Hoffenheim v Hannover – Rhein-Neckar Arena at 19:30 Live at BT Sport

Last week Hoffenheim’s sporting director, Alexander Rosen, told German football magazine Kicker that a top-six finish, and Europa League qualification, would be “a sensational achievement”.

Well, Die Kraichgauer is aiming even higher after another remarkable performance under young head coach Julian Nagelsmann. Still only 30, Nagelsmann continues to defy the critics and on Saturday his team eviscerated RB Leipzig 5-2 in their own backyard to move to within two points of Champions League qualification.

What makes Hoffe’s efforts all the more awesome, isn’t just the style, but the fact the club has essentially lost their spine since June. Bayern Munich pinched Niklas Sule and Sebastian Rudy in the summer and talismanic striker Sandro Wagner followed in January.

Elsewhere, young full-back Jeremy Toljan was pinched by Dortmund following an impressive performance with Germany’s U21s and the club have also had to play without playmaker Kerem Demirbay for large chunks of the campaign through injury.

Quite frankly, if Nagelsmann delivers continental competition for the second season running, it’ll be his greatest magic trick yet. He secured a top-four finish last term, but nobody ever foresaw a similar challenge from Hoffenheim having seen their best players pilfered by bigger clubs.

Hard to stop Hoffenheim

Friday night’s hosts have crept into the Champions League qualification equation on the back of an eight-match unbeaten run (W5-D3-L0) in which they’ve plundered 23 goals. Only Bayern Munich can better that tally over the same sample with all of Hoffe’s forward players in fabulous form.

Mark Uth returned from suspension to star against his forthcoming employers Schalke last week. Meanwhile, Serge Gnabry and Andrej Kramaric have also found their shooting boots, leading the offensive charge from an enterprising and attacking Die Kraichgauer outfit.

Hoffe has won its last three home outings by an aggregate 11-0 and has also beaten the one-goal handicap in six of their past eight when welcoming bottom-six sides. So the 1.98 available on the hosts overcoming the -1.5 Asian Handicap hurdle certainly holds plenty of appeal.

Hannover’s worrisome recent run

In contrast, Hannover will be grateful that they made such a strong start to the season. A collapse in 2018 could have been very costly had they not already had so many points in the bank. The visitors have taken just 13 points from 14 games since the turn of the year, but they are realistically just one win from total safety, and they might have already done enough.

The visitors have been beaten in six of their most recent eight and are winless on the road in 10. The 96ers have picked up just one point from their seven trips to top-half sides to date and failed to score in the last two of such encounters and might already be looking forward to their summer holidays.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Hoffenheim -1.5 at 1.880

By @MarkOHaire

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