Hanover - It's only Matchday 4, but Hannover 96 are already potentially just one victory away from qualifying for the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa League, as they prepare to take on Swedish side Helsingborgs IF in the AWD Arena on Thursday evening (kick-off 21.05 CET).

Hannover currently sit top of Group L on seven points, but a win here, coupled with at least a draw for Levante UD against FC Twente in the group's other clash, could see the northern German side into the next round with two games to spare.

Slowly but surely


Victory on Matchday 3 in Sweden two weeks ago, secured thanks to a last-minute strike from Didier Ya Konan, was a huge boost to the Reds‘ chances of negotiating a tough group. After beginning with a hard-fought 2-2 draw away at FC Twente, Hannover then eked out a 2-1 win over Levante UD, before the success in Helsingborgs. Having already played a huge19 competitive matches this season, early progress would be a welcome opportunity for coach Mirko Slomka to rest some players in the final two games.

Building on last season’s performance, when they reached the quarter-finals, the Lower Saxony outfit have again coped admirably with the added number of games. They also go into this tie in a confident frame of mind after beating FC Augsburg at the weekend and dispatching Dynamo Dresden in the DFB Cup a week ago. Possibly their biggest asset, however, is that Slomka’s side are playing at home. A record of just two defeats in their last 25 matches is surely reason enough for the home faithful to expect rather than hope for a Reds victory.

Slomka wary


Slomka conceded that his players were “looking forward to the opportunity of reaching the next stage with a home win,” but refused to let them get carried away with the position they are now in. “We have to win the game first. Helsingborg are capable of playing at a high tempo. We saw that in the first game and it was difficult for us to handle,” the 43-year-old said of the team currently sixth in the Swedish top flight.

On the personnel front, the 96ers have been hit by an injury to influential midfielder Sergio da Silva Pinto, who misses the game with a groin complaint, while defender Felipe is out with a hip problem. On a more positive note, Ya Konan and striker partner Mame Diouf, both of whom scored in the away match, are fit to start, as is Hungarian international Szabolcs Huszti, who has three goals in the competition.

Probable line-ups

Hannover: Zieler - Cherundolo, Eggimann, Haggui, Rausch - Stindl, Schmiedebach, Schulz, Huszti – Ya Konan, Diouf

Helsingborgs: Hansson - C. Andersson, Atta, P. Larsson, Uronen - Lindström, Mahlangu, Gashi, Bouaouzan - Bedoya, Djurdjic