Hannover 96 have already collected 16 points this season and in the process, Mirko Slomka's men have managed to score 13 goals. 9 of those have been scored by either Didier Ya Konan or Mohammed Adellaoue. Therefore, the assumption that the Reds success centres on these two players is not that far from the truth. "96 are very confident and strong on the counter. The team depends on Ya Konan, though", believes Boris Vukcevic. The 20-year old is not alone in this opinion. Hannover have lost three matches this season; against Wolfsburg and St. Pauli, Ya Konan failed to find the net, while he was injured for the trip to FC Bayern. Even Ralf Rangnick knows that 96 are a well balanced and energetic team and that it is no coincidence that they are currently sitting in third. Hoffenheim cannot afford to show the two strikers too much respect, though. Especially given the crisis that Hoffenheim are experiencing with their back four. "There were gaps in the defence that can't be there on Sunday", stated Rangnick. In the cup match against Ingolstadt, though, it has been noted that the makeshift defence managed to keep a clean sheet.
Two pillars and two question marks
It would be impossible to predict which back four will start against Hannover this weekend. One thing for certain is that Josip Simunic will miss out due to injury. There are also concerns about Issac Vorsah, but it is likely to be touch and go up until kick-off. Marvin Compper, however, will definitely start in the centre back role that he has been impressive in during the last two matches against Dortmund and Ingolstadt. "Compper is on his way back to form. He's played exceptionally in the last two matches; not just as an enforcer and organiser of the back line, but also in his tackling", praised Rangnick. Alongside Compper, captain Andreas Beck will keep his position at right-back with the left-back position still undecided between Christian Eichner and Andreas Ibertsberger, who should recover from injury in time for Sunday.
Relying on Ba
Fortunately, Ralf Rangnick has no such problems up front. Despite the dismissal of Vedad Ibisevic against Ingolstadt, Rangnick is spoilt for choice. Ibisevic has been banned for three matches, however this only applies to the cup competition so Rangnick can call upon the Bosnian on Sunday if he wishes to. "The last match without Vedo, we played really well", explained Rangnick who quickly added: "Maybe Ibisevic will start the match or maybe he will come off the bench and score the winning goal." The striker is always good for a goal. The two front men who have impressed of late are Demba Ba and Peniel Mlapa. They have a great understanding and while Mlapa brings the speed, Ba adds the execution to make a formidable pairing. The Senegalese international has scored in each of Hoffenheim's last four league matches, as well as the winner against Ingolstadt in midweek.
Stats and facts
Hoffenheim have a good record against Hannover, having won 3 of the 4 matches, while drawing the other. The last time 96 travelled to the Rhein-Neckar-Arena, Rangnick's team emerged as 2-1 winners. The fans will be expecting more goal as well, seeing as 1899 have scored in each of their last 13 matches.