Dortmund hope to hang onto their narrow lead in the Bundesliga table as they take on Hannover.
Just months after narrowly avoiding relegation, Hannover have comfortably exceeded all expectations. With 16 points from their first 10 matches, the 96ers are nearly at half their entire 2009-10 season tally. Though a demotion to the 2. Bundesliga is improbable, last week’s 4-0 loss to Hoffenheim was discouraging at the very least, and revealed that Mirko Slomka’s men still have plenty to do if they are to finish the season in good standing.
“This season we are compact and hard to beat,” captain Steve Cherundolo assessed in a Friday press conference.
Ahead of the match, coach Mirko Slomka praised Dortmund, singling out several individuals including 18-year old phenomenon Mario Goetze.
“Mario is a highly talented player, but there are also Nuri Sahin, (Kevin) Grosskruetz, and Lucas Barrios too,” he said.
“However, we should focus on our strengths.”
Such strengths include, as the American captain expressed, tightness in defense, and clinical efficiency in scoring. Should they earn three points on Sunday, Hannover will be just one shy of halving the magical 40 points mark that would guarantee another season in the German top flight.
Dortmund Face Tough Away Match
Dortmund’s Europa League campaign all but ended following Thursday’s scoreless draw away to Paris St Germain. The Ruhr side played well, but struggled to create and take their chances, and now are three points behind their French rivals with two matches left to play.
Domestically, however, Dortmund have been outstanding. It had been more than eight years since they last sat atop the table, but BvB have returned to the league summit thanks to an energetic, technical, and full throttle attacking style of play.
Their poor performance in Europe has raised questions of whether Dortmund indeed have the mettle required to maintain their form throughout a long and grueling Bundesliga campaign. For now, BvB will have to put their best foot forward to silence the critics.
“Hannover are having a great season,” acknowledged Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp. “Mirko Slomka has changed the team and signed some great lads. It is a tough away game.”
Sunday’s clash is with an unexpectedly strong Hannover side, but is a must-win situation for a club vying for the title.
Hannover will have to manage without the suspended Manuel Schmiedebach, as well as long-term casualties Emanuel Pogatetz, Leon Andreasen, and Carlitos. Lars Stindl is expected to stand in as partner to Sergio Pinto in central midfield, with Mirko Slomka retaining the majority of his usual starting line-up.
Probable Starting XI: Fromlowitz – Cherundolo, Haggui, Schulz, Djakpa – Stoppelkamp, Stindl, Pinto, Rausch – Ya Konan, Abdellaoue
Assuming Lukasz Piszczek recovers from a minor thigh strain, Klopp is expected to use the same line-up that featured in the Europa League on Thursday. Should the Pole fail to reach full fitness, Jakub Blasczykowski is a potential replacement, with Kevin Grosskreutz moving to the right fullback position. Patrick Owomoyela, Sebastian Kehl, Tamas Hajnal, Mohamed Zidan, and Florian Kringe remain sidelined with injuries, but Dortmund will otherwise have a full squad available.
Probable Starting XI: Weidenfeller – Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer – Sahin, Bender – Goetze, Kagawa, Grosskreutz – Barrios