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Bundesliga

Slomka returns home to relegation-stricken Hannover

The Hamburg coach was sacked earlier in the season after three successful years at his hometown side. But he returns looking to pile on the misery at his old home in a dog-eat-dog relegation battle.

Mirko Slomka will make a nostalgic walk down the tunnel at the HDI-Arena on Saturday in his hometown of Hanover - but will head for the away dugout on this occasion. Standing in the home technical area will be his successor: Tayfun Korkut.

Korkut learned his trade as an assistant coach, in Spain, the Bundesliga and then with the Turkish national team, before Slomka's dismissal 105 days ago. While the Hamburg coach has a long-standing bond with the club and the city, he won't show much mercy towards the home side in turmoil. "I have no sympathy with Hannover 96," Slomka said.

Crucial six-pointer

Hannover are on a rapid descent. Despite having, arguably, the easier selection of fixtures, they have managed only a single win in the last nine league matches. This has sucked Korkut's men towards the gaping relegation hole, as the likes of Hamburg, Werder Bremen and Eintracht Frankfurt have admirably tightened the gap between the bottom and middle-pack.

Former Turkish international Korkut received the dreaded vote of confidence this week from his Chairman Martin Kind. "There will be no dismissal at 96," Kind added. However, a defeat to Hamburg would see the Reds slip, at least, one place further down the table with only two points separating the two teams.

Hannover's 3-0 derby defeat to basement side Eintracht Braunschweig was described as a "catastrophe" by sporting director Dirk Düfner. "We shouldn't be worrying about Hamburg, but rather see this is a good opportunity to increase the gap," Korkut said while also demanding "more passion" from his side.

Meanwhile, former Hannover coach Slomka has garnered enough momentum to re-install some confidence in the Hamburg team following a 2-1 win last week against Bayer Leverkusen.

One bit of bad news for the former European Cup winners was that Pierre-Michel Lasogga, the club's top goalscorer, will be out for a further two weeks. He should return for some vital matches in the last few weeks against Augsburg, Bayern Munich and Mainz. "He is now in Munich again for treatment," Slomka confirmed.

Der Klassiker

Roman Weidenfeller has impressed in matches against Bayern in the past.

Will pride alone be enough to inspire Weidenfeller and Dortmund against Bayern?

Borussia Dortmund's trip to champions Bayern Munich appears the most mouth-watering spectacle, on paper, but there is nothing but pride at stake. The two teams have higher priorities next week with DFB Pokal semifinals on the horizon on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp sarcastically described this weekend as the "perfect time" for a clash with Bayern between Real Madrid and the semi-final against Wolfsburg. "We do not intend to give anything away," Klopp insisted.

Dortmund are 20 points behind Bayern in the table, but have a 10-point cushion from fourth place. The club's expectation is to guarantee another spot in the Champions League for next season with second and third finishes securing a Group Stage entry.

"The Bundesliga is over," Klopp's counterpart Pep Guardiola said. "Now, the most important match is the DFB Pokal semi-final with Kaiserslautern. This is the truth."

Elsewhere, there are several matches involving teams stuck at the bottom of the league. Stuttgart, firstly, travel to Borussia Mönchengladbach, while at the same time, Freiburg entertain Eintracht Braunschweig. Another struggling side in Nuremberg are on the road to face Wolfsburg on Saturday afternoon (15:30 CEST).

On Sunday, Bayer Leverkusen face Hertha Berlin (15:30 CEST) and then, Hoffenheim take on Augsburg (17:30 CEST).

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