Hannover hopes to continue unbeaten start
Stuttgart, Germany – Hannover was the lone Bundesliga club to escape the first four weeks of the season without a defeat, and manager Mirko Slomka said this week, "obviously our aim is to keep it that way."
In addition to two wins and two draws, "we've probably drawn one too many," he added, Hannover has followed last season's fourth-place finish with a pair of wins over Sevilla in the Europa League and a win in the German Cup.
Despite the unbeaten start, Hannover sits behind three clubs - Bayern Munich, Schalke and Werder Bremen - in the standings, and still has work to do to stay near the top of the table.
Hannover visits Stuttgart on Saturday, when Bayern hosts Freiburg and reigning champions Borussia Dortmund hosts Hertha Berlin. Werder Bremen hosts Hamburg, Mainz hosts Hoffenheim, and Monchengladbach hosts Kaiserslautern also.
On Sunday, Cologne hosts Nurnberg and Wolfsburg hosts Schalke. Augsburg hosts Bayer Leverkusen on Friday to kick off the week's action.
Hannover has scored just six goals through four league games, but also allowed four as it walks a tightrope early this season. Mohammed Abdellaoue has scored half of those goals, but Didier Ya Konan has yet to score.
Ya Konan was a major factor last season, when Hannover challenged for a finish among the top three and a berth in the Champions League, but has not played a significant role so far this season.
Slomko was certain that Ya Konan will be more involved as the season moves on.
"You can take it from me," he told the Bundesliga website, "that Ya Konan will again play an important role for us this season."
Bayern sits atop the table after three straight victories, and has not lost to Freiburg in over a decade. Although injury concern Mario Gomez is expected to play, "the hamstring's in good shape," he said this week, Dutch winger Arjen Robben is unlikely to feature.
Bayern begins Champions League play Wednesday at Villarreal, and Robben likely won't be risked ahead of the visit to Spain. Robben has been dealing with back and groin injuries.
With just one goal allowed this season, in a 1-0 defeat to Monchengladbach the opening week, Bayern has set a club record with just one goal allowed in its first seven matches with Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng and Rafinha added to the defense.
"We need to pick up where we left off against Kaiserslautern (a 3-0 win before the international break)," defender Rafinha said, "and take the three points."
Winless Hamburg, which has three losses and a draw, visits Werder in a crucial match, while Mainz and Hoffenheim will battle for their third win of the year.
Kaiserslautern is also winless, but Gladbach is just two points off the top as it has two wins and a draw in four games.
Schalke is off to a promising start with three wins in four matches, and could go top Sunday against one-win Wolfsburg. Nurnberg will look for its third win of the campaign at Cologne.