Europe is gone for now in Hannover, as last season couldn’t end fast enough for the supporters and the team. Over the summer, the team has changed quite a bit, but it’s unclear what these changes will amount to.
“We want to qualify for the Europa League.” This aim is clear in Hannover, after boss Mirko Slomka’s squad missed out on qualifying for Europe (and deservedly so!) during the 2012/13 campaign. Injuries and lack of form accumulated to prevent another great season for the 96ers. The defense especially was a let-down as Hannover had the third worst defensive record in the Bundesliga, conceding 62 goals in the league.
Defenders Konstantin Rausch, Mario Eggimann and Johan Djourou (after his 6-month-loan from Arsenal) left and were replaced by Salif Sané (AS Nancy), Florian Ballas (1. FC Nürnberg II) and Marcelo (PSV Eindhoven). In midfield, the contract of Sergio da Silva Pinto was not renewed, with the Portuguese midfielder joining UD Levante in Spain. In turn, Leonardo Bittencourt and Edgar Prib joined the team from Borussia Dortmund and Greuther Fürth respectively, bringing more creativity into the 96ers midefield.
As the Hannover moved to a 4-2-3-1 from a 4-4-2 last season, the need for a better equipped midfield has grown. It was also clear that 4-5 strikers were too many to keep on the books at once. So Moa Abdellaoue was let go to Stuttgart after his form had dropped in the last months. Also, even though the season has already started, there are still rumours about Mame Diouf being very close to a move to Stoke City in the Premier League before his contract expires in 2014. A possible transfer would leave coach Slomka with only Artur Sobiech and Didier Ya Konan as strikers, the latter still not back to full fitness. From the reserve side, Deniz Kadah might not be the quality back-up the team is looking for, so they might need to reinvest money in another striker late in the transfer window, if the Diouf deal happens.
In midfield, Edgar Prib seems to have conquered the role of Jan Schlaudraff, while the Hungarian Szabolcs Huszti is back to full fitness on the left flank and Leonardo Bittencourt is the first choice on the right wing. The defensive midfield is occupied with Lars Stindl, the new captain in absence of the still-injured Steve Cherundolo, and Leon Andreasen, the eternal comeback kid.
The defense seems a little bit more stable in front of the ever-reliable Ron-Robert Zieler. Salif Sané seems to be a certain starter alongside either Christian Schulz or Karim Haggui, while Christian Pander has the left-back position ahead of Sebastien Pocognoli and Hiroki Sakai gets to play on the other side for now.
- Christopher Avevor (FC St. Pauli)
- Florian Ballas (1. FC Nürnberg reserves)
- Leonardo Bittencourt (Borussia Dortmund)
- Konstantin Fuhry (VfB Stuttgart U19)
- Ali Gökdemir (own reserves)
- Deniz Kadah (own reserves)
- Almir Kasumovic (own youth team)
- Marcelo (PSV Eindhoven)
- Edgar Prib (Greuther Fürth)
- Salif Sané (AS Nancy)
- Mohammed Abdellaoue (VfB Stuttgart)
- Deniz Aycicek (MSV Duisburg)
- Sergio da Silva Pinto (UD Levante)
- Johan Djourou (Hamburger SV)
- Mario Eggimann (1. FC Union Berlin)
- Niko Gießelmann (Greuther Fürth)
- Samuel Radlinger (Rapid Wien)
- Konstantin Rausch (VfB Stuttgart)
- Daniel Royer (Austria Wien)
- Sascha Schünemann (FC Hansa Rostock)
- Sofian Chahed (no new club)
Hannover began by touring a few local clubs and won all these matches pretty comfortably, yet these training matches and hardly tell a story. Preseason preparations were overshadowed by a massive number of injuries in the squad. At one point, 13 players were unable to train. The official season opener in their own stadium against PSV Eindhoven was played by the fittest players rather than by best players, with the Dutch running out 3-0 winners. During training camp, the 96ers also faced West Bromwich Albion, beating them 2-1. The first official match for 2013/14 was a 2-0 win in the first round of the DFB Pokal against Victoria Hamburg, but there was still much left to be desired from that match, as it was clear that the club was not yet at 100%.
Squad, coach and management all want to get into the Europa League. The money, the prestige and the memories are missed this season. Given that the team had a pre-season full of injuries, the first team will have to get used to each other in the first matches of the season and hope for a quick understanding. To enter Europe via the Pokal has become much more difficult due to the draw sending them to Munich to play treble winners FC Bayern in the 2nd round. As for the league, it was already clear to see in the previous campaign that a number of clubs hope to get one of the European spots. Hannover will try to compete for them but are rather an outside bet. President Martin Kind even talked about places 3 to 6 for his team but that is not really feasible and he might have been asleep and dreaming when he said that. Hannover will finish in the top half of the table, but not in the top 6.
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