15:30 (CEST), Saturday 9th September, Volkswagen Arena (Wolfsburg, Germany)
Visitors Hannover will look to make it three wins from three as they make the short journey to Wolfsburg in Week 3.
Opponents Wolfsburg sit on three points after an opening day defeat to Borussia Dortmund and a victory last time out to Eintracht Frankfurt. Andries Jonker’s side faces a tough prospect in Hannover, as they are one of two sides yet to concede this season.
Hannover have shown in their first two encounters they will be no pushover, but can they surprise the masses with three wins in their opening fixtures or will Wolfsburg join them level on points at the end of the game?
Last Time Out
Eintracht Frankfurt 0-1 Wolfsburg
The Commerzbank-Arena was a happy hunting ground for Wolfsburg last season as they took a 2-0 victory against Frankfurt.
In similar fashion, Eintracht dominated proceedings early on, creating plenty of chances, but the fantastic Koen Casteels kept the scores tied.
Wolfsburg played mostly off the counter and that’s how they would score their one and only goal.
After Sebastian Haller’s shot rattled the post, Wolfsburg were off to the races with Joshua Guilovagui leading the charge. He steamed along the right wing before delivering the ball in the perfect area to Daniel Didavi, who only needed a tap in at the near post.
Wolfsburg were outplayed for most of the contest, but their strong defensive performance was good enough for three points
Hannover 1-0 Schalke
Hannover faced a tough proposition in Schalke in their home opener. André Breitenreiter’s side came out swinging, producing numerous good chances on the Schalke goal. If not for ‘keeper Ralf Fährmann, Hannover would have taken the lead.
An impressive pressing game from Hannover saw Schalke cough up the ball in dangerous areas and eventually, a goal ensued.
Thilo Kehrer’s soft pass was pounced on by Marko Bakalorz, making the easy pass to substitute Jonathas, who beat the on-rushing Fahrmann. In his first appearances since joining from Rubin Kazan, it’s the Brazilian’s first Bundesliga goal.
Hannover were worthy of the three points and are brimming with confidence, but can they replicate this effort on Saturday? We shall see.
Last time out against Eintracht Frankfurt, manager Andries Jonker produced a really defensive line-up with a flat back five. Mostly, it worked a treat, but thanks to the efforts of Koen Casteels, a clean sheet was obtained.
Marcel Tisserand, a new arrival from Ingolstadt on a season-long loan, will once again partner up with Robin Knoche, whilst Ignacio Camacho returns to central midfield.
Maximilian Arnold will play behind Mario Gomez and Divock Origi could make his Bundesliga debut, though most likely off the bench.
After a strong win over Schalke, André Breitenreiter will hope for the same intensity and desire which delivered all three points. Hannover had a different look playing a 4-3-3 instead of the 4-4-2 and it worked wonders.
I believe they will stick with the 4-3-3 as it gave them better opportunities to press higher with the three forwards able to apply more pressure to the defence.
Jonathas scored the one and only goal last time out, but will still have to come off the bench this time around.
Key Battle: Maximilian Arnold vs Pirmin Schwegler
A midfield battle between the two number 27s in this Northern derby with Germany U21 captain Maximilian Arnold battling Pirmin Schwegler.
Arnold produced an industrious performance last time out in Wolfsburg’s 1-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt, completing 31 passes, winning eight duels and covering 11.61 km.
Consistency is the key for Arnold, who has been in and out of the starting XI for Wolfsburg. Can he produce in front of the Wolfsburg faithful though?
Schwegler himself is coming off two solid outings to start proceedings. Against Mainz and Schalke, the Swiss midfielder has completed 58 passes at 81% accuracy, which is in the top three for Hannover players who have played at least 90 minutes.
Against Schalke, Schwegler covered 11.22 km, second behind teammate Waldemar Anton. Which workhorse in midfield will put in the hard yards to secure the points for their team on Saturday?
Clinical with possession
Wolfsburg will need to be smart with possession against a Hannover team who have a strong press as was showcased in Week 2.
If you take a look at how Hannover scored their goal against Schalke, Felix Klaus presses Thilo Kehrer in possession and with Jonathas near the 18-yard box and Marko Bakalorz cutting off the passing lane to Nabil Bentaleb, the only real options are back to the keeper or down the line.
Hannover force the error from Kehrer with the wayward pass, Bakalorz picks up the pieces and Jonathas celebrates the goal.
Wolfsburg will face situations like this on Saturday and they must remain composed and play the percentages to avoid the catastrophe above.
We have already seen both sides of Hannover this season. Away at Mainz they played on the counter and after absorbing relentless pressure, they produced predatory instincts and put their Week 1 opponents to the sword.
Last week, Hannover were ruthless without the ball, forcing Schalke into countless mistakes and it eventually led to a goal.
On both occasions, Hannover have built the pressure up and eventually their opponents have cracked.
The key for André Breitenreiter’s side is to repeat the process, apply the heat until it gets too hot in the kitchen and then strike the killer blow.
PREDICTION: Wolfsburg 0-0 Hannover
Both sides are coming off clean sheets and solid defensive displays, but the question remains: Which side will take the initiative at the Volkswagen Arena?
I expect a tight, cagey affair with chances few and far between with neither side able to break down the defence.
There's a good chance that if a goal comes it would be enough, but I don’t see that happening as the teams share the points.
Can Hannover leave the Volkswagen Arena with a perfect nine points or will Wolfsburg secure their first home win of the season? Let us know in the comments section below.
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