Munich - Matchday 30 could prove to be another pivotal weekend in the battle to avoid relegation from Germany's top flight, with Hannover 96 hosting Hamburger SV, SC Freiburg up against Eintracht Braunschweig and 1. FC Nürnberg travelling to VfL Wolfsburg (kick-offs 13.30 GMT / 15.30 CEST).
Hannover 96 - Hamburger SV
bundesliga.com looks ahead to Saturday’s afternoon action...
Mirko Slomka returns to former club Hannover with Hamburg on Saturday, looking to halt a run of 12 successive away defeats stretching back to his time as the Reds’ coach. The visitors currently occupy the relegation play-off spot, but Tayfun Korkut’s Hannover have suffered four consecutive league defeats and are just two points above the Red Shorts in 13th place.
Last week’s reverse to Lower Saxony rivals Eintracht Braunschweig was the latest in a series of recent setbacks for Korkut’s side, and the coach is well aware that improvement is required if his team are to avoid the drop this season. “We have to seize this opportunity against HSV to distance ourselves from the relegation places,” said the supremo, who will be without the suspended Andre Hoffmann for Saturday’s clash.
‘A special match’
Slomka, meanwhile, admits the encounter at the HDI Arena is likely to be an emotional affair, but revealed that he won’t be going easy on his former employers. “Of course it’ll be a special match, but it’s not a friendly,” he said. “I have no sympathy for Hannover. We can overtake them with a victory and drag them into the relegation battle. Our aim is 15th place, but we haven’t achieved that yet."
The 46-year-old is unsure whether or not Pierre-Michel Lasogga will be included in the squad to face die Roten. Lasogga is HSV’s top scorer this season with 12 goals, but the striker has been struggling with a persistent thigh injury and has been undergoing treatment in Munich. “He’s been with [FC Bayern München club doctor] Hans Müller-Wohlfahrt,” said Slomka. “We will do everything we can to get him fit, but we’ll have to wait and see if he’s ok for Saturday.”
VfL Wolfsburg - 1. FC Nürnberg
Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking isn’t taking his former club 1. FC Nürnberg lightly ahead of the two teams’ meeting at the Volkswagen Arena on Saturday. Victory against the Franconians could lift the Wolves into the UEFA Champions League play-off place if other results go their way, but 17th-placed Nürnberg are also in desperate need of a win in their battle to avoid relegation.
“If you consider that they didn’t win a single game in the first half of the season and if you look at their injury list, it’s clear they’ve had a pretty tough time,” conceded Hecking, who is without the services of striker Bas Dost and first-choice keeper Diego Benaglio. “I think Nürnberg still have a good chance of staying up, but obviously I hope they don’t take any points off us this weekend.”
Verbeek 'not happy’
A run of six defeats from the last seven matches has seen Gertjan Verbeek’s team dragged back into the bottom three, but the Dutch coach denied he was feeling the pressure ahead of Saturday’s clash. “I’m not under any more pressure now than I was at the start of the Rückrunde,” he said. “I’m not happy with how things have been going, but it’s all about getting the right results now.
“We’ve analysed the game against Mönchengladbach [on Matchday 29],” continued the 51-year-old. “There were plenty of positives in that performance. Wolfsburg have managed to find a good balance recently, but if we perform well as a team, we’re capable of beating them.”
SC Freiburg - Eintracht Braunschweig
SC Freiburg host a rejuvenated Eintracht Braunschweig at the MAGE Solar Stadion, with the Black Forest club determined to get back to winning ways after losing to South West rivals and fellow relegation candidates VfB Stuttgart on Matchday 29. The Baden-Württemberg side are currently two points clear of the bottom three, and four ahead of Torsten Lieberknecht’s Lions, who will be on a high after beating Hannover in last week’s Lower Saxony derby.
“They’ve developed into a very compact team,” Freiburg coach Christian Streich said at his pre-match press conference. “Their aim is to avoid relegation, so in that respect they’ve got very little to lose. If they were to stay up, it’d be a great achievement for everyone involved with the club.” Freiburg’s Julian Schuster is set to return from suspension, while Admir Mehmedi is likely to be included after recovering from a cold.
‘Nothing to lose’
Lieberknecht, meanwhile, is likely to pick the same side that beat Hannover so convincingly last weekend. Eintracht have lost just once in the last seven matches and trail 15th-placed Stuttgart by just two points. Victory this weekend could see them climb out of the bottom three for the first time since Matchday 3, provided other results go their way.
Lieberknecht is under no illusions as to the importance of Saturday’s encounter, however: “It could come down to which team has the better head-to-head record against their fellow relegation candidates,” admitted the 40-year-old. “There are several of those matches on Saturday, but we’re just enjoying ourselves and certainly aren’t scared of our current situation. Freiburg are favourites because they’re at home, but we have nothing to lose.”
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