TSG Hoffenheim v VFB Stuttgart Match Preview: Two PUMA Teams Clash

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Only three points separate the two PUMA teams in the Bundesliga, but how is their form going into local derby?

On October 15 2011 Hoffenheim travelled to Stuttgart and were unlucky to lose 2-0 after some fine work from the Stuttgart defence. Since then, both teams have struggled for consistency in the league. Stuttgart go into the game in ninth, six points off a Europa League place. Hoffenheim are in 12th place, seven points ahead of the relegation places.

When you consider that Hoffenheim have never beaten Stuttgart in the Baden-Württemberg derby, it seems easy to make a prediction. Yet until the 7-1defeat against Bayern last weekend, Hoffenheim were unbeaten under new coach Markus Babbel and the manager has asked for an instant response from his players, telling them that they need to win this one for the fans.

Hoffenheim have at times struggled for goals this season, with no player having reached double figures. Stuttgart, however, have one of the in form strikers in European football in the shape of Martin Harnik. The Hamburg born striker has scored seven in six league games since the beginning of January and also has four assists. Hoffenheim will also have to keep an eye on Shinji Okazaki who has seven goals this season.

Despite the difference in league positions, Hoffenheim have actually lost less games than Stuttgart but have drawn too many. The focus should be on getting the ball to Ryan Babel and creating the space to allow him to run at the VFB defence in one-on-one situations. Babel might not be consistent, but his four goals show that when he is on form he is dangerous, and he proved in his time at Liverpool that he can score in big games.

If Hoffenheim can win this vital home game and lift the fans, there could be a real battle for the rest of the season as the local rivals strive to finish highest in the league. Both teams will need to go on a great run to have any chance of getting into the Europa League places, but victory in a derby match can often be the catalyst for an upturn in form. The match promises to be a classic. May the best team win.

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