Following a team talk in the changing rooms, the TSG Hoffenheim team returned to the training pitch for the first time in 15 days at 11:00 CET sharp on Monday. An intense session was conducted in light train and temperatures of four degrees, with the squad initially divided into three outfield player groups and a goalkeeping group consisting of Oliver Baumann, Alexander Stolz and U23 shot-stopper Stefan Drljaca. There was another group led by rehab coach Otmar Rösch consisting of Dennis Geiger, Lukas Rupp and Harvard Nordtveit. Absent were Reiss Nelson, who is still in London for family reasons, Kerem Demirbay (muscular problems) and Ermin Bicakcic (cold). The group exercises were followed by a hard-fought training match in which 10 passes had to be completed before shooting.
In a chat with media representatives following the first training session of 2019, Julian Nagelsmann stated his objective for the 17 matches still to be played. "The gap in the table between us and the teams above is still small enough for us to catch up. It's not in our own hands and we're reliant on results in other matches. But if we can achieve a similar win ratio to the one we had in the second half of last season, we still have a chance to finish in the top four," the 31-year-old explained.
Elimination from the DFB Cup and the Champions League means that the team can fully focus on the Bundesliga. "That's the only positive about getting knocked out of competitions; we now have a full week of preparation between each of our matches in the league," explained the coach.
TSG will restart their Bundesliga campaign next week with a home game against Bayern Munich on Friday evening (18 January, 20:30 CET). It will be Nagelsmann's last meeting with the Bavarian giants as Hoffenheim boss, as he will be leaving the club after three and a half seasons in charge when the campaign draws to a close. "I will obviously strive to end my time here on a positive note, that's logical. It will be about crowning three wonderful years together with lots of successes, lots of records and a first involvement in both the Europa League and the Champions League."
Captain Kevin Vogt also believes that TSG, who currently occupy sixth place in the Bundesliga, can close the six-point gap to the Champions League places. "We want to go for it, to be among the top teams. We want to play in Europe again next season. That's the coach's objective as well. That would be a sensational way for him to bid farewell to TSG. But we'll need to work hard to get there."