Cologne - Registering only one shot on goal in a 2-1 defeat to Bayer 04 Leverkusen, it probably wasn’t the start to the new season TSG 1899 Hoffenheim forward Kevin Volland had hoped for.
'Still not 100 per cent'
Indeed, as die Kraichauer prepare to welcome defending champions FC Bayern München to the WIRSOL Rhein-Neckar-Arena on Matchday 2, the 22-year-old knows he simply has to improve.
“I didn’t see the first two games going that way,” Volland recalled in an interview with club website www.achtzehn.de, Hoffenheim having also been eliminated from the DFB Cup by Bundesliga 2 side 1860 Munich in the first round. “I’m still not 100 per cent after the shorter pre-season following the Under-21 European Championships. […] I’m working hard and I’m getting back to where I want to be.”
On top of the physical battle to regain top fitness, Volland is also having to get his head around a notable positional change in the Hoffenheim attack. Over the course of the last two years, he has spent most of his time on the right-hand side of attack, but this term Markus Gisdol has opted to deploy the Germany Under-21 international captain more centrally.
“They’re two different positions, but it’s nothing new - I’ve always played there for the U-21s,” he explained. “Out wide you tend to just face one opponent and you can take them on one-on-one, but you don’t get that in the middle. It’s tighter, but it’s not like we have to stay in one position. We’re free to roam and look for spaces. You can affect the game whether you’re in the middle or on the flanks.”
'We need a perfect day'
On the subject of game-changers, Hoffenheim’s upcoming opponents Bayern will be bringing more than their fair share to the table in Sinsheim this weekend. The ease with which the 24-time Bundesliga champions dispatched of Hamburger SV on the opening day doesn’t exactly bode well for TSG, but then some things never change.
“Bayern only have good players,” Volland opined. “For me Jerome Boateng is exceptional - one of the best central defenders in the world. He’s a massive presence and his build-up play is incredible. Douglas Costa has also put in some extraordinary performances since moving to Munich […] They’re one of the best teams in Europe.”
How, then, does young Volland suggest Hoffenheim go about Saturday’s task? “We have to attack and be brave. That’ll make it uncomfortable for them because they’re not used to that. And that’s definitely one of our strengths, but it’s also risky. They’re so good they can take apart almost every other team in the world. We want to spring a surprise, but that’s always really, really hard to do against Bayern. We need a perfect day.”