Bayer Leverkusen entertain Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga on Saturday.
There is real pressure mounting on the hosts to win this game after losing their first three competitive matches of a season for the first time in the club’s history.
Indeed, after Gerardo Seoane comfortably guided Leverkusen to a top-three position in his debut season in charge, few would have foreseen Leverkusen’s terrible start to the 2022-23 campaign coming.
In fairness, an away defeat to Borussia Dortmund was always the likeliest outcome and Die Werkself actually played very well in that 1-0 loss, but that was sandwiched by an embarrassing 4-3 DFB-Pokal exit to third-tier outfit Elversberg and last weekend’s 2-1 defeat at home to Augsburg.
Augsburg had never beaten Leverkusen in 22 Bundesliga meetings, but they took a shock lead when Ermedin Demirovic‘s deft touch found Fredrik Jensen, who prodded the ball past deputising goalkeeper Andrey Lunev.
Charles Aranguiz equalised two minutes before half time with a lashing strike into the bottom corner after Adam Hlozek‘s shot had been blocked, but despite testing opposing goalkeeper Rafal Gikiewicz on 10 occasions throughout the course of the 90 minutes, that was the only time he was beaten.
Moussa Diaby‘s deflected effort was superbly tipped over the bar by the Polish stopper, while Patrik Schick was guilty of poor finishing for the second week running when he fired straight at Gikiewicz from point-blank range.
The serious damage was done by substitute Andre Hahn, who forged himself a happy 32nd birthday by smashing the ball in off the post to secure a historic victory for his side. Leverkusen must bounce back quickly before their season heads into disarray.
Hoffenheim, meanwhile, were staring down the abyss themselves after falling two goals behind at home to VfL Bochum last weekend.
New head coach Andre Breitenreiter could ill-afford another poor result after losing 3-1 to Borussia Monchengladbach on matchday one, but it looked to be coming nonetheless after Simon Zoller sensationally struck twice inside 13 minutes.
However, Die Kraichgauer have often been involved in topsy-turvy encounters in recent years and that does not look set to change under the former FC Zurich boss’ tutelage. Christoph Baumgartner pounced on a loose ball to immediately pull a goal back, before Ozan Kabak‘s bullet header on his home debut levelled the proceedings heading into half time.
With time running out, both teams looked to be settling for a point after a much quieter second half, but Munas Dabbur had other ideas as his expertly-guided header from an inswinging cross sailed into the back of the net to complete a terrific turnaround for his side.
Hoffenheim will now head to Leverkusen full of confidence that they can score goals and gain a positive result, particularly given their forthcoming opponents’ lack of form.
Leverkusen will welcome Lukas Hradecky back between the posts after the goalkeeper served a one-match ban following his dismissal against Dortmund on the opening day.
Lunev, who replaced Hradecky in the defeat to Augsburg, will miss out due to a thigh injury, while Amine Adli (collarbone), Karim Bellarabi and Florian Wirtz (both knee) are all ruled out, too.
Robert Andrich picked up a knock against Dortmund and was absent last time out, but he should return to provide some steel in midfield, with Sardar Azmoun potentially dropping out having failed to impress in Wirtz’s absence once again.
Hoffenheim, meanwhile, will travel without Philipp Pentke (tendonitis), Ermin Bicakcic, Ihlas Bebou (both knee), Benjamin Hubner and Angelo Stiller (both ankle).
Breitenreiter could reward Dabbur with a start alongside Kramaric after his winning goal against Bochum, with Jacob Bruun Larsen potentially dropping to the bench, while Stefan Posch and Kevin Akpoguma will fight for a place in defence after Stanley Nsoki was subbed at half time following a poor performance.
Bayer Leverkusen possible starting lineup:
Hradecky; Frimpong, Tah, Tapsoba, Bakker; Aranguiz, Andrich, Demirbay; Diaby, Schick, Hlozek
Hoffenheim possible starting lineup:
Baumann; Kabak, Vogt, Akpoguma; Skov, Promel, Geiger, Angelino; Baumgartner, Dabbur; Kramaric