Hoffenheim, surprisingly, have remained in the relegation zone of the Bundesliga table for most of the season. This is a club that finished eighth last season, two points behind Borussia Dortmund and the final Europa League spot.
Markus Gisdol, who signed a contract extension until 2018 last April, only lasted 10 match days, getting the sack after winning one of his first 10 Bundesliga games. Escape artist Huub Stevens, who helped Stuttgart avoid relegation last season, took the helm, with Hoffenheim lining up 28-year-old wonder-coach Julian Nagelsmann to handle the reins next season.
Hoffenheim had a pretty big adjustment to make, losing Roberto Firmino to Liverpool over the summer. Eduardo Vargas and Jonathan Schmid were brought in to replace Firmino, but Hoffenheim have not replicated the creative midfielder's production. – seven goals and 10 assists last season. Schmid has a decent four goals in 17 appearences, but Vargas has scored just once and has two assists in 14 games. Even worse? Anthony Modeste – sold in the summer to Köln – has emerged as one of the surprise goalscorers of the Bundesliga. Hoffenheim are the lowest scoring team in the Bundesliga through eighteen rounds, averaging just a solitary goal per game.
Stevens's switch to a more conservative system has not helped matters much either, Hoffenheim winning just once under the new coach's reign. Relegation is not much of an option for Hoffenheim, for a drop to the 2. Bundesliga would undermine the financial injections tech-mogul Dietmar Hopp has made into the club. Relegation may turn off some of the financial faucets, which could send this plastic club tumbling back down Germany's footballing tree.
Last Week's Bundesliga Result
Hoffenheim matched Europa-League-bound Bayer Leverkusen to a 1-1 draw to kick off their second half, a strong result for a team in the relegation zone. Hoffenheim were fortunate to get a point though, Leverkusen forcing the home side to absorb a tremendous amount of pressure.
Karim Bellarabi was very effective against Hoffenheim due to his ability to stay wide, create space for his strikers and take on Hoffenheim's full backs. Javier Hernandez and Stefan Kießling both spurned great opportunities, and Leverkusen's goal came after Omer Toprak, the eventual goalscorer, wasted a glorious opportunity not ten seconds previously.
Hoffenheim's Swedish winger Jiloan Hamad was opportunistic to slash a half-volley past Bernd Leno. Other than a sweet linkup between Hamad and Kevin Volland – one that should have ended in the Swede's second goal – Hoffenheim did not generate any real threat. This should have been a game that Leverkusen won comfortably.
What their result means for Bayern Munich
Bayern's chance conversion needs to be much better than it was against Hamburg. Bellarabi showed what a quality winger can do on the flank, which is great news for Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman. Tobias Strobl and Sebastian Rudy will need to outlet to the wings quickly when they win the ball in midfield. Volland being the primary target, using his powerful running and good technique to take advantage of a Bayern team without Jérôme Boateng. If Bayern manage to control the match like they did after their quick 0-1 hole in the reverse fixture, they should be able to manage another painless three points.