HOFFENHEIM, GERMANY - DECEMBER 20: Sejad Salihovic (L) of Hoffenheim celebrates scoring the opening goal with his team mate Fabian Johnson during the third round DFB Cup match between TSV 1899 Hoffenheim and FC Augsburg at Rhein-Neckar-Arena on December 20, 2011 in Hoffenheim, Germany. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Hoffenheim have finished in 11th for the last two years. Can they crack the top 10?
Team: TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
Manager: Markus Babbel
Key Losses: Peniel Mlapa, Tom Starke, Gylfi Sigurðsson
2011-2012 Finish: Bundesliga 11th
2012-2013 Prediction: You may not believe this, but it was only thirteen years ago that Hoffenheim was playing in the fifth tier of German football. It was at this time that Dietmar Hopp poured money into the club to see it rise through the pyramid. Hoffenheim would kick off the 2008-09 season in the Bundesliga for the first time ever. They were in first at the winter break, but an injury to star striker Vedad Ibisevic derailed those plans. Hoffenheim finished their first ever season of top flight football in 7th place. The last two years have seen them hang around mid-table for the season before finishing in 11th place.
The club's two leading scorers last year were midfielders Sejad Salihovic and Roberto Firmino. They've invested their money in bringing in forwards Eren Derdiyok and Joselu. Derdiyok has more Bundesliga experience and can start right away for the club, but Joselu may be a future star. Watching Joselu develop with actual playing time in the first division (which he was never going to receive at Real Madrid) will be interesting. The potential is there and the sky is the limit for him. Veteran goalkeeper Tom Starke left The Hoff this summer to take over the backup position to Manuel Neuer in Munich. Hoffenheim went out and brought in long term Werder Bremen goalkeeper Tim Wiese. "The Greasy One" will be the number one goalkeeper in Hoffenheim now. Nobody is really a fan of his, are they?
Roberto Firmino was excellent last season in the midfield picking up seven goals and two assists. His form was incredible at the beginning of the year before Vedad Ibisevic was sold in the winter break to Stuttgart. Having a player up top like Derdiyok will allow Firmino and the other attacking midfielders to operate with less pressure. If Firmino can rediscover the form he was in last season, he may just find his way into a Brazil national team call up. Another player to keep your eye on is 20 year old striker Kevin Volland. He spent all of last season on loan with 1860 Munich in the 2.Bundesliga. Volland scored 15 goals last season and showed his potent ability as a quality poacher in the vein of Ibisevic. He'll be with Hoffenheim this season, and he should find himself in the rotation regularly.
It's really tough to predict exactly what Hoffenheim will do this year. I think they have a solid team and truly believe that they could do well. However, when Tom Starke left for Bayern Munich, they chose to replace him with Tim Wiese from Werder Bremen. Wiese fails to instill any confidence in my that he will be able to direct the Hoffenheim backline to a successful season. Hoffenheim has the talent to finish anywhere from 6th to 13th. I think They're going to jump one spot from their finish the last two years and finish 10th.