Hanover - A pair of coaching neophytes stuck in a veritable Bundesliga rut come face to face as Hannover 96 entertain Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Saturday (kick-off 14:30 GMT/ 15:30 CET).
'An important period'
As two of the youngest strategists in the German top flight, 39-year-old Reds schemer Tayfun Korkut and 40-year-old Werkself tactician Sami Hyypia have much in common, not least a disappointing return of just two wins from six outings since the winter break.
"When you look at the table, it's clear that we're sailing pretty close to the wind," Korkut admitted at Thursday's pre-match press conference. "It's an important period for us, starting with Leverkusen. We have to show we're capable of picking up points. The goal is always three points. We're not thinking about draws and that'll be no different at the weekend. We have to maintain our home form."
The difference between Hannover's exploits at the HDI-Arena and on the road could scarcely be more pronounced. At home, the Reds have amassed 21 points from the 33 on offer, but take them away from the comforts of the Lower Saxony capital and things begin to take a dramatic turn for the worse: Hannover have collected only four points from their twelve away matches so far this season - fewer than any other Bundesliga outfit.
'Do everything to win'
"Boxers on the ropes are dangerous," warned Korkut, drawing on nine-and-a-half weeks' experience in the job. "You could see we played with more confidence once we scored against Augsburg [last weekend]. We've got plenty of quality. I know it won't be an easy game. We have to make sure we do everything to win from the get-go. Leverkusen are not at their best at the moment. It could be that they're low on confidence, but they played really well during the first half of the season."
Like Hannover, it's fair to say Bayer 04 are battling their own set of unwanted demons. As well as being by 1. FC Kaiserslautern and turned over in the first leg of their last-16 UEFA Champions League tie with Paris Saint Germain, Hyypia's men have fallen 22 points adrift of Bundesliga leaders FC Bayern München after losing six of their last eight league games.
'Regain our confidence'
"We need to pose more of a threat in the final third than we have done recently and cut down the number of mistakes defensively," Hyypia explained, over halfway into his first full season in sole charge of the club. "The main thing is to regain our confidence quickly and be more relaxed when we're on the ball. Hannover have played very well at home this season - they will pack their defence and try to expose us on the break."
Returning duo and Bosnia-Herzegovina international centre-back will look to stifle Hannover's expansive ranks, but Ömer Toprak and Stefan Reinartz have been ruled out after picking up their fifth yellow cards of the campaign during last weekend's 1-0 home defeat to 1. FSV Mainz 05. As to the inclusion of midfielders Emre Can and Lars Bender, Hyypia simply said: "We'll have to wait and see."
Hannover: Zieler - H. Sakai, Marcelo, C. Schulz, Pocognoli - Schmiedebach, Andreasen - Huszti, Bittencourt - M. Diouf, Rudnevs
Leverkusen: Leno - Hilbert, Spahic, Wollscheid, Boenisch - L. Bender, Can, Castro - Sam, Kießling, Son