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Babbel on the brink

Hoffenheim's Bundesliga fixture against Schalke this weekend could be coach Markus Babbel's last game in charge of the club after a disastrous start to the season.

European qualification was targeted before the campaign began, but with nine games gone the club are just two points off the foot of the table.

General manager Andreas Muller has publicly backed Babbel, saying "clearly not," when questioned about the possibility of changing coach.

"We must think about solutions now, and I am in constant exchange with the coaching staff. I can't detect that the team is not well prepared going into the matches."

But several media outlets continue to run reports that a change in management is imminent. Berlin paper Der Tagesspiegel say it is "Babbel's last chance" and report that Babbel would not be sacked before the Schalke match but might be afterwards, while local outlet Rhein Neckar Zeitung questioned if "Babbel believes in a future with Hoffenheim".

Babbel is understood to be at odds with parts of his squad while a lack of discipline, fights on the training ground and players being sent to the reserves for disciplinary reasons are all factors reported to be undermining results on the pitch.

Hoffenheim's latest defeat, 0-3 away to Mainz, left Babbel accusing his team of not wanting to win the match.

"Mainz were greedier, they wanted to win that game. That was the difference today," Babbel commented after the match. "My team was not awake. Sheer will made the difference."

Muller added: "We were really bad in one-on-one-situations. I am frustrated."

Muller also singled out the key players, saying. "It angers me that the team does not give all it has. The key players have to accept responsibility, also for their team-mates."

Goalkeeper and captain Tim Wiese, who signed for Hoffenheim from Bremen this summer, has only won one point for so far, but conceded 17 goals in the Bundesliga.

Belgium Under-21 'keeper Tom Kastelen was in goal during the short upswing in form, when the y picked up seven points in three matches.

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