Sinsheim - Borussia Dortmund travel to free-scoring 1899 Hoffenheim on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 15:30 CET) looking to overturn a run of disappointing results in the Bundesliga.
"We want to push ourselves"
BVB have lost three of their last four domestic encounters, the latest of which came against title-rivals Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Matchday 15. Jürgen Klopp's team are unlikely to have things all their own way against Hoffenheim either. Only Dortmund and league leaders FC Bayern München have scored more league goals than the team from Sinsheim, who currently lie in eleventh place in the table.
Aside from that defeat to die Werkself, it's been a good week for Klopp's charges. Kevin Großkreutz’s late winner against Olympique de Marseille on Wednesday sent the Schwarz-Gelben through to the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League as Group F winners, and coach Jürgen Klopp wants his players to pick up where they left off in the South of France.
"After reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League, we want to pick up maximum points in the Bundesliga before the winter break," said the 46-year-old. "We want to push ourselves as much as we can before the end of the Hinrunde." Klopp is expecting a tough test at the Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena, however. "1899 have a very strong team," he said. "It's going to be a very difficult game, there's no doubt about that."
Dortmund's task will be made all the more difficult by the suspension of Greek defender Sokratis, who was sent off for a second bookable offence against Leverkusen on Matchday 15. To make matters worse for BVB, Manuel Friedrich is suffering from a toe injury and is doubtful for the trip to Badem-Württemberg. With first-choice centre-backs Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic both long-term absentees, 18-year-old Marian Sarr could make his Bundesliga debut after impressing against Marseille in midweek.
Meanwhile, Hoffenheim coach Markus Gisdol could keep faith with the team that overcame Eintracht Frankfurt last weekend. Gisdol was impressed by his players' display in the 2-1 win at the Commerzbank Arena and sees no reason why they can't put in a similar performance against last season's Champions League finalists. "If we play like we have in recent games, we can definitely get a positive result," said the 44-year-old.
"A fascinating contest"
Gisdol is expecting to face a rejuvenated Dortmund side on Saturday, despite the visitors' current injury crisis. "The Marseille victory will have done them the world of good," he said. "The team will be in high spirits after that result, but the long trip may have taken its toll on them, both physically and mentally." With Kevin Volland and Roberto Firmino - who have scored 14 Bundesliga goals between them this season - likely to start the match, there's little doubt that Hoffenheim have the firepower to hurt Dortmund's depleted defence.
However, Hoffenheim's own defending has left much to be desired this season and Gisdol knows they will have to keep things tight at the back if they are to stand any chance of picking up maximum points against Robert Lewandowski and Co. on Saturday. "It's all set for a fascinating contest," he said. "We're playing at home against fantastic opponents. We're determined to rise to the occasion."
Hoffenheim: Grahl - Beck, Süle, Vestergaard, Toljan - Rudy, Polanski - Volland, Roberto Firmino, Herdling - Schipplock
Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller - Großkreutz, Sarr, Friedrich, Durm - Kehl, Sahin - Blaszczykowski, Mkhitaryan, Reus - Lewandowski