By Peter Vice @ViceytheSS
Hoffenheim’s must face one of the league’s most successful top-tier sides since the turn of the new calendar year.
|Pellegrino Matarazzo||TSG 1899 Hoffenheim|
After a robust showing against Dortmund last week, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim are hoping to snap an appalling 13-game winless run that dates back to last October against Mainz on Saturday. The Rhein-Neckar club remain without a victory in the new calendar year and still haven’t earned a point in three matches under newly appointed trainer Pellegrino Matarazzo.
Addressing members of the assembled press corps ahead of his fourth match in charge of the team, Matarazzo provided personnel updates at a Thursday presser. Attacking midfielder Tom Bischof and qualified six Angelo Stiller are both questionable for Saturday’s trip to face Mainz in the Pfälzer capital.
Matarazzo also revealed that, most unfortunately, starters Ihlas Bebou (knee problems) and Angelino (thigh issues) are also day-to-day with their own respective issues. Bebou has started five of the team’s eight fixtures in 2023. The Spanish wingback – finally rounding into form – has featured in all eight XIs and contributed an impressive four assists.
One of the brighter spots for Matarazzo in the most recent loss – long-time club man Sebastian Rudy – may have to make way for the returning Thomas Delaney and Thomas Geiger. Matarazzo’s declared himself satisfied with Rudy’s performance, but emphasized that “Mainz will be a different game necessitating different kinds of spaces.”
In terms of defensive options, the TSG trainer did at least convey the good news that the injury sustained by Ozan Kabak’s last week didn’t prove to be anything serious. The Turkish international will be available for selection, as will French center-halve Stanley Nsoki. While he won’t be available to start in Angelino’s place, Danish winger/wingback Robert Skov will finally be available off the bench following a long injury layoff.
Matarazzo expressed confidence that, having seen a great deal of “cohesion, readiness, and spirit” during the week’s training sessions. The clear underdogs will certainly need it against Mainz. Bo Svensson’s Rheinhessen have won three straight and are second only to Dortmund in goals scored since play resumed this past January.
In Marcus Ingvartsen (four goals), Jae-Sung Lee (five goals), and Karim Onisiwo (four goals) Mainz have three goal-scorers in the top-nine of attackers since 2023 began. After having to sit out last week with knee problems, Onisiwo should once again be ready for action this weekend. This was confirmed by FSV assistant coach Babak Keyhanfar at Mainz’s Thursday presser.
Keyhanfar happened to be filling in for head-coach Svensson, recovering at home from a flu-like infection. Keyhanfar stated that Svensson was expected to recover in time to work the sidelines on Saturday.