Sinsheim - 1899 Hoffenheim have the chance to avenge their recent DFB Cup defeat to VfL Wolfsburg when the two sides meet at the Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena on Matchday 23 this Sunday (kick-off 14.30 GMT/15.30 CET).
Salihovic: 'Built on that performance'
The Wolves in a hugely entertaining game back on 12 February, and Hoffenheim coach Markus Gisdol admitted in his pre-match press conference that making amends is most definitely on the minds of his players and staff. "The game is still very fresh in our memories."
It was a painful defeat that Hoffenheim were made to swallow just over a fortnight. Bast Dost had given the visitors a 3-1 lead just after the hour mark, but Hoffenheim were unable to make the most of their numerical advantage following Ricardo Rodriguez' 70th-minute red card, with the Wolves' keeper Diego Benaglio making save after save to keep them at bay.
The frustration has been positively channelled, however. Gisdol's men responded by thrashing VfB Stuttgart 4-1 before coming back from two goals down to earn a draw away at European hopefuls Borussia Mönchengladbach. Results such as these have given the Hoffenheim players a much-needed confidence boost: "The Cup defeat hurt, but we played well in the game and we can build on that performance, like we have done in the last couple of games," said midfielder Sejad Salihovic, who netted in the draw at Gladbach.
"We're looking forward to the game. It's a great challenge for us. Wolfsburg are competing for a Champions League place and we want to show that at home we can beat a team of that calibre," added Gisdol, before singling out the player he believes poses the biggest threat to his side. "Kevin de Bruyne is a player who can make the difference. It's practially impossible to keep him quiet for 90 minutes."
His counterpart Dieter Hecking was equally complimentary of the attacking players that his side will need to keep in check in Sinsheim. "They look to win the ball back quickly and then break with pace. In players like Sven Schipplock, Roberto Firmino and Kevin Volland, they have forwards with a great goal threat."
Hecking also made mention of the side's recent meeting in the Cup, and reiterated the need to guard against an increasingly motivated opponent. "Hoffenheim have beaten Stuttgart and were the better team in Mönchengladbach. They're playing with a lot of confidence and will give everything to beat us this time."
With the attacking talent on show, goals are most definitely on the cards this Sunday. An astonishing 92 goals have been scored in games involving Hoffenheim - 50 of them at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena - while 42 goals have been scored in the sides' eleven meetings to date. The aforementioned stars may be the most likely goalscorers, but there could be another twist in the tale: Midfielder Luiz Gustavo, up against his former club Hoffenheim, has two in his last three for Wolfsburg.
Hoffenheim: Casteels - Johnson, Abraham, Süle, Beck - Rudy, Salihovic - Volland, Firmino, Herdling - Schipplock
Wolfsburg: Benaglio - Träsch, Naldo, Knoche, Rodriguez - Luiz Gustavo, Medojevic - Arnold, de Bruyne, Perisic - Dost