The task for Hannover 96 is clear, if by no means straightforward: a draw, or of course better, at UD Levante on Thursday evening (kick-off 21:05 CET) will leave the Reds top of UEFA Europa League L. Victory for the hosts in Valencia, and first place is theirs instead.

Home advantage for the second leg in the knockout Round of 32 is the not inconsiderable incentive for all the group winners and as such, Hannover are more than keen to extend their unbeaten run in this season's competition (seven wins, two draws, including pre-qualifying) into double figures.

Patchy form on the home front


On top of that, a positive result in Spain would be a welcome shot in the arm for a team who have won just one of their last five competitive outings, against Greuther Fürth, and lost three, to Freiburg, FC Bayern and, on Saturday, 2-1 at Mainz 05. As far as the effect of that latest setback goes, goalkeeper insists that the team are „in no way suffering from a lack of confidence. From our point of view, Mainz's late winner was just unlucky. We need to look ahead and go into the next game with self-belief.“

When the teams first met at the AWD Arena, the 96ers found themselves a goal and a man down after ten minutes, but battled their way back to a 2-1 win. A repeat this time around – without the early red card – would do the Lower Saxony outfit just fine. Karim Haggui, the man giving his marching orders in the 9th minute, will be out to do better this time around but there will be no reunion with the player he hauled down to earn them, Theofanis Gekas. The former Bundesliga top scorer has parted company with Levante after just four months, at his own request.

Levante impress on European debut


On the personnel front, 96ers coach Mirko Slomka has a full-strength squad at his disposal, barring long-term absentees Leon Andreasen (cruciate ligament) and Felipe (hip surgery). And Hannover will need their best players back on form to come through this one, with the their hosts boasting a 100 percent record at home so far - 3-0 against FC Twente and 1-0 against Helsingborg - in what is their first appearance on the European stage. Slomka's men know what they are up against.


Possible line-ups

UD Levante: Munua - Lell, Ballesteros, Navarro, Juanfran - El Zhar, Diop, Iborra, Michel, Bakero - Ruben Carcia

Hannover 96: Zieler - Cherundolo, Eggimann, Haggui, Rausch - Stindl, Schulz, Da Silva Pinto, Huszti - Schlaudraff, Diouf