Struggling Freiburg host hit-and-miss Hannover in the Bundesliga this afternoon. Despite being second-bottom in the league, the hosts have actually scored more goals than their eighth-placed guests, who are still battling on two fronts this season given their participation in the Europa League (both sides, however, have already been dumped out of the DFB-Pokal). Nevertheless, Hannover’s line-leader Mohammed Abdellaoue has as many goals (eight) as the highly sought-after Freiburg man, Papiss Demba Cissé, and the away side have a better head-to-head record against today’s hosts than any other side in the division. And, when the sides last met in Freiburg back in April, Hannover won 3-1.
Despite Cissé scoring just twice in the last seven games (one of which was a penalty), Freiburg have scored point-salvaging last-minute goals in each of their last three matches; thereby going a little way to dispelling the mantra that they are a one-man team, and meaning that they come into this game with spirits high. Conversely, since beating Bayern Munich, Hannover have won just one of their last seven matches, and their away form has not been great for a little while longer than that too. Nevertheless, it’s not been too bad at or against Freiburg in the last few years, with Hannover having won each of the four league games played between the sides since October 2009, scoring 13 goals in the process. In fact, the last time Freiburg tasted victory against a Hannover side was back in the 2003/04 season, when they beat today’s guests 4-1 at the Dreisamstadion. Although coach Marcus Sorg will be hoping his own Freiburg team can emulate that achievement, he did sound a note of caution: “Hannover is an incredibly aggressive and strong running team that switches play quickly,” the 45-year-old said. “We must be highly focused, but want to play boldly.”
Despite going 2-0 to Standard Liege in the Europa League on Wednesday, Hannover still qualified for the next stage of the competition due to results elsewhere. More than 10,000 supporters made the trip to Belgium, and despite some trouble, the majority of fans did the club proud. After training at facilities belonging to Liege’s youth team on Thursday morning, Mirko Slomka’s squad then travelled direct to Freiburg. Despite this, Slomka noted: “We’re ready and prepared for the match.” The former Schalke coach went on to add: “The team is very self-critical when dealing with defeats, so I am optimistic that we have the desire to score points in Freiburg.
“With a win, we would remain on a single-digit table space, and would also keep in touch with sixth spot. That is why this game against an opponent in the relegation zone is of great importance to us, against the background of the fact that we are dissatisfied with our away record in the Bundesliga.”
For Sorg, former Hannover player Jan Rosenthal, who played for the club for ten years until last summer, will miss out on facing his ex-employers because of a muscle injury. Oliver Barth, Mensur Mujdža and Yacine Abdessadki are also set to miss out for Freiburg, but Erik Jendrišek, who spent the 2006/07 season on loan at Hannover after being sent there by then Schalke coach Slomka, is fit to play. The current Hannover coach himself is still missing long-term injury victims Carlitos and Leon Andreasen, and also has Lars Stindl struggling to prove his fitness. The right-sided midfielder suffered a knock to his ankle in the game against Liege, so Didier Ya Konan could take his place, as he has done on various occasions this season. Jan Schlaudraff, scorer of an impressive volley that secured a 1-1 home draw with HSV last weekend, looks set to partner Abdellaoue up front.
Freiburg versus Hannover kicks off at 2.30pm in the UK, and can be watched live on Bet365.com. The referee is Dr Jochen Drees, who has officiated in games involving each of these sides already this season – namely, the opening day 2-2 draw between Freiburg and Augsburg, and Hannover’s mid-October 2-0 defeat to Cologne.