Holland World Cup winger RYAN BABEL, who scored just one goal in 15 Bundesliga games after arriving in Germany from English Premier League club FC Liverpool for a transfer fee of 9.2 million Euros last January, is off to a blazing start having shot five goals from eight matches in all competitions to open this season for TSG 1899 HOFFENHEIM.
TSG 1899 HOFFENHEIM will look to leave last week’s result at 1.FC Koeln in the rear view mirror and recreate at least some of the magic that enabled the Baden-Wuerttemberg club to dump defending Bundesliga champion Borussia Dortmund at home earlier this term as they head into a south German derby battle with Bavarian rival Bayern Munich on Saturday at the Rhein Neckar Arena in the suburbs of Sinsheim. Overall to begin the new campaign, modest TSG Hoffenheim have won four of the first seven Bundesliga matches under new boss HOLGER STANISLAWSKI, who was in charge at relegated FC St. Pauli in Hamburg last season. This despite the absence of last season’s second leading goal-scorer, out thru injury thus far.
Holland World Cup winger RYAN BABEL, the 24-year-old who boasts 40 caps and five goals for his country, has been in fine form whether deployed as a winger or up front as the central striker and has tallied four goals in seven Bundesliga games for TSG Hoffenheim. Bosnia / Herzegovina international striker VEDAD IBISEVIC, who finished second on TSG Hoffenheim last term with eight goals in the German top flight, has yet to make an appearance this season but did return to training this week after a long injury layoff. The experience of the 27-year-old one-time college All-American at St. Louis University in the United States, who counts 44 goals from 106 career games in the Bundesliga, could come in handy on Saturday against Bayern Munich.
TSG Hoffenheim, who made 15.0 million Euros with the sale of Brazil international midfielder LUIZ GUSTAVO to Bayern Munich last winter, spent 1.5 million Euros this summer to sign 21-year-old Zimbabwe international striker KNOWLEDGE MUSONA from South African club Kaizer Chiefs. The Baden-Wuerttemberg outfit also added 22-year-old SVEN SCHIPPLOCK on a free transfer from Vfb Stuttgart. Collectively, the pair have combined to make seven substitute appearances for TSG Hoffenheim but score no goals in the Bundesliga to date.
Also available is Germany U-21 international striker PENIEL KOKOU MLAPA, who scored four goals in 30 Bundesliga games (18 starts) for TSG Hoffenheim a year ago. But the 20-year-old Togolese-born attacker has yet to find the back of the net after seven appearances (3 starts) this season. Ghana World Cup striker PRINCE TAGOE appeared twice as a substitute for Stanislawski this summer but has been sold to Turkish Super Lig side KD Bursaspor for 1.5 million Euros.
Talented teenaged Brazilian midfielder ROBERTO FIRMINO (22), who has already scored seven times in just 17 Bundesliga games to start his career in Germany, prepares to bypass FSV 05 Mainz goalkeeper HEINZ MUELLER (33) and net the first goal of the match won 4-0 by TSG 1899 Hoffenheim at the brand new Coface Arena in Rhineland-Palatinate earlier this season.
19-year-old Brazilian midfielder ROBERTO FIRMINO is emerging as a more than capable attacking central midfielder and is TSG Hoffenheim’s joint top scorer along with Babel having scored four goals in the Bundesliga so far this season; the Baden-Wuerttemberg team have also benefited from the return of Iceland international midfielder GYLFI SIGURDSSON, the 22-year-old who led TSG Hoffenheim with nine Bundesliga goals despite coming off the bench for 19 of his 29 appearances last term.
But, Stanislawski and the blue-shirted TSG Hoffenheim Startelf have been without Bosnia / Herzegovina international SEJAD SALIHOVIC the past three weeks. The 26-year-old defensive midfielder has not played since injuring his right knee against Belarus in a UEFA European Championships qualification match on September 7. Unfortunate considering Salihovic had scored a goal in each of TSG Hoffenheim’s first four games in all competitions, including three goals in the Bundesliga before going down.
23-year-old former Germany U-21 international SEBASTIAN RUDY has started all seven Bundesliga contests for Stanislawski this season and has been joined as of late in defensive midfield by another 23-year-old, DOMINIK KAISER. A summer acquisition costing 700,00 Euros from Vfl Wolfsburg, one-time Germany U-21 international FABIAN JOHNSON has been benched by Stanislawski after starting the first five Bundesliga games. Nigeria World Cup winger CHINEDU OBASI, the 25-year-old with 13 goals in 59 career Bundesliga games to his credit, battled fitness last season but has appeared in every contest this campaign for TSG Hoffenheim.
26-year-old TOBIAS WEIS and 21-year-old BORIS VUKCEVIC are two other TSG Hoffenheim midfielders who have only recently started training again after lengthy injury spells.
Germany international defender ANDREAS BECK, the 26-year-old who transferred to the Baden-Wuerttemberg club from Vfb Stuttgart in the summer of 2008, has made 95 career appearances for TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga but has still yet to score his first goal for trainer Holger Stanislawski’s side heading into Saturday’s match with Bayern Munich.
All five players at the back employed by TSG Hoffenheim to start this 2011-12 campaign, including first choice TOM STARKE, have been ever-present for the in-coming trainer Stanislawski.
26-year-old club captain ANDREAS BECK, who was born in Kemerovo in the former Soviet Union and has also been selected nine times for Germany in his career, is the regular right back. The left back is Holland World Cup defender EDSON BRAAFHEID, the 28-year-old who transferred to TSG Hoffenheim for nothing from Bayern Munich late last January. Braafheid, who got just 12 Bundesliga games and had a loan spell with Scottish side Glasgow Celtic in two years’ time with the Bavarian club following a 2.0 million Euro move from Dutch Eredivise outfit FC Twente Enschede, may feel as if he has something to prove on Saturday.
23-year-old Ghana World Cup defender ISSAC VORSAH scored three goals in 30 Bundesliga games (29 starts) last term and fortifies the center for TSG Hoffenheim with 26-year-old Germany international MARVIN COMPPER.
On the outside looking in this season with the Baden-Wuerttemburg club have been 29-year-old veteran ANDREAS IBERTSBERGER, the former Red Bull Salzburg and SC Freiburg backliner who has won 14 caps (one goal) for Austria in his career, and the 23-year-old MATTHIAS JAISSLE; after arriving from SC Freiburg for 200,000 Euros, 22-year-old DANIEL WILLIAMS has made two substitute appearances for TSG Hoffenheim and Stanislawski thus far.
The Baden-Wuerttemberg club also bought KOEN CASTEELS from Racing Genk for 800,000 Euros but the 19-year-old Belgian is third on the depth chart in goal behind 28-year-old career back-up DANIEL HAAS, the former Hannover 96 shot-stopper who did make nine apperances for TSG Hoffenheim last season but has only featured 34 times his entire career in the German top flight.
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim goalkeeper TOM STARKE, the 30-year-old veteran who made a dozen appearances as a Germany U-21 international once upon a time, has been found in Baden-Wuerttemberg standing between the sticks at the Coface Arena since signing from 2.Bundesliga side MSV Duisburg on a free transfer in the summer of 2010.
TSG 1899 HOFFENHEIM
gk – Koen CASTEELS – Belgium ——————— fr Racing Genk (Bel)
df – Jukka RAITALA – Finland int’l —————- fr SC 07 Paderborn
df – Daniel WILLIAMS ———————————– fr SC Freiburg
mf – Fabian JOHNSON ———————————– fr Vfl Wolfsburg
mf – Franco ZUCULINI – Argentina int’l ——– fr Racing Club Avellaneda (Arg)
mf – Michael GREGORITSCH – Austria ——— fr SV Kapfenberg (Aut)
fw – Knowledge MUSONA – Zimbabwe int’l —- fr Kaizer Chiefs (S.Afr)
fw – Prince TAGOE – Ghana int’l ——————– fr FK Partizan Belgrade (Srb)
fw – WELLINGTON – Brazil ————————— fr FC Figueirense (Brz)
fw – Sven SCHIPPLOCK ——————————— fr Vfb Stuttgart
fw – Kevin VOLLAND ————————————- fr TSV 1860 Munich
Raitala was out on loan almost all of last season; Wellington was out on loan all last season to both Fortuna Dusseldorf and, since last January, Brazilian club FC Figueirense; Zuculini was out on loan all last season to both Italian Serie A side CFC Genoa and, since last January, to Argentine outfit Racing Club de Avellaneda; Tagoe had been out on loan since last February
gk – Ramazan OZCAN – Turkey ———————- to FC Ingolstadt 04
df – Josip SIMUNIC – Croatia int’l —————— to GNK Dinamo Zagreb (Cro)
df – Jukka RAITALA – Finland int’l —————- to CA Osasuna Pamplona (Spa)
mf – David ALABA – Austria int’l ——————– to Bayern Munich
mf – Franco ZUCULINI – Argentina int’l ——— to Real Zaragoza (Spa)
mf – Michael GREGORITSCH – Austria ———- to SV Kapfenberg (Aut)
fw – Prince TAGOE – Ghana int’l ——————— to KD Bursaspor (Trk)
fw – WELLINGTON – Brazil —————————- to EC Goias (Brz)
fw – Kevin VOLLAND ————————————– to TSV 1860 Munich
Alaba had been out on loan to TSG Hoffenheim since last January; Gregoritsch, Volland, Wellington and Zuculini are all out on loan for the 2011-12 season