Red Bull Salzburg put in a performance not many will have expected on Thursday night. They defended well but also cause Borussia Dortmund issues in Austria. The majority thought that Dortmund would be the first team to be Salzburg in Europe for the first time in eighteen games. It wasn’t to be though and we went out of Europe with a whimper. There is no time to dwell on our defeat though. There is still a top four place to sealed to ensure our place in next seasons Champions League. A win tomorrow against Hannover would go a long way to salving the wounds.
Of course we always fancy ourselves at Signal Iduna Park so a win is beyond expected – it’s demanded. With this being a notoriously high scoring fixture – there have been a staggering one hundred and eighty five goals in the last fifty one games between the two – goals are guaranteed here. This is something which is backed up by both teams’ recent records. We have won our last six home games while our opponents haven’t won on the road in their last eight outings. As I said, must be guaranteed, right?
Not necessarily. During our lean spell under Peter Bosz earlier in the season we suffered a 4-2 defeat to Hannover at The HDI Arena. Having fell behind twice through goals from Jonathas and Ihlas Bebou, we managed to draw level both times thanks to Dan-Axel Zagadou and Andriy Yarmolenko. However Felix Klaus and another goal for Bebou secured the points that afternoon. The heroes from that day are fighting to be fit for Sunday. While it looks like Felix Klaus will make the game in Dortmund, Ihlas Bebou will definitely not play thanks to suspension. Jonathas, Matthias Ostrzolek and Pirmin Schwegler are all pushing for starts.
Peter Stoeger is unlikely to play as open as his predecessor did five months ago in Hannover. One criticism levelled at his side following their 0-0 draw in Austria was that they were not adventurous enough. It didn’t look like this BVB side knew whether to stick or twist, which, in many ways, has summed up Stoeger himself during his short reign at the helm of the black and yellow ship. This game requires strong leadership and decisive action. That wasn’t forthcoming in the managers press conference though – he refused to be drawn on his team selection for this game.
Stoeger wasn’t silent though. He called for his team to be strong and show character. He isn’t wrong in asking for those traits from his lads. It’s fair to say it wasn’t evident in the disappointing display on Thursday night and will have to be for the remainder of the season if we are to claim one of the coveted top four spots. The performance against Eintracht Frankfurt last week is much more along the lines of what we are looking for. On Sunday, we need to be intense from the outset to beat a stubborn Hannover side.
Intensity requires pace and that is something that Jadon Sancho could provide on his return to the side. Christian Pulisic cannot say the same thing though and is still struggling – with a cold. Marco Reus and Omer Toprak are also unlikely to play due to minor muscular injuries. Definitely unavailable though are Shinji Kagawa, Andriy Yarmolenko and Erik Durm, while Sebastien Rode will miss the rest of the season due to groin surgery.
We may be missing one of the key men from our win last Sunday over Frankfurt but there is still enough in this team to get a result, and they will have to. After a period of grace in the Dortmund dugout questions are starting to be asked of Peter Stoeger. The exit from the Europa League on Thursday night was not acceptable. Red Bull Salzburg were a decent outfit but should have been comfortably beaten, despite their impressive European record. Failure to do so has seen judging eyes cast towards the boss. Indeed his contract runs until the end of the season and if he aims to extend his stay in Westphalia then qualification for Europe’s premier competition is imperative.
With eight games left in the Bundesliga, it’s likely eight wins are necessary to achieve that goal. Hannover, Signal Iduna Park, Sunday 18th March 2018 – one down?