1. FC Köln left for the international break with a 3-1 home win against SpVgg Greuther Fürth and have now been unbeaten for five competitive games. Can the billy goats further expand their series on Friday evening at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (kick-off at 8:30 p.m.)? In Kraichgau, head coach Steffen Baumgart has to do without Ellyes Skhiri, among others.
The defensive midfielder has been injured with the Tunisian national team and is out for the time being. “He’s been hit on the knee. We won’t make a forecast,” said Baumgart at the matchday press conference on Wednesday. “But it’s not a knee injury that would result in months of absence.” In addition to Skhiri, who will probably miss the next league game against Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Jannes Horn (rehabilitation training) and Dejan Ljubicic (cold) are also not available for the away game.
“I don’t feel that it’s about the freshness and health of the players.”
– Steffen Baumgart
At the press round, Baumgart also expressed strong criticism of the game schedule. “Most of the national players have trouble traveling,” said the ex-professional on record. Discussions on how to better protect players have already taken place, but the 49-year-old complained that no appropriate measures had yet been taken. “I don’t have the feeling that it’s about the freshness and health of the players. We have to send most of those who come back to the doctor first,” said the trainer, who had a few words of praise for the hosts.
TSG Hoffenheim has a technically strong team with high individual quality. “We know what kind of game we are facing,” emphasized Baumgart, who however wants to concentrate on his own strengths. “It is important that we think of ourselves. We want to play our game – that is what matters,” said the head coach.
Big changes in the starting XI are not to be expected compared to the home win against Fürth. Benno Schmitz, Jorge Meré, Rafael Czichos and captain Jonas Hector should form the back four ahead of goalkeeper Timo Horn. Alternatives for Meré are Luca Kilian and Timo Hübers. As a Skhiri replacement Salih Özcan was chosen. “The way it looks, Salih will stand on the lawn and begin,” said Baumgart. “With Salih we have a very good six that we are building on.”
Jan Thielmann did not travel to the U21 national team due to illness and reported back in training last week. Ondrej Duda, on the other hand, was on the road with the Slovak national team, which is why he could lose out in the duel with Thielmann. The midfield diamond is likely to be rounded off by Mark Uth and Florian Kainz, behind the dual leaders Anthony Modeste / Sebastian Andersson.