Hoffenheim take on Freiburg in the Bundesliga on Sunday, with both teams looking to stay in the top four ahead of the forthcoming international break.
Neither team were expected to be competing towards the top of the table, albeit at an early stage of the season, so it should make for an intriguing encounter.
Hoffenheim have made an excellent start to life under Andre Breitenreiter, who was appointed as their head coach during the summer, having won four of their last five matches to move up to fourth in the table ahead of the weekend’s action.
After finishing in the top four for two successive seasons between 2016 and 2018, Die Kraichgauer have failed to finish inside the top six since, ending up solidly in mid-table in ninth position last campaign.
Breitenreiter looks capable of restoring them to the European qualification places despite turning over a healthy profit during the summer transfer window. Having kept two clean sheets in their last four games, Hoffenheim look more solid defensively than in recent years, while retaining their offensive threat.
This was evident in last weekend’s 4-1 win at home against Mainz 05, with Alexander Hack’s dismissal on the stroke of half-time significantly reducing the visitors’ chances of avoiding defeat, even though Andrej Kramaric failed to dispatch the ensuing penalty.
The Croatian made amends by breaking the deadlock eight minutes after the restart, though, with three different goalscorers compounding Mainz’s misery. Indeed, nine different players have got themselves on the scoresheet for Hoffenheim already under Breitenreiter, suggesting that Freiburg should be concerned about restricting all sorts of goalscoring avenues on Sunday.
Freiburg can pack a mean punch themselves, of course, albeit this was not on display in a drab 0-0 draw against Borussia Monchengladbach last weekend.
As a result, Union Berlin leapfrogged Christian Streich’s side into top spot in the Bundesliga, while their forthcoming opponents moved only one point behind them as they have the chance to overtake them with a win on Sunday
However, it has still been a fantastic start to the campaign for Freiburg, both domestically and in the Europa League, which they qualified for as a result of finishing sixth and reaching the DFB-Pokal final for the first time in their history last season.
Thursday’s impressive 3-0 win away to Greek champions Olympiacos took them to two wins from two in Group G, as they aim to progress to the knockout stages for the first time in Streich’s formidable 11-year spell as their manager.
However, they must ensure they quickly restore their focus to league matters on Sunday, with the possibility that they could head into the international break having reclaimed top spot should Union Berlin drop points to Wolfsburg in an earlier kick-off on the same day.
Hoffenheim Bundesliga form:
Freiburg Bundesliga form:
Freiburg form (all competitions):
We say: Hoffenheim 1-1 Freiburg
Both teams head into this clash in excellent form of late, so it should be an interesting tactical battle between two sides playing with plenty of confidence.
Neither side have leaked many goals lately, so we can envisage a low-scoring share of the spoils, which would almost certainly satisfy both coaches heading into the international break.