American youngster Chris Richards will plan to keep Jamaican speedster Leon Bailey quiet when Hoffenheim host Bayer Leverkusen on Monday (kick-off 7.30pm BST).
Richards was part of the Hoffenheim team that lost 2-1 at Augsburg on Matchday 27, which followed on from two other narrow defeats against VfB Stuttgart and Mainz. On loan for the remainder of the season, the USA international defender knows Hoffenheim boss Sebastian Hoeneß well from their time with the Bayern Munich reserve team that won the Bundesliga 3 title last season. The 21-year-old is playing regularly again this year under Hoeneß, but his new side could be dragged into a relegation scrap rather than vying for silverware. The home team start Matchday 28 only seven points above the relegation zone, so the return of Israeli striker Munas Dabbur is timely. Hoffenheim have failed to win a game that leading goalscorer Andrej Kramaric has not featured in this season, and the 14-goal Croatian is back in training after an ankle problem. He's in a race against time to be fit to face Leverkusen, though, while Monday's game will definitely come too soon for the returning Havard Nordtveit.
Leverkusen began life under new coach Hannes Wolf in a positive manner, with Bailey coming off the bench in the second half to help them to a 2-1 success against bottom club Schalke. The winger scored twice in a 4-1 home win over Hoffenheim in December, and he could be an important figure in what are a crucial final seven games. Leverkusen ended Matchday 27 seven points behind fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt, after all, giving them some hope of pushing for a top-four finish - and a return to the UEFA Champions League next season. The visitors are still without long-term injury absentees Santiago Arias, Julian Baumgartlinger, Lars Bender and Timothy Fosu-Mensah, but left-back Daley Sinkgraven is fit again.
Watch: Chris Richards is taking great strides
- Hoffenheim have lost three games in a row for the first time this season.
- They have lost seven home games against Leverkusen - more than against any other club in the Bundesliga. However, they have won three of their past four meetings at home to Die Werkself.
- Sebastian Rudy is set to make his 250th Bundesliga appearance for Hoffenheim.
- After a run of eight points from nine games, Leverkusen parted company with Peter Bosz and appointed Hannes Wolf, who has yet to win a single away game as a coach in the Bundesliga.
- The visitors have not yet won back-to-back games in 2021.
- Kerem Demirbay and Nadiem Amiri both joined Leverkusen from Hoffenheim in 2019.
Hoffenheim: Baumann (c) - Posch, Grillitsch, Richards - Kaderabek, Rudy, Samassekou, John - Baumgartner - Bebou, Dabbur
Out: Bicakcic (knee), Geiger (hamstring), Hübner (ankle), Stafylidis (shoulder)
Doubtful: Adamyan (hamstring), Gacinovic (ankle), Kramaric (ankle), Nordtveit (foot), Vogt (calf)
Coach: Sebastian Hoeneß
Leverkusen: Hradecky - Tah, S. Bender, Tapsoba - Bellarabi, Palacios, Aranguiz (c), Wendell - Wirtz, Amiri - Alario
Out: Arias (ankle), Baumgartlinger (knee), L. Bender (knee), Fosu-Mensah (knee)
Coach: Hannes Wolf