Hoffenheim refocus on Bundesliga summit
Hoffenheim travel to Stuttgart on Saturday with coach Ralf Rangnick fearing stardom has turned his players' heads after they were dumped from the Bundesliga summit. Hoffenheim, whose fairytale rise has captured fans' imagination, were brought down to earth with a crash last Friday when they were hammered 4-1 by Leverkusen.
"We must return to basics," said Rangnick, saying some players think they are "little Riberys" - referring to Bayern Munich midfielder Frank Ribery who is a household name in Germany. "The boys have been hyped-up like pop stars for the last three months and are being asked about everything, not just football.
"They are only human and it's no surprise if they sometimes believe they are little Riberys." Hoffenheim are without Germany defender Marvin Compper, who has a calf strain while striker Vedad Ibisevic is out for the season after damaging his cruciate knee ligaments.
New league leaders Hertha Berlin will be without joint top-scorer Marko Pantelic again for their match at Wolfsburg as the Serbian striker struggles with a knee injury. In his absence, Andrey Voronin, who scored both goals in the win over Bayern Munich last week, will partner Brazilian Raffael in attack.
There is a question mark over midfielder Patrick Ebert, who has a heel injury, while Serbia's Gojko Kacar has an Achilles tendon problem and Sofian Chahed has a muscle tear. Wolfsburg is missing Brazilian playmaker Grafite with a knee operation.
Hertha coach Lucien Favre is nervous about the trip to Wolfsburg, as Felix Magath's side are unbeaten at home this season. "Wolfsburg are one of the best teams in the league and we will have to put in a good performance," said the Swiss coach.
Third-placed Hamburg are at Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday aiming for their ninth win in ten games. Hamburg enjoyed a 2-0 win over Arminia Bielefeld last Sunday and then hammered NEC Nijmegen 3-0 in Holland in the UEFA Cup on Wednesday.
They are without striker Mladen Petric who will finish his two-game ban for being shown a red card against Karlsruhe. Bayer is also in good form with striker Patrick Helmes scoring twice against Hoffenheim.
Challenge for Podolski
Having dropped from second to fourth after the 2-1 defeat at Hertha, Bayern Munich will host Cologne at the Allianz Arena on Saturday. Bayern's former Cologne striker Lukas Podolski will rejoin his old club this summer, but the Germany star is determined to win back his place in Munich before his departure and is in the squad for the first time since November.
"In the last months here, I will try to go flat out," said the 23-year-old Podolski who will be in the Bayern squad for the first time after a back injury. "Perhaps other titles will come our way, but only after the season ends will I concentrate on Cologne. This is not a normal game for me."
With Luca Toni suffering from an Achilles tendon injury, Podolski may well have his chance as Bayern look to recover from two defeats in three games. Schalke 04 host Borussia Dortmund tonight in the Ruhr valley derby, while on Saturday struggling Werder Bremen are at Energie Cottbus, Borussia Moenchengladbach are home to Hanover and Karlsruhe entertain Eintracht Frankfurt.