Augsburg - They might not like to admit it, but surprise package FC Augsburg host TSG 1899 Hoffenheim on Sunday with European football still very much on their radar (kick-off 17:30 CET/ 16:30 GMT).

bundesliga.com looks ahead to Matchday 18's curtain-closer between two sides daring to defy the odds at the top end of the standings...

Both sides need something from the contest to keep pace with the handful of clubs battling it out for the European places. Today's top seven is so tight, three points could even catapult the winner into third, depending on how Bayer 04 Leverkusen, FC Schalke 04 and Borussia Mönchengladbach fare on Saturday.

Danish international midfielder Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg is expected to make his competitive debut after joining on loan from FC Bayern München during the winter break. Returning striker Dong-Won Ji could also feature and, with Abdul Rahman Baba away on Africa Cup of Nations duty), expect Markus Feulner to fill in at left-back.

Niklas Süle's place in the back four is up for grabs after the 19-year-old was ruled out for the rest of the season with torn knee ligaments. David Abraham and Ermin Bicakcic are the likely pairing at centre-half for now, with Tobias Strobl set for a run-out at left-back in the absence of Kim Jin-Su.

Höjbjerg will be itching to get started after only featuring in fits and starts for his parent club. The Dane is scheduled to return to Munich in six months' time, but it's that extra bit of quality on the ball and in the tackle that could well propel Markus Weinzierl's men to even greater heights in the interim.

At the age of 23, has already established himself as one of the Bundesliga's finest playmakers. The Brazilian international hasn't missed a single game so far this season, scoring four and chipping in with six trademark assists in 17 league outings, and is without doubt the one who makes the Sinsheimers tick.

Markus Weinzierl (Augsburg head coach): "We've got a tough task ahead of us and have the utmost respect for Hoffenheim."

Markus Gisdol (Hoffenheim head coach): "Augsburg are definitely not the ideal opposition for the first game after the winter break."

Augsburg are unbeaten in the league on home soil so far this season, winning six and drawing two, but lost a recent friendly to second tier side 1. FC Kaiserlautern before edging SpVgg Greuther Fürth 2-1. Hoffenheim thrashed Hertha Berlin 5-0 on Matchday 17 and returned home from their South African training camp unbowed.

Hoffenheim recorded their third top-flight win over Augsburg on Matchday 1 courtesy of first-half goals from Adam Szalai and Tarik Elyounoussi, but have lost their last two at the Fuggerstädter's SGL-Arena.

Possible line-ups:

Augsburg: Manninger - Verhaegh, Callsen-Bracker, Klavan, Feulner - Baier - Esswein, Höjbjerg, Halil Altintop, To. Werner - Bobadilla

Hoffenheim: Baumann - Beck, Abraham, Bicakcic, Strobl - Polanski, Schwegler - Volland, Roberto Firmino, Elyounoussi - Szalai

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