Northern rivals looking to pull clear of drop zone

Hanover – Hannover 96 and SV Werder Bremen have a chance to take a significant step towards securing their Bundesliga status when the two Lower Saxony rivals meet at the HDI Arena on Sunday (kick-off 16:30 BST/ 17:30 CEST).

‘No reason to panic’

Both teams are locked together on 29 points – hovering just above the relegation zone – and with seven games of the 2013/14 season remaining, both are desperate to seal their place in next season’s top flight at the earliest opportunity.

Hannover’s remaining fixtures are all against teams currently in the bottom eight of the division, but Korkut is demanding an improvement against the Grün-Weißen after seeing his charges lose 3-1 to 1899 Hoffenheim on Matchday 27. “We’ve already made it perfectly clear that we weren’t happy with the result and the performance against Hoffenheim,” said the former VfB Stuttgart youth coach. “The players were very critical of themselves after that match. We all know we have to do better against Bremen.”

“It’s a very important game for us,” added the 39-year-old. “We weren’t good enough in Sinsheim and played poorly against Borussia Dortmund before that, but I don’t see any reason to panic. I think the players are fully aware of the situation we’re in, and of the importance of the upcoming games. We’ve played all the teams at the top, but we mustn’t lapse into a false sense of security.”

Pander to return

Korkut confirmed that Christian Pander, who has been restricted to three league outings this season with a troublesome knee injury, is set for a return to the Hannover squad. Sebastien Pocognoli is likely to start the match, despite picking up a knock in the defeat to Hoffenheim, while Manuel Schmiedebach is suspended after being sent off at the Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena in midweek.

Bremen boss Robin Dutt will also be forced to reshuffle his side for the short trip to Hanover. Aleksandar Ignjovski, who missed the side's 3-1 loss to VfL Wolfsburg during the week, has failed to recover from a stomach muscle injury, while Felix Kroos – brother of FC Bayern München star Toni – is also ruled out with a knee injury sustained against the Wolves. Defender Santiago Garcia has returned to first team training following his knee injury, but is still some way short of match fitness.

Dutt seeks ‘right mentality’

Unlike Hannover, Werder still have to play four of the top seven sides in the division – including champions FC Bayern München and in-form FC Schalke 04 – before the end of the campaign, but Dutt isn’t looking beyond die Roten. “We have to have a good plan on Sunday,” he admitted. “We’re likely to have to deal with a few twists and turns during the match, so we have to go into the game with the right mentality.”

Bremen had managed to pull away from the drop zone with victory against 1. FC Nürnberg and a point against VfB Stuttgart, put successive defeats to SC Freiburg and Wolfsburg has left Dutt’s team gazing nervously over their shoulders once more. Midfielder Zlatko Junuzovic is under no illusions as to the significance of Sunday’s clash. “Everyone’s fighting for their lives at the bottom. It’s time for us to step up to the plate.”

Possible line-ups:

Hannover: Zieler - H. Sakai, Hoffmann, C. Schulz, Pocognoli - Sane, Andreasen - Stindl, Bittencourt, Huszti - Rudnevs

Bremen: Wolf - Fritz, Prödl, Lukimya, Caldirola - Bargfrede - Junuzovic, Obraniak - Hunt - di Santo, Petersen

Matthew Howarth

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