Stefan Kießling’s winning goal, which somehow found the smallest of rips in the side-netting but was allowed to stand, underlined Bayer 04’s push for a spot in the top two at the time, but their form since the turn of the year has seen them slip into fourth place with just a three-point cushion over the chasing pack in the race for the UEFA Champions League spots.
Hyypiä 'ready to go full tilt'
Leverkusen have picked up just in recent weeks and now face three potentially pivotal fixtures in quick succession. Fortunately for the Werkself it begins with a visit of 1899, against whom they’ve won ten of their previous eleven encounters. “We’re desperate to get back to winning ways against Hoffenheim,” said Lars Bender. “It could be difficult for us. We just need to do everything to make sure we pick up all three points at home.”
Head coach Sami Hyypiä is confident his side have put the recent setbacks behind them after “knuckling down and working hard” in training during the week. “We’re all really looking forward to the game,” explained the former Finnish international, who could welcome Ömer Toprak back into his starting line-up on Sunday. “Physically and mentally we’re definitely ready to go full tilt for 90 minutes and fight for the win. We need the right mix of relaxation and absolute commitment, but we also need to make sure we don't stretch ourselves.”
No fear for 1899
Poor form or otherwise, Hoffenheim head coach Markus Gisdol believes “Leverkusen can’t be judged on recent results” and was also was quick to underline that the controversy surrounding their Matchday 9 encounter would have little bearing this weekend. “That game is in the back of our minds, which is why it would be great to get a positive result, but that's as far as it goes,” said the 44-year-old. “This goal will always be a one-off in the Bundesliga. Processing it was difficult and I don’t want to experience it again.”
Though his side have only collected one point from a possible 33 against Leverkusen, Gisdol claims 1899 “aren’t afraid” of their hosts. David Abraham remains the only absentee for the Sinsheim side to contend with, but injuries are far from Hoffenheim’s biggest problem. “We’ve scored over 50 goals but we’ve also conceded more than 50,” Sejad Salihovic told bayer04.de. “Sometimes we get the balance between attack and defence right and sometimes we don’t. We need to be more solid.”
Leverkusen: Leno - Hilbert, Toprak, Spahic, Boenisch - L. Bender, Rolfes, Can - Sam, Kießling, Son
Hoffenheim: Casteels - F. Johnson, Süle, Vestergaard, Beck - Rudy, Polanski, Salihovic - Roberto Firmino - Volland, Modeste
Relive the most bizarre goal of the current campaign on the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel: