Sinsheim - Sitting in 17th place and with just one win in their last 13 matches, 1899 Hoffenheim now face the unenviable task of welcoming runaway league leaders FC Bayern Munich to the WIRSOL Rhein-Neckar Arena on Sunday afternoon (kick-off 15:30 CET).
Despite facing the ominous prospect of an encounter against the league's most prolific attack (63 goals),1899 head coach Marco Kurz - whose side have themselves conceded more than any other side this season (48), is on this occasion prioritising performance over points: "For me, it's not about the result... I want to see a team out there on the pitch."
After watching the Kraichgau outfit drop into the automatic relegation places for the fourth time in the current campaign, Kurz is looking for a reaction from the squad. "Maybe we won't play at the same technical level as Bayern, but I need to see desire and passion against superior opposition," stated the 43-year-old. In the same vein, sporting director Andreas Müller added, "Every player has to demonstrate he's prepared to help prevent the club being relegated."
The former Schalke general manager also believes that, were Hoffenheim to pull off an improbable result this weekend, it could prove pivotal. "There are moments in a season where you can turn everything around after a positive experience," explained Müller. "We're in need of one of those moments. We have the chance take something from a match against the best team in Europe. If the team play well, it could inspire them."
"Hungry for success"
Fresh from at Borussia Dortmund's expense, FC Bayern are hoping to knock the reigning champions down another peg this weekend. Die Münchner have won all six of their games since winter break and victory on Sunday would see them equal the new second season-half best-mark set by BVB last season.
Indeed, true to the club's current trajectory Manuel Neuer could go one better. The Bayern No1 is currently unbeaten in 494 minutes of action on the road and, were he to keep a clean sheet in Sinsheim, the 26-year-old would break a Bundesliga record of his own. "We're still hungry for success and won't be taking our foot of the pedal in the league campaign," explained head coach Jupp Heynckes. "We know that we have to maintain this level and maybe even improve upon it."
Rotation and motivation
The 67-year-old may be tempted to rotate his squad after Wednesday's intense cup encounter and one player hoping he's done enough to earn himself a starting berth is Luiz Gustavo. Talking exclusively to bundesliga.com the former Hoffenheim midfielder warned against underestimating his ex-club: "We know they're in a difficult situation and, as a result, they'll fight because they're in desperate need of a win. We've got to be ready for it though, and maintain our style of play."
Heynckes echoed the Brazil international's sentiment during his pre-match press conference. "We can't assume that this is going to be a walk in the park. It'll be difficult from the first whistle because of the atmosphere alone," explained the Bayern boss, whose counterpart is counting on that being the case. "You don't need to motivate your team against the undisputed number one side in the Bundesliga," declared Kurz.
Hoffenheim: Gomes - Ochs, Abraham, Vestergaard, Johnson - Williams, Weis - Schröck, Volland, Usami - de Camargo
Bayern: Neuer - Lahm, Boateng, Dante, Alaba - Gustavo, Schweinsteiger - T. Müller, Kroos, Ribery - Mandzukic