Munich - Neither 1899 Hoffenheim, who may be without on-form midfield ace Takashi Usami, nor SpVgg Greuther Fürth have exactly set the Bundesliga on fire so far this season. Both sides have the chance to take a step in the right direction under the floodlights of the WIRSOL Rhein-Neckar Arena on Friday evening however (kick-off 20:30 CET), in what will be the 15,000th game in the history of the Bundesliga.
While Fürth were never under any illusions as to how tough their first season in the top flight would be, Hoffenheim started the campaign expecting to be somewhat further up the standings than their current 13th spot.
The last time these two sides met, a 1-0 win for the Clover Leaves in the DFB Cup quarter finals signalled the end of Holger Stanislawski's tenure as Hoffenheim head coach. Since then, his successor Markus Babbel has sought to steady the ship, with mixed results. Now, after their 2-0 loss to record title holders FC Bayern, the 40-year-old looks to have pinpointed where he believes his side's problems lie. "We performed well defensively, but things have to improve going forward," said Babbel. "We've got to be more clinical up front, and never more so than against a deep-lying side like Fürth."
"It's an important game for us, no ifs or buts about it. We didn't start well but we've been moving inthe right direction recently. We've got to stick at it," the former Germany international added, who will have to tinker with his starting line-up. Sejad Salihovic and Daniel Williams are both serving suspensions, while there are also question marks surrounding the inclusions of Roberto Firmino (knee) and Usami (flu), who have both played a key part in Hoffenheim's campaign thus far. However, goalkeeper and captain Tim Wiese looks set to return to the fold after recovering from an adductor problem.
In need of a four-leaf clover
Opponents Greuther Fürth are propping up the rest of the Bundesliga at present, having taken just four points from their first seven matches, but they'll be looking to add to that tally considering all of them were won on the road. "We want to build upon our successful outing in Mainz, the composed performance in Wolfsburg and the compact first-half in Leverkusen," said head coach Mike Büskens. With just two goals to their name, it is clear what aspect of their game Fürth need to work on. "We've got to defend well and make the most of our chances up front," added the boss.
Though Olivier Occean, the lone goalscorer in Fürth's cup win over Hoffenheim, is no longer at the club, Büskens is keen to concentrate on the here and now. "That's in the past, but as far as the team's performance went, we presented ourselves very well on that occasion," said the former Schalke 04 midfielder. Fortunately for the 44-year-old, his international contingent have returned unscathed from their recent travels, while Hungarian summer signing is expected to keep his place in the starting line-up after impressing on the wing against Hamburg.
Hoffenheim: Wiese - Beck, Delpierre, Compper, Johnson - Chris, Rudy - Volland, Roberto Firmino, Usami - Joselu
Greuther Fürth Grün - Nehrig, Kleine, Mavraj, Schmidtgal - Fürstner - Mikkelsen, Prib, Stieber - Edu, Sararer