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Bundesliga Play-off Preview: Hoffenheim v Kaiserslautern

Kaiserslautern’s bid to return to the Bundesliga at the first attempt sees them travel to top-flight outfit Hoffenheim on Thursday.

The fixture will be the first leg of the Bundesliga’s relegation play-off, with Kaiserslautern – who finished third in the second tier this season – facing the third-last Hoffenheim.

With a spot in the German top flight up for grabs, the stakes will be high over the two legs and it is Kaiserslauternhe who enter the match in better form.

After being relegated last season, the 1998 Bundesliga champions have lost just two of their last 11 matches.

One of those defeats came in their last fixture, a 2-1 home loss to St. Pauli, but the fixture had no say in the final position of the club in the table.

In Cameroon forward Mohammadou Idrissou (17 goals) and Switzerland’s Albert Bunjaku (13 goals), Franco Foda’s side possess the best strike pairing in the second tier and they will be hopeful of overcoming Hoffenheim.

After being promoted in 2007-08, Hoffenheim have not finished below 11th in the top division but they have struggled this term and conceded a league-high 67 goals.

They do enter the match on the back of a morale-boosting win at Borussia Dortmund, though, and that may be enough to give them the belief they can survive the drop.

In an amazing match at Dortmund – who had nothing to play for, with second position already sewn up in the league and a UEFA Champions League final to look forward to – Hoffenheim came from behind to win 2-1.

Robert Lewandowski scored after just six minutes for the hosts but a pair of late penalties from Bosnian Sejad Salihovic – of which the second saw Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller sent off – gave Hoffenheim the lead.

With Fortuna Dusseldorf losing 3-0 at Hannover, Hoffenheim knew a win would see them avoid automatic relegation, but they were given an almighty fright when Dortmund’s Marcel Schmelzer scored from long range in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

Fortunately for them, Schmelzer’s strike was ruled out, with Lewandowski adjudged to have interfered with play in an offside position, as Hoffenheim kept their hopes of survival alive.

The two sides meet again on Monday, in Kaiserslautern, in the deciding fixture.
Wed 22 May, 2013
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