Fürth - After the drama of this week’s UEFA Champions League, domestic football is back on the agenda, with Matchday 31’s Bundesliga action commencing in Bavaria, where Greuther Fürth host Hannover 96 on Friday (kick-off 20:30CET).
Fürth sit rock-bottom of the table and are staring down the barrel of relegation, but recent results suggest they are not going to go down without a fight. Hannover, meanwhile, retain ambitions of qualifying for Europe, but are fast running out of games to add a satisfactory conclusion to what has been a taxing campaign.
Fürth's fans haven’t had too much to cheer about at home this season. The club’s record at the Trolli Arena reads played 15, won none, drawn four and lost eleven, with just seven goals scored and 31 conceded. Indeed, their last league victory on home soil was over a year ago, on 13 April 2012, when they beat FC St Pauli 2-1 in the Bundesliga 2.
The Clover Leaves will be determined to win at least one game at home before the season ends, and the team’s last result – a 1-0 victory away at derby rivals 1. FC Nuremberg – should give them the perfect motivation. “Of course it’s given us a good feeling in training this week”, revealed head coach Frank Kramer.
Playing against the team with the third-worst away record in the division will also be an incentive to impress, but Kramer warned that the Lower Saxon outfit will present his players with a huge challenge. “The derby win is now behind us. This match will require a mammoth effort from all the players.”
Hannover, meanwhile, will see this encounter as the perfect opportunity to get their faltering charge for European qualification back on track. Mirko Slomka’s men have had memorable runs on the continent in the past two seasons, but are seven points off sixth place and in very real danger of missing out next season.
Bury the frustration
This week the 96ers recruited Dirk Dufner as their new sporting director, but remedying the on-pitch situation would appear to be the priority after two heavy defeats in their last two matches, a 3-1 loss in Freiburg and a 6-1 hammering at the hands of runaway champions FC Bayern Munich last weekend.
“We want to put the frustrations of the past two results behind us,” said a determined Slomka in his pre-match press conference. “We will try to stamp our own mark on the game and give our fans something to cheer about.”
This way to goal
Crucial to the Reds’ hopes of returning to Europe will be the form of their strikers. Mohammed Abdellaoue,Didier Ya Konan and Mame Diouf were all on target in the 5-1 win against Hamburger SV on February 23, but have contributed just one goal between them in the subsequent seven games.
With only nine points left to play for after this weekend's round of games, the Reds will get few better opportunities than this to seal a fourth away win of the season and make a late surge for UEFA Europa League qualification.
Fürth: Hesl - Nehrig, Kleine, Mavraj, Baba - Geis, Fürstner - Klaus, Park - Prib - Djurdjic
Hannover: Zieler – Cherundolo, Eggimann, Schulz, Pander – Stindl, da Silva Pinto, Hoffmann, Rausch – Schlaudraff, Diouf