Goal.com previews the upcoming clash between Leverkusen and Hannover.
Leverkusen enter Friday’s crunch clash with Hannover on a high note, having beaten 'Gladbach 3-1 in their previous match. In doing so, die Werkself reclaimed second place, although they still have much to do if they are to qualify for the Champions League.
Their opposition on Friday is a Hannover side that thus far has surpassed all expectations, having earned more points in just over half the year as in the previous season. Ahead of Friday’s match, Gonzalo Castro complimented the Saxons.
“They’re a good footballing side who are up near the top for a reason,” he said according to the official Leverkusen website.
Former 96 man Hanno Balitsch was also respectful, but anticipated a win justified by Leverkusen’s quality.
“Of course, I hope we can win on Friday night, as Hannover are one of our main rivals. We’ve got more quality on the pitch.”
Even so, Leverkusen will have to improve on their home form if they are to take three points. Die Werkself have won just one of their last four matches at the BayArena, a record upon which Rene Adler believes his side can improve.
“We have a lot of catching up to do in terms of results at home. It’s not how we’d imagined it, so it’s up to us to make it right,” the goalkeeper said. “It’s our aim to go out and dominate the opposition for 90 minutes.”
Set Pieces The Key For Hannover
Hannover were disappointed to lose 1-0 last week after playing 90 minutes of good football against Schalke. However, die Roten have recovered from the match and enter Friday’s encounter with Leverkusen with their heads held high.
Coach Mirko Slomka has helped the Saxons to an impressive 34 points from 19 matches and third place in the Bundesliga table. For his efforts, the Croat was offered a contract extension to 2013, which he signed earlier this week.
Slomka anticipates “an incredibly difficult match,” but knows his “team are hungry for success.” He went on to praise the talent his opponents will bring to the pitch.
“With Michael Ballack, Arturo Vidal and Renato Augusto, Leverkusen have enormous amounts of quality in the middle of the park. Especially Ballack who is still indisputably a top player, international quality like that is always helpful.”
Nonetheless, Slomka believes in his team’s ability, and has singled out execution of set pieces as crucial to the 96 cause. Should they climb their Everest on Friday, Hannover will be second only to Dortmund.
After his impressive performance as a substitute against 'Gladbach, Michael Ballack is expected to be given a starting role at the base of an attacking diamond. Patrick Helmes has been omitted from Jupp Heynckes’ squad for disciplinary reasons, while Sven Bender, Tranquillo Barnetta and Benedikt Fernandez have all been ruled out for lack of fitness.
Probable Starting XI: Adler – Castro, Reinartz, Hyypia, Kadlec – Vidal, Rolfes – Renato Augusto, Ballack, Sam – Kiessling
Slomka is expected to make no major changes to his squad; the only position in question is that of central defence, where Emanuel Pogatetz is tipped to start ahead of Mario Eggimann. Jan Schlaudraff, Carlitos, and Leon Andreasen, meanwhile, are all set to miss out due to injuries.
Probable Starting XI: Zieler – Cherundolo, Haggui, Pogatetz, Schulz – Stoppelkamp, Schmiedebach, Pinto, Rausch – Abdellaoue, Ya Konan