Europa League: Hertha, Cologne and Hoffenheim fighting for survival | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 01.11.2017
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Europa League: Hertha, Cologne and Hoffenheim fighting for survival

Germany's representatives in the Europa League are approaching tough challenges in different ways. Hoffenheim have renewed confidence after their first win but it's all about pride and experience for Cologne & Hertha.

Istanbul Basaksehir vs. TSG Hoffenheim (Thursday, 19:00 CET)

Hoffenheim got their first ever European victory at home to Istanbul Basaksehir two weeks ago and must repeat the feat in Turkey on Thursday night if they are to keep alive any hope of reaching the knock-out stages.

It's a particularly special encounter for German international Kerem Demirbay who, despite being born in Germany's industrial Ruhr region, has Turkish family who will all be present inside the Fatih Terim Stadium.

"I'm looking forward to being back in Turkey and I can't wait for the match," said the 24-year-old. "My family are already there having a few days' holiday, so I won't be alone!"

Since recovering from a hip injury, Demirbay has immediately re-found his goalscoring form – even if results haven't been going Hoffenheim's way recently. In their 1-1 draw with Wolfsburg and 1-3 defeat to Borussia Mönchengladbach, it was Demirbay who found the net for the Kraichgauer.  

But coach Julian Nagelsmann will still be without Lukas Rupp, Pawel Kaderabek and Mark Uth, plus long-term absentees Ermin Bicakcic, Adam Szalai und Serge Gnabry.

"I won't be easy [in Istanbul]," said Demirbay. "They will do everything they can to make life difficult for us. But I'm optimistic than we can take home all three points. After all, we've now proven that can compete internationally."

DFB -Pokal Hansa Rostock vs. Hertha Berlin Pal Dardai Trainer (Reuters/H. Hanschke)

Pal Dardai celebrates 1,000 days in charge of Hertha

Hertha Berlin vs. Zorya Luhansk (Thursday, 21:05 CET)

Thursday night's Europa League meeting with Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk will mark Pal Dardai's 1001st day in charge of Hertha Berlin, but while it will be a special occasion for him personally, the Hungarian coach isn't giving Europe's second-tier competition highest priority.

Currently mid-table in the Bundesliga but bottom of Europa League Group J, Dardai is managing this season's two-front challenge in blocks and has Sunday's trip to Wolfsburg very much in mind.

"What happens in Wolfsburg is very important," he said. "We want to manage both games in such a way that the players are fresh and rotate properly to ensure everyone is happy."

Saturday's 2-1 win over Hamburg in the Bundesliga was Hertha's first win in eight games in all competitions and Dardai remains realistic, viewing the Europa League rather as an opportunity for his young players to gather valuable international experience.

"Let's be honest, winning all three [remaining Europa League] games is our aim but it will be difficult," he said. "The lads have gained experience and they know that we have to improve."

Hertha will be without top-scorer Mathew Leckie (injured) and striker Vedad Ibisevic (suspended) in the Olympic Stadium but should be able to welcome back Davie Selke.

 - Read about the opposition: Zorya Luhansk - A football club in exile

Fußball UEFA Europa League Arsenal - 1. FC Köln (Reuters/D. Klein)

The Europa League hasn't provided much relief for the passionate Cologne fans

Cologne vs. BATE Borisov (Thursday, 21:05 CET)

The worst start to a season of any Bundesliga team in history, injuries to key players, hosts of missed chances and a sacked sporting director – even Cologne's first Europa League campaign in 25 years is providing little consolation.

Bottom of Group H after three straight defeats, only one other team has a worse record in the competition – Vardar Skopje of Macedonia. "FC" are as good as out but, speaking to press ahead of the visit of Belarussian champions BATE Borisov, goalkeeper Timo Horn was still in bullish mood.

"We didn't give everything [last season] just to give up on Europe without a fight," he insisted. "It will come for us. Against Arsenal, we didn't manage the pressure. Against Belgrade we were unlucky. And in Borisov we were on a par. Now it will be a huge advantage to play at home."

The Billy Goats produced their best performance of the season in the 1-0 defeat to Red Star Belgrade, hitting the post three times. They took the lead in a match for the first time in the derby defeat away Leverkusen on Saturday but there is a feeling that fortune has deserted them.

"We were always close but we just lacked little things," said coach Peter Stöger, who confirmed that midfielder Marco Höger will sit out with a muscle injury while Marcel Risse and Dominic Maroh fill undergo late fitness tests.

"The atmosphere in the team is good," he said. "The aim now is to take something positive from the game."

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