for survival.
Hertha have won just once in their last six Bundesliga ties, and are struggling to keep opponents at bay, having conceded 10 goals in their previous three matches alone.
They need to find vast improvements under new manager Bruno Labbadia, following the departure of Jurgen Klinsmann. The 55-year-old’s tenancy was short-lived and ill-fated, and the Olympiastadion faithful will be excited to move into a new era of football in the capital.
Hoffenheim will be hoping that injury-plagued striker Andrej Kramaric can make use of the time away from the game to fully recover back into his scoring prowess. The Croatian attacker has netted seven times in 15 appearances this season, and the resumption of his place in the first team could prove to be the missing piece in Die Kraichqauer’s campaign.
Meanwhile, the new-look visitors are without Ivorian winger Salomon Kalou, who is serving a club-given suspension after he was caught disobeying coronavirus lockdown measures.
Defenders Dedryck Boyata and Peter Pekarik picked up knocks just before the hiatus, but full recoveries are expected.
The two sides have met on 19 past occasions. Hoffenheim have claimed all three points nine times (46.4% rate), and honours have been split just five times (26.3%).
They last clashed in October at the Olympiastadion. The German capital witnessed a five-goal thriller, in which Hoffenheim came out on top 3-2 as Hertha were reduced to ten men.
Saturday’s meeting is shaping up to be a goal-fest.
TSG Hoffenheim: Baumann; Rudy, Nordtveit, Hubner, Zuber; Samassekou, Kadarabek, Grillitsch; Baumgartner, Kramaric, Bebou. (4-3-3)
Hertha BSC: Jarstein; Klunter, Stark, Boyata, Mittelstadt; Darida, Ascacibar; Grujic, Dilrosun, Cunha; Piatek. (4-2-3-1)