On Friday, Hoffenheim travelled as Defending Champions and without their manager to Schwäbisch Hall. Marcel Rapp is currently on a business trip with colleagues for the football teacher training program in Finland, to watch and analyse the U19 European Championship games in Vaasa and Seinajöki. Assistant Coach Jens Schuster took his place in charge.
Straight off the mark, he suffered a 1-0 defeat against the eventual winners SV Werder Bremen. In the second group match against FC Schalke 04, the team that Hoffenheim managed to gain an early lead against, a few weeks ago in the semifinals of the German Championship, through a goal from the their new french signing Nathan Malonga. It was a lead they could not hold on to, as Max Geschwill made it 2-2, but couldn't find a winner despite numerous opportunities.
It was clear that in the final group match against Eintracht Frankfurt, a victory of four goals or more was necessary. At the break however, TSG was 3-0 down. After goals from Benedikt Landwehr, Malonga and Bleart Dautaj, Schuster's XI fought back to take a point, finishing the group stage in third place.
"After mixed expectations, the lads had clearly improved in the previous friendlies against Sandhausen and 1. FC Köln," said Schuster after the 4-1 victory against Hertha BSC to decide 5th place. Bleart Dautaj scored from the spot and Lukas Schappes, Geschwill and Luis Görlich scored to gain a 4-0 lead before Berlin managed to score a consolation goal.
"We've taken a little while to get going and we're still not exactly where we want to be," Schuster stated, addressing the fact that there is still a lot of work to be done, before the season starts in mid-August.