As the architect of Bayern Munich’s single defeat in 2020, Hoffenheim coach Sebastian Hoeness hopes to again down the European champions in the Bundesliga on Saturday when he returns to his former club.
Bayern host mid-table Hoffenheim at the Allianz Arena seeking revenge for September’s 4-1 league defeat – their only loss of 2020 in any competition.
The shock win over the European champions “will certainly still be in our heads,” admitted Hoeness, “but we want to use this game to annoy Bayern again”.
Bayern hold a seven-point lead in the table and are near full-strength with only Corentin Tolisso and Tanguy Nianzou sidelined.
After poor results around Christmas, Hoffenheim are back up to 11th thanks to back-to-back 3-0 wins against strugglers Hertha Berlin and Cologne.
However, the European champions are a huge test for Hoffenheim on Hoeness’ return to Munich, where the 38-year-old coached the reserves last season having previously worked with Bayern’s junior teams.
A key factor Saturday is the form of Hoffenheim striker Andrej Kramaric, who has scored twice in each of his last two games.
Leading the pack chasing Bayern, RB Leipzig host Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday night with both clubs eager to bounce back from defeats.
After crashing 3-2 at second-from-bottom Mainz, Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann compared Bayern to Germany’s high-speed ICE trains and his team to a regional train, struggling to “catch up”.
In order to get back on track, Leipzig must beat third-placed Leverkusen, who trail them by three points.
“The game has no direct influence on the title race – it’s all about qualifying for the Champions League,” Nagelsmann insisted Thursday.
Leipzig welcome back Yussuf Poulsen after a groin injury, but playmaker Emil Forsberg is sidelined by a knee knock.
Leverkusen, who crashed at home to Wolfsburg last weekend, are missing midfielders Julian Baumgartlinger, who underwent knee surgery on Monday, and Nadiem Amiri, who is quarantined after testing positive for Covid-19.
Having slipped out of the European places to seventh, Dortmund host Augsburg on Saturday chasing a first win in four games.
“We have to correct mistakes from set-pieces,” said caretaker coach Edin Terzic after Dortmund conceded three goals from deadball situations in a 4-2 defeat at Gladbach.
Erling Braut Haaland scored twice in the Gladbach defeat, but Dortmund need him and England winger Jadon Sancho to fire their attack.
“When they (Augsburg) make mistakes, we have to be there – ice-cold,” added Terzic.
Eintracht Frankfurt, who are a point above Dortmund in the table and bouyed by a 5-1 thrashing of Bielefeld, are home on Saturday to Hertha Berlin, where Pal Dardai is back in charge.
The 44-year-old replaces Bruno Labbadia, who was sacked following their 4-1 thrashing at home by Werder Bremen.
Frankfurt striker Luka Jovic has scored three goals in three appearances off the bench since returning on loan from Real Madrid.
Dardai predicts it could be “5-4 or 6-5” at Frankfurt, who “score a lot of goals…. we’re going there to score one more”.
ONE TO WATCH: ANDREJ KRAMARIC
The Croatia striker scored twice in last September’s 4-1 win over Bayern and has also netted two goals in Hoffenheim’s recent wins against Hertha and Cologne.
He is back in form after contracting Covid-19 on international duty last October which sidelined him for seven games.
Kramaric will test Bayern’s defence and his four goals in two games, “speak for themselves,” said Hoffenheim coach Hoeness.