Schalke 04 will entertain Hannover 96 in the first Bundesliga game of 2013 on Friday, bringing to an end the month long winter break in Germany.
It is also Jens Keller’s first Bundesliga game in charge of Schalke, after the dismissal of Huub Stevens in December. Keller, and the fans, will want Schalke to hit the ground running and get back to winning ways after a poor run of results, which has seen them win only one out of their last eight Bundesliga matches. Whilst the visitors have won only twice on the road in their last 15 away Bundesliga matches.
Last time the two teams met was on the opening weekend of the season, ending in a 2-2 draw at Hannover’s AWD-Arena.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Lewis Holtby both scored in that match, and have both recently seen their futures resolved, after long running speculation on where their possible destinations may be. Huntelaar has decided to stay with the Royal Blues, whilst Holtby has agreed to transfer to Tottenham Hotspur in the summer. Schalke will hope that the two players can concentrate fully on their football now their futures are clear and push the Gelsenkirchen side back into the Champions League places.
Hannover will hope Szabolcs Huszti produces one of his superb performances, which he has shown on more than one occasion in the first half of the season. The Hungarian has five goals and seven assists to his name currently in the Bundesliga. Added to that will be the potency in front of goal by Senegalese striker Mame Biram Diouf. The ex-Manchester United forward has hit the back of the net on six occasions in the league so far, making him Hannover’s top goal scorer.
Despite being in 7th position, Schalke are only five points away from that fourth Champions League spot. Hannover are two points behind their hosts, lying in 11th place going into the second half of the season.
Both teams have entered into the January transfer market already as they aim to strengthen their sides.
Schalke have signed ex-Hertha Berlin midfielder Raffael on loan until the end of the season from Dynamo Kiev. With the duo of Ibrahim Afellay and Christoph Moritz out through injury, Raffael can be a suitable replacement.
Hannover 96 could give a debut to two winter signings in Swiss international defender, Johan Djourou, who is on loan from Arsenal until the end of the season and Brazilian 21 year old, Franca, after his arrival from Brazilian first-division club Coritiba FC.
With Schalke lacking in confidence and the mysterious away form lingering over Hannover, a score draw looks likely at the Veltins Arena.
Where To Watch Online: Schalke 04 vs. Hannover 96
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