Hanover - Luckless Hannover 96 go in search of their first league win since mid-December when Hertha Berlin visit the HDI Arena on Friday night (kick-off 20:30 CEST/18:30 GMT).

bundesliga.com looks ahead to yet another pivotal night’s action in the battle against the drop…

Hertha have shown a marked improvement under Pal Dardai. The capital club are currently seven points clear of the bottom three and four in front of Hannover, who could find themselves level on points with relegation play-off place incumbents Hamburger SV, depending on how the sides below them fare this weekend.

Ivorian striker made a strong case for retaining his place in the starting line-up after scoring the equalising goal in last weekend’s 2-2 draw away to Eintracht Frankfurt. He faces stiff competition from Joselu, but Artur Sobiech remains sidelined. Leonardo Bittencourt is available again following suspension, however.

has been ruled out with an adductor complaint, meaning Nico Schulz could revert to left-back. Johannes van den Bergh is another alternative, but Alexander Baumjohann, Änis Ben-Hatira, Tolga Cigerci, Hajime Hosogai, Ronny and Julian Schieber are all missing through injury.

If one is to get the Reds out of their current predicament, it is captain . Be it doing the dirty work in defence or sticking away the odd goal at the other end, the 26-year-old has been the 96ers’ most reliable performer of late and can be guaranteed to put in another heart-on-the-sleeve display on home soil.

An in-form makes such a difference for the Old Lady. The Ivorian looks a completely different player under Dardai and while he’s only scored once since the Hungarian took charge, his general play in the final third has been exceptional. Just watch how he pulls defenders out of position against Hannover.

Tayfun Korkut (head coach): "It’s about getting three points. We need a win - anything else is no use. We’ve got enough quality and the mentality to come through a difficult game like this one. It’s going to be really, really tough. We can’t afford to drop off, even by five per cent."

Dardai (head coach): “Hannover are a good side with a good coach. They’re at home and they’re the favourites. They never give up and that speaks volumes. They’ve also got some good individuals. We’ve taken a step in the right direction, but we need to keep on getting positive results. We still need at least another four points."

Hannover hit back from two goals down to rescue a point against Frankfurt last time out, but they remain the only side left in the division this calendar year (D4, L6). Hertha, by contrast, are unbeaten in their last five and have won their last two - both against sides worse off in the standings (Hamburg and SC Paderborn 07).

and Jimmy Briand grabbed the goals as Hannover came away from the Olympiastadion with a 2-0 win on Matchday 11. Indeed, the Reds are unbeaten in five against Hertha, whose last competitive win in the Lower Saxony capital came on 16 January 2010.

Possible line-ups:

Hannover: Zieler - H. Sakai, Marcelo, Felipe, C. Schulz - S. Sane - Briand, Kiyotake, Stindl, Prib - Joselu

Hertha: Kraft - Pekarik, S. Langkamp, Brooks, N. Schulz - Skjelbred, Lustenberger - Beerens, Haraguchi - Stocker - Kalou

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