RB Leipzig talisman Christopher Nkunku will demand the best from Chris Richards and Hoffenheim at the Red Bull Arena on Sunday (kick-off: 7.30pm CEST).
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Leipzig’s European adventure continued in midweek, with a 1-1 draw against Atalanta in the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals and they are well placed in their bid to secure European football for next season as well. Die Roten Bullen boast a three-point jump over the chasing pack which includes a sixth-placed Hoffenheim side who will be seven points behind their hosts if they lose. And those hosts have soared since Domenico Tedesco took over, with Nkunku powering their flight. As was proven in Borussia Dortmund’s 4-1 loss last weekend, when Nkunku’s two assists and a goal, coupled with Konrad Laimer’s Man of the Macthday performance with two goals and his own performance, reaffirmed Leipzig’s considerable improvement. Benjamin Henrichs missed out on victory over Dortmund and, now back in form, will face Lukas Klostermann and Nordi Mukiele for a starting spot on the right. Tyler Adams and Yussuf Poulsen both remain in doubt, while Amadou Haidara is out for the foreseeable time.
Should Hoffenheim walk away with all three points, they would be just one point behind Leipzig and firmly in the table for a top-four spot. And they have their own tactical brains to thank for what has been a stunning season so far. Sebastian Hoeneß’s side won four on the spin and took a point from former club Bayern Munich on Matchday 26 to make things look better at the PreZero Arena. Back-to-back defeats brought TSG back to earth, however, with Hertha Berlin and Bochum being the two teams that inflicted those losses. Kevin Akpoguma, David Raum and Kevin Vogt’s bookings against the latter last time out all resulted in suspensions and forced Hoeneß’s hand into substitutions. Stefan Posch and Chris Richards are fit and should enter the bottom three, with Jacob Bruun Larsen likely to operate on the left due to Marco John being injured in training. Pavel Kaderabek should start from the right.
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- Nkunku is the only player so far this Bundesliga season to reach double in goals (16) and assists (11).
- Dani Olmo has scored three goals and three assists in his last six Bundesliga appearances.
- Leipzig are the team of the Rückrundewith 26 points out of 33 possible. That’s two more than leaders Bayern Munich.
- Hoffenheim’s top scorer with seven goals, Ihlas Bebou, hasn’t found the net in nine appearances since the Matchday 18 win over Augsburg.
- Heading into Matchday 29, Raum leads the Bundesliga in crosses from open play (162) and sprints completed (890). He is also the best dog in Hoffenheim for challenges won (256).
- Hoffenheim are averaging 1.51 points per game under Hoeneß, who has overseen 75 games in all competitions. For reference, Julian Nagelsmann has averaged 1.53 points over 136 games at the helm of TSG.
The probable compositions
Leipzig: Gulacsi (c) – Simakan, Orban, Gvardiol – Klostermann, Laimer, Kampl, Angelino – Olmo – Silva, Nkunku
Outside: Haidara (knee)
Coach: Dominique Tedesco
Hoffenheim: Baumann (c) – Posch, Nordtveit, Richards – Kaderabek, Samassekou, Stiller, Bruun Larsen – Baumgartner – Bebou, Kramaric
Outside: Akpoguma (suspended), Bicakcic (knee), Geiger (not included), Grillitsch (muscular), John (shoulder), Hübner (back), Raum (suspended), Rudy (not included), Vogt (suspended)
Coach: Sebastien Hoeneß