Hoffenheim boss wary of rising expectations
Hoffenheim cannot continue to improve at their current rate, according to coach Markus Gisdol, as the Bundesliga team prepare to face second-tier Aalen in the DFB Pokal.
Aalen will host Hoffenheim on Tuesday with a spot in the cup quarter-finals on the line and Gisdol is wary of a fixture he predicts will be "hard fought".
From the start of November, Hoffenheim lost eight of 11 Bundesliga matches but have gone unbeaten in their past three league games, overcoming Stuttgart and Mainz, plus earning a draw at Freiburg.
But Gisdol is concerned the expectations surrounding his side could be setting Hoffenheim up to disappoint.
"Expectation levels amongst fans and the media have risen. For some, picking up a point in Freiburg or finding life tough against a buoyant Mainz side isn't enough," the 45-year-old said on Monday.
"Improvement can't continue at this rate forever, but we have an aim for the cup game: We want to progress to the next round."
While Aalen sit in the relegation zone in the 2. Bundesliga, Gisdol is not taking success for granted ahead of Hoffenheim's trip to the Scholz Arena.
"Perhaps it's Aalen's biggest match of the season, I think it's going to be a tight, hard fought match," he said.
"Our players will not know as much about their direct opponent as they do in the Bundesliga. There are some players in Aalen's squad that we don't know a lot about, which makes it tougher.
"After the recent rainfall, it's going to be a difficult and very heavy pitch to play on as well."
In Tuesday's other DFB Pokal fixtures, Borussia Dortmund will travel to Dynamo Dresden, Bayer Leverkusen will host Kaiserslautern and, in the only all-Bundesliga clash, Freiburg take on Cologne.
Freiburg and Cologne are separated by just three points in the top flight's standings, with the former second-last in the Bundesliga.
They are also set to play again in the league at the start of April but Cologne coach Peter Stoger rubbished suggestions he might tailor his line-up at Freiburg's Schwarzwald Stadion to focus on Bundesliga survival.
"I don't care if it's a cup, league, or a final, we approach each game one at a time," he said.
"And we are fully focused on the opponent in front of us."