Cologne - The Bundesliga’s nine-team relegation royal rumble is set to continue for some time yet, but Wednesday evening could provide an insight into the course it will take as strugglers SC Paderborn host Hamburger SV, and SV Werder Bremen travel to European aspirants TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (kick-offs 19:00 GMT / 20:00 CET).
SC Paderborn - Hamburger SV
bundesliga.com previews what promise to be two intriguing encounters to round off the first englische Woche of the calendar year...
If ever there was an occasion to kick-start a fight against the drop then this match provides it for Paderborn and Hamburg, who both slumped to dispiriting defeats on Matchday 18 and now teeter nervously above the automatic relegation places.
Not for the faint-hearted
Andre Breitenreiter’s Paderborn were resoundingly beaten 5-0 by 1. FSV Mainz 05 on Saturday, but nevertheless had an encouraging start to the week when numerous fans responded to a shout-out on Twitter to help clear SCP’s training pitch of snow. “That shows the sort of club we are and with the supporters behind us we’ll give it our best shot [against Hamburg],” said Breitenreiter, who is gearing up for a fierce scrap against the northern giants. “It’s not the kind of game where we’ll be able to play nice football. There will be a lot of tackles flying in and our players will need to step up.”
That could well mean a baptism of fire for new Hamburg midfielder Marcelo Diaz, who was signed on transfer deadline day. Not that the Chilean is shying away from the challenge, however: “I’m fit. It may be a new league and a new experience for me but I’m ready to play.” Fellow newcomer Ivica Olic looks set to start in attack once more as a thigh injury has ruled Pierre-Michel Lasogga out of a game coach Joe Zinnbauer believes will be won by “whichever side has the strongest desire to take the points.”
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - SV Werder Bremen
Hoffenheim could not have wished for a more awkward opponent than bogey team Bremen as they look to get their European charge back on track after being derailed by a 3-1 reverse against FC Augsburg on Sunday.
Strong hosts, travel-sick guests
The Sinsheim-based club, currently seventh in the standings, have only beaten Bremen once in 13 league attempts - drawing five and losing the other seven - but coach Markus Gisdol is confident his side can secure the desired result: “Bremen seem to be in good form, but we’ll be ready too and are determined to win. We don’t know how they’ll play now that they’re the away side but we’re a force to be reckoned with at home.” Indeed, Hoffenheim have won five and drawn two of their nine assignments at the WIRSOL Rhein-Neckar-Arena so far this term, and also have a full squad available for the match - including Jin-Su Kim, who has returned from AFC Asian Cup duty with South Korea.
By way of contrast, Bremen will be without set-piece specialist Zlatko Junuzovic, who is suspended, but can call on Danish defender Yannik Vestergaard, who joined from Hoffenheim last month. The visitors have the worst away record in the league, having won just once and lost six times on foreign soil this term, but coach Viktor Skripnik saw enough in his side’s 2-0 win over Hertha Berlin at the weekend to convince him that victory is possible. “We’ll go there full of confidence, we trust in our strengths,” said the Ukrainian strategist. “We can’t shy away from the game and only react to what they do.”