German Bundesliga resumes with a match between Schalke and Hannover, two teams hoping to show some improvement following the poor finish of the first part of the league campaign.
Schalke enjoyed a bright start to the season, doing well in both Bundesliga and Champions League, but the poor finish of the year created all sorts of problems.
Five-match winless run in Bundesliga saw the Miners slip to seventh in the overall standings, meaning they are now no less than five points behind fourth-placed Eintracht.
After Ibrahim Afellay picked up a serious thigh injury during the winter break, the club signed former Hertha forward Raffael on loan from Dynamo Kiev, but the Brazilian is expected to start on the bench.
With Klaas Han Huntelaar missing out through suspension, Ciprian Marica will act as a lone forward, while Tottenham-bound Lewis Holtby will play just behind him.
Given that Jermaine Jones, Kiriakos Papadopoulos, Ibrahim Afellay and Christoph Moritz also miss out, there is no value in odds of 1.70 (7/10) offered at Sportingbet on home win.
Probable starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Hildebrand – Uchida, Howedes, Matip, Fuchs – Hoeger, Neustadter – Farfan, Holtby, Draxler – Marica.
Hannover, too, hope to make amends for the somewhat slow start to the season, with the team desperate to return to the top half of the standings.
After his team secured their place in Europa League knockout stages, boss Mirko Slomka made it clear he would need to add few more players to the ranks in January, and club officials duly obliged.
Johan Djourou, Andre Hoffmann and Franca all arrived in January, while the 96ers narrowly missed out on HSV midfielder Gojko Kacar.
Boosted by the heavy winter recruitment, Hannover will attempt to surprise severely weakened Schalke, so bear in mind away win pays 5.00 (4/1) at Coral.
New signing Johan Djourou will slot straight into the starting line-up, but Steven Cherundolo, Felipe, Christian Schulz, Leon Andreasen, Franca, Lars Stindl and Didier Ya Konan are all unavailable.
Probable starting line-up (4-2-2-2): Zieler – H. Sakai, Eggimann, Djourou, Rausch – Schmiedebach, da Silva Pinto – Schlaudraff, Huszti – Abdellaoue, Diouf.
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