In the corresponding fixture last season, Andre Schürrle scored the only goal of the game for the visitors
In the corresponding fixture last season, Andre Schürrle scored the only goal of the game for the visitors

Hoffenheim hoping to stem dismal Leverkusen record

Sinsheim - The term 'bogey team' may be frequently used in the sporting world, but when it comes to 1899 Hoffenheim against Bayer 04 Leverkusen (kick-off 17:30 CET), there could hardly be a more fitting description.

Personnel woes

Of their eight encounters to date, Sunday's visitors have triumphed seven times, with the other fixture ending in a draw. And unfortunately for Hoffenheim fans, that trend shows no sign of abating, with their side currently down in 16th place having won just three times all season.

"We're not hiding from the facts," said coach Markus Babbel ahead of the tie. "We know we're in a dangerous situation. We need to be wide awake from the very first second." Defensive difficulties appear to be the root of their struggles this term, with the 26 goals conceded to date representing the worst quota of any Bundesliga club.

Having started the season in a rich vein of form, scoring two goals and orchestrating proceedings in midfield, Japanese star Takashi Usami has gone off the boil of late, but may be recalled here in the wake of the dismal 3-1 defeat to Wolfsburg last week.

Friend or foe?

Leverkusen likewise come into the game on the back of a defeat, albeit a 2-0 midweek loss in the UEFA Europa League against Metalist Kharkiv. However, the line-up is set for a makeover after several first-team regulars were rested for that trip. Simon Rolfes and Lars Bender are set to return to the midfield, while attackers and Stefan Kießling will relish taking on a shaky home defence.

Coach Sami Hyypiä, who played alongside Babbel for three seasons with Liverpool, insists their friendship will be put on ice for 90 minutes and that his troops will look to exploit the hosts' current frailty. "Their self-confidence isn't very high right now, but if they start well it can come back very quickly, so it's our job to be focused from the off to make sure that doesn't happen."

Probable line-ups:

Hoffenheim: Casteels- Beck, Delpierre, Compper, Johnson - Salihovic, Rudy - Firmino, Volland, Grifo - Joselu

Leverkusen: Leno - Carvajal, Wollscheid, Toprak, Hosogai - L. Bender, Reinartz, Rolfes, Castro - Kießling, Schürrle