To Hoffenheim with a fresh impulse

New HSV skipper Gotoku Sakai will lead HSV out for the first time as the Rothosen visit Hoffenheim for a matchday 11 clash on Sunday. The visitors that the virtues of the new captain will rub off on the team and help them take on unbeaten TSG.

February 14th 2015 is not a day that Gotoku Sakai is going to forget any time soon. It was on that day that the new HSV skipper scored his first and only Bundesliga goal. The Japanese defender who was playing for VfB Stuttgart at the time left home keeper Oliver Baumann no chance with a crisp shot after 39 minutes. Exuberant celebrations followed to put it mildly.

Sakai returns to the “scene of the crime” again on Sunday (20.11.16, 3.30 PM). as HSV take on Hoffenheim. Sunday will be another special day for the gritty defender who will lead the team out for the first time wearing the armband. He says: “It is a great honour for me and I am proud to be HSV captain.” He then revealed that the last time he was a team captain was at Albirex Niigata, the Japanese club he played for at youth level.

Effort, fight and team play

The naming of Sakai as captain is one of the many changes currently being made in and around the team by Gisdol who points out: "We need to bring new culture to our team. We desperately need a greater togetherness and to achieve that certain measures have to be taken. The former Hoffenheim head coach sees Sakai as the perfect fit for the captaincy. Gisdol described the Japanese defender as: “the most exemplary and consistent player in our ranks, who epitomises hard work, fight and team play.”

It is hoped that the positive virtues of the new skipper will positively affect the team in Sinsheim on Sunday afternoon. Gisdol is not to be envied on the selection front, with key defensive duo Emir Spahic (meniscus) and Albin Ekdal (ankle). Both men returned from international duty injured. Luca Waldschmidt and Cleber (both knee problems) have not travelled with the squad and USA striker  Bobby Wood is seuspended. As if to add insult to injury first choice goalkeeper Rene Adler has been ruled out for the rest of the year with an infected knee.

Debüt for Mathenia, emotional return for Gisdol

Christian Mathenia will replace Adler between the Hamburg posts in what will be his first start in a HSV jersey. The 24 year old stopper moved to Hamburg from SV Darmstadt 98 last summer having played 33 times for them last season, so it is no surprise that the keeper enjoys the total trust of his coach who said: "Christian knows the situation and has been fighting hard for a chance over recent weeks and he deserves this chance." Like Sakai, Mathenia represents the changes being made. Fittingly, he also has fond memories of the Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena in Sinsheim with ist capacity of 30,150. The last time he played there Mathenia came away with all three points after winning 2-0 there with Darmstadt on February 7 this year and he kept a clean sheet which is good for any keeper.

A similar resut is of course what HSV and their huge contingent of travelling support are desperately hoping for. But it won’t be easy against the unbeaten top five side who are without doubt one of the major surprise packages of the season. The fact that Gisdol is a former Hoffenheim  coach and developer it must be said. He said about his return to his former stomping ground: “Obviously my return is a special day for me, especially when I meet people again with whom I shared so many emotional moments. We must not make the mistake of just curling up into a protective ball. Massing your defence hoping to somehow survive doesn’t work.”

HSV (from): Mathenia, Mickel, Bahoui, Diekmeier, Djourou, Douglas Santos, Götz, Gregoritsch, Holtby, Hunt, Jatta, Jung, Kostic, Lasogga, Porath, N. Müller, Ostrzolek, Sakai

Possible TSG Hoffenheim line-up: Baumann - Süle, Vogt, B. Hübner - Kaderabek, Zuber - Rudy - Demirbay, Nad. Amiri - Wagner, Kramaric

Referee: Robert Hartmann (Wangen/Allgäu)