Ahead of Dortmund's tough Europa League match, die Schwarzgelben get to welcome Hannover 96 to the Westfalenstadion, who are last place in the league and in the midst of a 6 game skid. The 96ers have won only four Bundesliga matches this season, and have a accumulated a measly total of 14 points. After two Bundesliga games where the attack had been stifled, this should be a good bounce-back game for Aubameyang, Reus, Mkhitaryan, and co.
Time and Date: Saturday, February 13th, 9:30 AM eastern time
TV: FOX Sports 2
Where: Westfalenstadion, Dortmund, Germany
The last time we saw Hannover, they were a little bit better than they are now. In the Hinrunde, Dortmund dispatched Hannover 4-2 on the road, but the game saw Artur Sobiech give Hannover the lead, then equalize later in the game. Two of Dortmund's goals were penalties, and one was an own goal, hinting that this was not the best of Dortmund's first half performances.
When you take a look at Hannover's roster, it will strike you as a team that doesn't have the talent to stay up. A few of the players possess Bundesliga quality, such as Hugo Almeida and Adam Szalai, but both strikers are unavailable (Szalai through injury and Almeida through infection) for the game, along with defender Christian Schulz (injury). This likely means we'll see Artur Sobiech start up top for Hannover, and there's a possibility that striker Hiroshi Kiyotake could make a return from injury. Hannover need all the help they can get to avoid relegation, and Kiyotake's return could be a big lift to the squad.
In Hannover's six game losing streak, they've been shut out in four of those games, scoring a total of two goals, while allowing eleven. They may not have the shakiest defense for a relegation side, but it's certainly not good, and their attack is not helping them out at all. With Almeida, Szalai, and Kiyotake's likely absences, it'll be tough for the visitors to find goals in this one if the Dortmund defense is able to keep Hannover somewhat in check.
Artur Sobiech celebrates scoring against Dortmund earlier this season (Photo by Nigel Treblin/Bongarts/Getty Images)
On the Dortmund side of things, the sun is actually shining. We know how Hannover must feel, with us being in a relegation spot a year ago from now. However, little to no sympathy will be shown by Thomas Tuchel, even with an important Europa League game coming up on Thursday. We may see some slight rotation this weekend, but expect nothing drastic.
Against Stuttgart, Tuchel deployed Durm and Aubameyang on the wings, with Reus in the center. This allowed Mkhitaryan and Gundogan to see a lot more space in a dual-10 role. Given Durm's performance on Tuesday, there's a chance we could see him again on Saturday, while it's likely one of Mkhitaryan, Gundogan, and Reus will get a rest. It'd be nice to see Shinji Kagawa back in the starting line-up, as no one really knows what the deal is with him. If Ilkay Gundogan does start, it'll be his 100th Bundesliga appearance!
According to Tuchel, Aubameyang picked up a knock on his foot, and his inclusion will depend on how much pain he can tolerate. There's no real need to risk him, as Hannover are a less than formidable opponent. We could see Ramos start up top if Aubameyang can't make it, or maybe Reus playing centrally again with Christian Pulisic on the wing. That'd be something.
In other injury news, Sven Bender returned to team training this week, and we officially have no more "injured" players. What a time to be alive! You may mention Nuri Sahin, but technically he's no longer injured, he's just working his way back to full fitness. Who knows how long that will be. But anyways, Bender might come in for Sokratis, who's done well in his absence. Before the Winterpause, Bender seemed to have established himself as one of Tuchel's first choice center backs, displacing Sokratis. It may be harsh for Papa to lose his spot, but you've got to imagine that Tuchel will just go with whoever plays better.
Hannover had been known over the past few seasons as a gegenpressing opponent, like Dortmund, but now that Thomas Schaaf has taken over the team, I don't expect to see much of that style of play from our opponents. However, with a limited attack and a not-so tidy defense, it'll be interesting to see how Hannover goes about trying to stop Dortmund's firepower attack.
This match should be one that Dortmund handles easily, warming the crowd up for the exciting match against Porto coming on Thursday. I can see us winning this one 4-0, or something to that extent, with Aubameyang grabbing a few goals. Maybe I'm overconfident, but this Hannover team is probably the worst side we'll see in the Westfalenstadion this season.
Hannover: Zieler, Sakai, Milosevic, Guselam, Prib, Hoffmann, Sane, Bech, Yamaguchi, Schmeidebach, Sobiech
Dortmund: Burki, Piszczek, Sokratis, Hummels, Schmelzer, Weigl, Gundogan, Castro, Pulisic, Mkhitaryan, Reus