Hoffenheim striker Sandro Wagner reacts to seeing this week's fixture list - he's got form against Leverkusen. - © © gettyimages / Alexander Scheuber/Bundesliga/DFL
Hoffenheim striker Sandro Wagner reacts to seeing this week's fixture list - he's got form against Leverkusen. - © © gettyimages / Alexander Scheuber/Bundesliga/DFL

Leverkusen and Hoffenheim ready to play the numbers game

Settle in stats fans, for this week we size up a scintillating fixture that offers a chance for hosts Bayer Leverkusen to turn recent misfortune into new-found success and Hoffenheim the opportunity to build on their opening day momentum. We give you the Matchday 2 statistical gems!

Toothbrushes and joker goals would make for a charming title to any a Bundesliga player’s memoirs, but in reality, these are the things that most caught the attention of our in-house stat soldiers ahead of Hoffenheim’s visit to Leverkusen on Saturday.

Fearful of having portrayed our number nerds as, well, just that in previous statistical previews, we’re here to say that these dedicated digit addicts are also human. When not dissecting the likes of Leverkusen’s recent home form – Die Werkself are winless in their last six Bundesliga games at the BayArena – our figure fiends are finding fun in the often bizarre behaviour of our division’s dedicated fans.

Take that Hoffenheim supporter (in the tweet above) who insisted on brushing his teeth in the Anfield stands before the Sinsheimers’ Champions League play-off against Liverpool, for example: that certainly raised a chortle.

Watch: Hoffenheim down Werder to open with a win.

But, after allowing them that childish chuckle, let’s get back to what the numeral knights do best, namely, erm, numbers. Time was when Die Kraichgauer – as Hoffenheim are also known – squirmed at the thoughts of a fixture against Leverkusen, and rightly so. Ever since the Baden-Württemberg based team first leaped into the Bundesliga in 2008, they have lost 13 times against their northerly rivals, that’s more defeats than the men in blue have suffered against any other team in the top flight.

But fear not, Hoffenheimers, for that was before hero Julian ‘Super’ Nagelsmann landed on top of the Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena, arms folded, gazing into the middle distance, blue cape flapping in the breeze. With the 30-year-old tactician on board, Hoffenheim won both fixtures against Leverkusen last season, the coach even masterminding his biggest away win in October’s 3-0 triumph at the BayArena.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's a rather springy Hoffenheim coach heading home after work. - © gettyimages / Alexander Scheuber/Bundesliga/DFL

Indeed, Nagelsmann’s superpowers are so startling, he even has the ability to change the outcome of a game with the shrewdest of substitute selections. Nobody conjures a Jokertor – the German word for a goal scored by a replacement – quite like Naglesmann. Hoffenheim’s Matchday 1 winner against Werder Bremen was scored by second half sub Andrej Kramaric, making it 19 such joker goals in 49 Bundesliga games under the crafty coach.

Rudi Völler and Bernd Schuster: happy days. - © imago / WEREK

Heiko Herrlich will be hailed a hero on the eastern banks of the River Rhine if the recently appointed Leverkusen tactician can navigate the team’s troubled tugboat through testing waters. Having previously finished in the Bundesliga’s top four on seven occasions, Bayer - who have winger Julian Brandt in line for a 100th Bundesliga appearance - ended the last campaign in twelfth. A reverse on Matchday 1 against champions Bayern Munich was forgivable, but B04 haven’t lost their opening two Bundesliga games for 23 years, back when Rudi Völler, Paulo Sergio, Ulf Kirsten and Bernd Schuster were sashaying around the BayArena grass.

Herrlich’s aim on Saturday will thus be to see his team take an early lead, Leverkusen having never failed to pick up all three points from such a position at home to Hoffenheim. Fitting a straight-jacket to Sandro Wagner might also be advisable for not only was the visiting striker involved in all three of Hoffenheim’s goals in this fixture last term, the forward with the devilish grin has struck in his last three outings against Saturday’s opponents. Reason enough to leave Hoffenheim fans happily polishing their pearly whites.

More numbers next time!

Paul Bryan

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