What: Bundesliga Relegation Playoffs (First leg)
Who: Hoffenheim vs Kaiserslautern
When: Thursday 23rd May, 2013, at 19:30 UK Time
Where: Rhein-Neckar Arena, Sinsheim, Germany

Battle Ahead

Hoffenheim’s 2-1 over Borussia Dortmund gave the team the needed leverage ahead of their all-important relegation battle with the 2. Bundesliga’s third-placed side Kaiserslautern. Now, Markus Gisdol and his men will have to get ready for the most important game of their season, as they hope to save themselves and keep Kaiserslautern confined to German football’s second tier.

The home side will be lifted by the fact that they have won four and drawn two of the six past encounters with Kaiserslautern, including the last time the two sides met at Kaiserslautern, where Hoffenheim emerged 2-1 victors on 7th April 2012.

Given the importance of this upcoming first leg, Hoffenheim captain Andreas Beck opted to dismiss a call-up to the German national team – his first in two and a half years – choosing to focus instead on Kaiserslautern. “It’s amazing to think that we’ve made the relegation playoff on the final day. Now we want to realise our dream of survival against Kaiserslautern, something that almost no one would have even considered was possible a week ago. The playoff match is of higher importance to me than the trip with the national team”, declared Beck.

Back To The Limelight

A year after crashing out of the Bundesliga with a bottom-place finish, Kaiserslautern will want to get back to the German elite as they prepare for a two-legged knockout between Hoffenheim and themselves. The away side have not prevailed over Hoffenheim in recent memory, but will still be hopeful of promotion after the two ties.

The omens do not look good for Kaiserslautern, who have won just one of their last six matches on the road in all competition. However, coach Franco Foda believes that the game will be even for both sides, even if he conceded that Kaiserslautern are the underdogs.

“I believe that we are outsiders, but we should not make the mistake of underestimating ourselves. I think the odds are fifty-fifty. When we reach our limits, we are able to win against Hoffenheim”, explained the Mainz-born tactician.

However, Foda realises full well that his players need to score vital away goals ahead of the return leg at their own stadium next week. At such an important stage, there is no room for slip-ups.

Recent form

Werder Bremen 2-2 Hoffenheim (04/05; Bundesliga)
Hoffenheim 1-4 Hamburg (11/05; Bundesliga)
Borussia Dortmund 1-2 Hoffenheim (18/05; Bundesliga)

Kaiserslautern 4-1 Frankfurt (05/05; 2. Bundesliga)
Regensburg 1-3 Kaiserslautern (12/05; 2. Bundesliga)
Kaiserslautern 1-2 St. Pauli (19/05; 2. Bundesliga)

Key absences

Hoffenheim: Daniel Williams; Heurelho Gomes; Chris; Boris Vukcevic; Tobias Weis

Kaiserslautern: Markus Karl

Players to watch

Hoffenheim – Sejad Salihovic: The Bosnian midfielder converted two penalties as his side ran out winners against Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund. On an even more important stage, he will need to reproduce a similar display against the second division side.

Kaiserslautern – Marc Torrejon: The former Espanyol man will have a hard task on his hands as he hopes to rebuff Hoffenheim’s surge on the Kaiserslautern goal, which will be very hard given that his side are the visitors. Much importance is placed on his shoulders.

Match Prediction

The fact that this match is played at Hoffenheim’s stadium will give the Bundesliga side an advantage. Kaiserslautern have a poor record against their opponents in recent times, let alone on the road, and may not be able to get a win they need. Expect Hoffenheim to win.

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