Out-of-sorts northern neighbours meet in tradition-filled duel
Hannover 96 are the visitors to the Volksparkstadion on Saturday lunchtime (kick-off 1:00pm CET), as two of northern Germany’s traditional clubs search for a much-needed win.
Hamburger SV and Hannover 96 were heavily tipped by many observers to be in and around the promotion places come May. Whilst almost sitting at opposite ends of the 2. Bundesliga table, neither will be happy with how the season has panned out so far. After a five-game winning streak to start the league season, Saturday’s hosts have fallen away in the past four games, drawing two before losing their most recent pair of fixtures to slip to third in the standings. Hannover are also winless in four and have lost both of their matches since the international break, falling as far as 14th position before the matchday gets underway. With both teams out of form, opposite numbers Daniel Thioune and Kenan Kocak will be targeting an improved performance at the very least on Saturday.
Focus on the visitors
Having been relegated from the Bundesliga in 2018/19, Hannover were hoping to bounce back at the first time of asking, but struggled under former HSV manager Mirko Slomka, who was sacked in November after six home games without a win. Former Sandhausen manager Kenan Kocak took over the reins and the team from Lower Saxony gradually improved, finishing fourth in the Rückrundentabelle and climbing up to sixth in the overall standings. With the momentum from the end of the 19/20 campaign alongside one of the best squads in the league, many picked 96 as strong favourites for promotion entering the season. The start to the season was satisfactory, including three wins at home on the spin. But the 3-0 win against Düsseldorf on Matchday 5 at the HDI Arena was the last for the Reds, and their two most recent games saw losses at bottom-of-the-table Würzburger Kickers and a 3-0 loss last Sunday to Holstein Kiel at the Niedersachsenstadion.
Opposition scouting report
As Daniel Thioune noted in his pre-match press conference “Hannover like to play with a high line and press their opponents deep into their own half”. This brought rewards particularly in the opening five games, opponents conceding the ball high up the pitch and Kocak’s men able to turn this high pressure into chances. But when this tactic fails, either through sloppiness from Hannover or careful, fast movement of the ball from the opponent, the Hannover lines are breached very quickly and their defence left over-exposed, all three Kiel goals last Sunday coming from counter-attacking play by the Storks. Whether Kocak continues with this strategy remains to be seen; one argument for it being that the HSV defence has struggled when pressed high up in recent weeks.
As has been the trend in the 2. Bundesliga this season, Kocak has been flexible in his choice of formation, generally settling on a 4-3-1-2 but springing a surprise last Sunday with a 3-5-2. With defenders Timo Hübers, Philipp Ochs and Simon Falette all missing, Kocak may have to conjure up another creative starting line-up to stem the tide of goals that Hannover have been conceding, whilst young starlet Linton Maina will also be missing through injury in attack. As far as threats to the Rothosen go, Genki Haraguchi is the main man to watch for Hannover. It is perhaps no coincidence that the Reds’ upturn in form last season occurred when the 29-year-old returned to form and the Japanese playmaker has been at the heart of everything positive going forward this season, scoring one and assisting four already. In similar fashion to his whole time at Hannover, Marvin Ducksch has blown hot and cold so far this campaign, but on his day is one of the deadliest strikers in the league and will be looking to improve on his tally of three goals on Saturday.
Options open for HSV as winless streak stretches to four
The Rothosen looked well on their way to avenging their first league defeat of the season last Sunday, 2-0 up after 24 minutes in Heidenheim but contrived to lose the game from a winning position. Victories for Greuther Fürth and Bochum saw the two rivals move past HSV in the table, still stuck on 17 points, but now from nine games and in third position. One positive aspect in Daniel Thioune’s favour is squad availability, only Tom Mickel (torn abdominal muscle) and Rick van Drongelen (torn ACL) missing, although the Dutchman is making good progress on his long road to recovery. This means the coaching staff have a number of tactical variations at their disposal, to try and unlock the Hannover defence, and generate a bit more movement off-the-ball than the last two displays. Perhaps more importantly a solid defence is also necessary, having conceded three against both Bochum and Heidenheim, and nine in the past four winless games.
Thioune on his message to the squad this week: "We reviewed the mistakes from the game against Heidenheim and adapted the sessions to the conclusions that we took from that analysis. If we let up in any way, we'll be punished like we were on Sunday. We have to reduce the number of individual errors."
Four teams in the 2. Bundesliga are currently winless in four; the two Hamburg clubs, Sandhausen and Saturday’s visitors Hannover. Hannover have been the weakest team during this period, collecting one point with a goal difference of minus 7.
The team from Lower Saxony are not happy travellers, having lost their last seven away games in the 2. Bundesliga. The last time they collected points on the road was on the 23rd May with a 4-2 win over Daniel Thioune’s Osnabrück.
Only one team have conceded fewer shots than HSV (101) this season, and that was Hannover (97). Yet with neither team having a good defensive record, it suggests the two northern teams are giving away fewer, but higher-quality chances.
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