Dortmund - 17 points adrift of the Bundesliga summit, Borussia Dortmund have received a timely boost as they set their sights on temporarily closing the gap on leaders Bayern Munich when they welcome Hannover 96 to the Signal Iduna Park on Saturday (kick-off 15:30 CET).
Klopp: "As tough as it gets"
In an encounter between the league's top-scoring sides after the Bavarians, goals look as good as guaranteed, all the more so with the reigning Bundesliga champions now able to call upon star striker Robert Lewandowski after all. This in the wake of Dortmund successfully appealing the Polish international's three-match ban.
Having in midweek, BVB are keen to bounce back to winning ways in the first of three defining fixtures in their current campaign. "This coming week will be as tough as it gets for us," admitted head coach Jürgen Klopp, whose side face Hannover, UEFA Champions League opponents Shakhtar Donetsk and arch-rivals FC Schalke 04 within a seven-day stretch. "Saturday's game is anything, but run-of-the-mill though."
Talking to bundesliga.com after Wednesday's defeat in Munich, defender Neven Subotic was of a similar opinion. "In recent years, matches against Hannover have always been exciting games," , who is likely to be without regular centre-back partner Mats Hummels once more due to a virus. "They're very attacking and incredibly physical. There are going to be lots of battles, several one-on-one match-ups."
Diouf ruled out
The returning Lewandowski, boasting 14 goals to his name already this season, will undoubtedly be charged with carrying the goalscoring burden for Saturday's hosts, but Hannover will have to make do without top scorer Mame Diouf. The Senegalese striker, who has scored a Bundesliga goal every 133 minutes compared to Lewandowski's 141, is unavailable for selection owing to an ankle problem, which prevented him from training properly this week.
As a result Diouf joins Hungarian international Szabolcs Huszti (hamstring) on the sidelines. The loss of two key attacking players is a blow for head coach Mirko Slomka, who called upon his side to "maintain our away form from our last few games. We're at peak fitness, we're very physical at the moment and that's something we want to demonstrate again on Saturday."
Though Hannover's performances on foreign soil have improved, the results are yet to follow suit. Only Werder Bremen (28) have conceded more goals on their travels than the Reds (27), who have managed to collect just seven points from a possible 33 away from home. More ominously, Slomka's chargs have lost on their last three league trips to Dortmund, conceding eleven goals and scoring just three.
Considering Dortmund's recent record against the 96ers, which also includes a 5-1 triumph on home soil in the DFB Cup third Round, the defending champions are confident of taking all three points against a side who are notoriously poor on foreign soil. "I think we've got a good chance to pick up points," Subotic told bundesliga.com. "Against Bayern we played good football in the second half. We got in on goal and if we do that over 90 minutes I think we'll win."
Dortmund: Weidenfeller - Schmelzer, Subotic, Santana, Piszczek - Kehl, Gündogan - Blaszczykowski, Götze, Reus - Lewandowski
Hannover: Zieler - Sakai, C. Schulz, Djourou, Pocognoli - Hoffmann, da Silva Pinto - Schlaudraff, Rausch - Diouf, Abdellaoue