Hanover - It has been an up-and-down first half of the season for Hannover 96. A crushing derby win at VfL Wolfsburg and a 4-2 triumph at VfB Stuttgart, the Reds unbeaten league run at home, stretching back thirteen months, was ended by Borussia Mönchengladbach.

The first half of the season may have ended on a disappointing note with the 5-1 defeat to Borussia Dortmund, but the Reds are still in one knock-out competition - the UEFA Europa League - and coping well. Their challenge will be to better last year's European performance, when they reached the quarter-finals, as well as finishing in the European spots in the league. With Mirko Slomka in charge, though, that seems likely.

Hannover looked well on course to having European football again in the coming season by Matchday 11. The club had prematurely qualified the UEFA Europa League's first knock-out round and seemed to settle for a top-six spot after two more league wins. Four losses from their following six encounters saw 96 drop to mid-table in the ever-so-tight Bundesliga, however, so work is to be done in 2013.

Prodigal son Szabolcs Huszti hit the ground running straight after his return from a three-and-a-half-year stint with Russian side Zenit St. Petersburg. The 51-time Hungary midfielder is the club's most effective performer with seven assists and five goals and has overcome a brief dip in form as he proved in Matchday 16's 3-2 over Bayer Leverkusen where he struck two penalties he had been awarded himself.

Signed in the summer from Kashima Reysol, 22-year-old Hiroki Sakai has found it difficult claiming a spot in the first eleven. An injury suffered at the 2012 Olympic Games played a part in the Japan star's slow start, yet Sakai has been impressing the coaching team on his few appearances and is seen as the long-term replacement for old-hand team captain Steven Cherundolo.

4 The number of assists Hustzi provided in the 4-0 win at VfL Wolfsburg
12The number of goals Mame Diouf has scored in league appearances in 2012
8The number of points Hannover have taken away from home this season

Signing the contract is an important step for the future of Hannover 96. I'm delighted that confidence was shown in me to give me another three years at the club, and I'm pleased that is has worked out. Head coach Slomka on agreeing a new contract with the club.