Sokratis (r.) and his Dortmund team-mates are determined to cement second place in the standings prior to meeting Schalke on Tuesday
Sokratis (r.) and his Dortmund team-mates are determined to cement second place in the standings prior to meeting Schalke on Tuesday

Dortmund focus on Bundesliga as Cherundolo bids farewell

Hanover - European competition will be placed on ice for the time being as Borussia Dortmund head into a potentially pivotal week of domestic action, starting with Saturday's trip to Hannover 96 (kick-off 14:30 GMT/15:30 CET).

Among Europe's elite - despite injuries

Jürgen Klopp's troops eliminated FC Zenit from the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday night, earning a last-eight tie with Real Madrid CF, but defending second place in the Bundesliga is now the priority.

"We're very, very happy to have reached the quarter-finals," said midfielder Sebastian Kehl, who hit the target once again in midweek after his decisive goal against SC Freiburg on Matchday 24. "We can be very proud of what we've achieved because we're among the best eight sides in Europe, and let's not forget all the problems we've had lately."

Those problems have largely been due to injuries, with Marcel Schmelzer the latest patient in the treatment room. Dortmund will be deprived of their marauding full-back for four weeks as the injury curse that has plagued the club all season took its next victim.

Reus return?

In addition to Schmelzer, Dortmund are poorer for the losses of Ilkay Gündogan, Sven Bender, Neven Subotic and Jakub Blaszczykowski: half of Klopp's standard starting XI. With the matches coming thick and fast, including the Revierderby with local rivals Schalke on Tuesday night, the tactician could have done with as many hands on deck as possible. One glimmer of hope on the horizon, however, is the impending return of Marco Reus. "He's stepped things up in training and it's been looking good with him," said Klopp.

For Hannover, Saturday represents the start of a new era after captain Steven Cherundolo announced his retirement on Wednesday after a long battle with injury this term. Despite spending 13 years at the club, the player had no lingering desire for a last hurrah following 302 top-flight appearances in Germany. "I didn't have to bow out on a Bundesliga game - I've played plenty of them," he said.

Cherundolo's farewell

"I'm now looking forward to telling the lads what to do rather than having to do it myself," Cherundolo continued. "I experienced many great moments and, for me, the best thing was to win as a team and, at Hannover, that's one thing we did really well. That was and will conintue to be our strength at Hannover. My job now is to pass that on to the younger ones."

The next chapter in Cherundolo's career is as assistant coach of Hannover's reserve team, but not after being given a send-off by the HDI-Arena faithful this weekend. There, he will hope to see the Reds continue their admirable record of having lost only once to the Westphalians in their last seven home games. With a view to extending that run, coach Tayfun Korkut is planning to play with both Jan Schlaudraff and Artjoms Rudnevs in attack, with former Dortmund player Leonardo Bittencourt in attacking midfield.

Possible line-ups:

Hannover: Zieler - Sakai, Hoffmann, Schulz, Pocognoli - Schmiedebach, Sane Huszti, Bittencourt - Rudnevs, Schlaudraff

Dortmund: Weidenfeller - Großkreutz, Sokratis, Hummels, Durm - Kehl, Sahin - Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, Reus - Lewandowski
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Check out this epic from yesteryear between Hannover and Dortmund, courtesy of the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel: