MATHEW WAGNER - Thursday, May 23, 2013
Fabian Johnson, Danny Williams and Hoffenheim start their two-leg playoff against Kaiserslautern at home on Thursday, hoping to stay in Germany's top tier next season.
Johnson should start along the left side of the formation, while Williams will hope to dress for Hoffenheim.
Hoffenheim pulled off a miraculous comeback on the final match of the Bundesliga season to climb out of the direct relegation zone and give itself a chance at safety. Because fo an Augsburg win, however, the team is forced to play Kaiserslautern, the third place team in the 2.Bundesliga, for the right to play in the top German division next season.
Kaiserslautern knew its fate the week before, shoring up third place in the German second division over Cologne, and it showed in a 2-1 loss to St. Pauli at home. The Red Devil coaching staff had been scouting Fortuna Düsseldorf last weekend when Hoffenheim came back in Dortmund, but the coaching staff scouted Hoffenheim twice during the season, when it looked increasingly like Kaiserslautern's best chance at promotion would be through the playoff.
For the most part, Hoffenheim's lineup will be unchanged, with the exception being that midfielder Tobias Weis is out with a torn stomach muscle. Robin Szarka, who made his Bundesliga debut last week, should start according to the Rhine-Neckar-Zeitung, if Szarka does start at his natural left back, that should push Johnson up to the midfield.
The Red Devils, meanwhile, have a few questions, starting with central defender Jan Simunek, who's questionable with an Achilles' tendon problems. Captain Albert Bunjaku returned to practice this week from a thigh injury but is in doubt for the match, as is Mimoun Azouagh. The midfielder is struggling with a muscle problem.