Whilst not a derby in the truest sense, there will be an all-Lower Saxony clash in the 2. Bundesliga on Saturday as VfL Osnabrück host Hannover 96, who return to action after being spared last weekend.
Daniel Thioune’s side will be hoping to build on the draw against leaders Arminia Bielefeld last weekend, whilst Kenan Kocak have plenty of good vibes to draw upon after going into the coronabreak with just one defeat in six.
There is one man in purple they will have to pay specific attention to – the one all Osnabrück hopes could depend on.
Álvarez remains the danger man
Onsabrück are still without a victory in 2020 coming into this game. However, Marcos Álvarez’s stoppage time equaliser after coming off the bench against local rivals Bielefeld clearly meant a lot, with even the coach getting involved in the not-very-socially-distant goal celebrations.
Álvarez will join Cracovia in Poland next season, however he remains an important player for Thioune. He is the side’s top scorer with 11 goals this season but there is a sense he remains a better option from the bench than from the start.
Only four of his goals came from the bench, but he scores a goal every 53 minutes as a substitute, compared to a goal every 159 minutes as a starter. Nevertheless, he will be a big candidate to come into the team here, and either way, he is a man Hannover will have to watch and is vital if Osnabrück are to retain their second tier status.
Given Thioune’s rotation policy and the upcoming Englishewoche, further changes are likely to be made, given the likes of Lukas Gugganig, Etienne Amenyido and Benjamin Girth a chance to start. Maurice Trapp, who Thioune called “the best defender in the 3. Liga last season,” will be confident of keeping his place after signing a new four-year deal on Thursday. Anas Ouahim remains out, as do Simon Haubrock and Thomas Konrad.
Whoever starts, there is no doubt what Osnabrück want from this match. “The boys want to break the run,” said Thioune on Friday. “We want to win a football game again. That is our goal.”
Kocak hoping for more of the same
Hannover could only watch on as the rest of the league returned to action last week. Their game against Dynamo Dresden was postponed due to the coronavirus cases there. The team have been in quarantine camp since Sunday in a hotel next to the HDI-Arena and should be in good morale.
A good run before the break had moved them into the top half, although last week’s results saw them drop back down to eleventh in the table, and they are not completely out of relegation danger.
However there is more long-term stability with head coach Kenan Kocak and sporting director Gerhard Zuber now tied to longer contracts. There could be trouble in the waters with Martin Kind worrying over finances and reportedly even considering wage cuts, but that’s for the future.
“We are well prepared, have worked hard and are looking forward to a bit of normality,” exclaimed Kocak at his pre-match press conference. He is naturally hoping they can pick up where they left off with their convincing 3-0 victory over 1. FC Nürnberg in early March. “We played a really good game in Nuremberg, and even in the weeks before,” he continued. “We were in a really good place.”
They are expected to field a similar team to the one that played then. Sebastian Jung misses out though with muscular problems, whilst Felipe and Michael Ratajczak are also missing, but Linton Maina should make the game after a minor issue. Martin Hansen and Marcel Franke are now fit again, as are Timo Hübers and Jannes Horn following their brush with COVID-19.
The match on Sunday kicks off 13:30 CEST (12:30 BST, 7:30 EST). The game is live on Sky Sport in Germany and on betting sites in the UK and Republic of Ireland.