Reigning Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich will travel north to the HDI Arena this weekend, as they gear up to take on relegation battlers Hannover 96.

Bayern Munich will lock horns against a struggling Hannover side this Saturday in matchweek 15 of the 2018-19 Bundesliga, as they look to pick up their third league consecutive win.

The Bavarian giants have made an uncharacteristically poor start to their Bundesliga campaign and find themselves in the third position currently, nine points behind leaders and arch rivals Borussia Dortmund. They have picked up back to back victories in the league against Werder Bremen and Nurnberg, but were held to a 3-3 draw by Ajax in the UEFA Champions League earlier this week.

Manager Niko Kovac will be eager not to lose further ground in the title race and will be aiming to guide his team to a victory at the HDI Arena to keep up pace with the league leaders.

Hannover, on the other hand, are stationed 17th in the table, just a point better off than bottom dwellers Fortuna Dusseldorf. Andre Breitenreiter’s side have picked up just two victories so far in the 2018-19 campaign and boast the third-worst defensive record in the German top-flight.

Last time they were in action, the Reds were held to a 1-1 draw by FSV Mainz away from home. Going up against the reigning champions, Hannover will have a huge task at their hands to at least eke out a draw against the Bavarians this weekend.

Team News & Tactics

Hannover

Defender Oliver Sorg is suspended for the home team, after being sent off in the last week’s game against Mainz. Forward Ihlas Bebou remains a major doubt to be involved for Hannover this weekend, while Timo Hubers and Edgar Prib also remain sidelined.

Going up against the big teams, manager Breitenreiter has opted for a three-man backline and that is very much likely to be the case when Bayern come visiting on Saturday. In goal, Michael Esser has been the preferred option and will stay so for the weekend game.

With Sorg suspended, Josip Elez could return to the starting XI in the three-man defence, alongside Waldemar Anton and Kevin Wimmer. The trio will have their hands full coping with a dangerous Bayern attack. 28-year-old Miiko Albornoz and Julian Korb are likely to take up the wing-back slots on the left and right sides respectively.

Walace and Pirmin Schwegler will be tasked with holding the fort in the middle of the park and thwarting the visitors from settling into their rhythm. 20-year-old attacking midfielder Florent Muslija is likely to get the nod in the No.10 role to try and create chances for his teammates.

The two-pronged strikeforce for Hannover is likely to feature their top goalscorers for the season with three goals each – Hendrik Weydandt and Bobby Wood.

Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Esser; Elez, Anton, Wimmer; Korb, Walace, Schwegler, Albornoz; Muslija; Wood, Weydandt;

Bayern Munich

Arjen Robben is yet to recover from his injury troubles and will not feature for Bayern until the new year. James Rodriguez has started light training, but is still not fit enough to play, while Corentin Tolisso remains a long-term absentee for Kovac’s side.

Having used the same starting XI for four matches in a row now, the manager could rotate his troops on Saturday as there are likely to be some tired legs after their European assignment on Wednesday. No changes are expected under the woodwork, however, with Manuel Neuer the certain starter.

Joshua Kimmich is likely to move back to the right-back slot in place of Rafinha, while David Alba should continue as the left-sided full-back for the Bavarian giants. At the heart of the defence it will be the partnership of Niklas Sule and Jerome Boateng.

Thiago Alcantara is in line to make his first start since returning from injury not very long ago. He should take up one of the two pivot positions in the middle of the park, with the second position likely to be occupied by summer signing Leon Goretzka.

With Robben unavailable, in-form man Serge Gnabry is assured of a starting berth on the right side, while Franck Ribery could be given a breather on Saturday, with Kingsley Coman likely to step in for his fellow countryman. Thomas Muller, who was sent off against Ajax during the midweek, will feature from the get-go, in behind the main striker Robert Lewandowski.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Kimmich, Sule, Boateng, Alaba; Thiago, Goretzka; Gnabry, Muller, Coman; Lewandowski;

Key Stats

  • Hannover and Bayern meet for the 57th time in the Bundesliga this weekend. The Bavarians have won 39 of the clashes to date (D8 L9), including each of the last 11.
  • Hannover have suffered more Bundesliga defeats (39) and conceded more top-flight goals (154) against Bayern than versus other side.
  • Seven different Bayern players have scored braces in the last nine matches against Hannover in the Bundesliga.
  • Despite back to back victories, Bayern’s total of 27 points from 14 games is their lowest at this stage since 2010-11 (23 under Louis van Gaal).
  • Hannover have kept just one clean sheet in their 31 Bundesliga games in 2018 (0-0 against Dortmund on matchday 2) – fewer than any other side who has spent the entire year in the top flight.

Player to Watch

Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)

Set to make his 300th Bundesliga appearance (Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Set to make his 300th Bundesliga appearance (Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images)

The 2018-19 season hasn’t been the most productive one for Thomas Muller. So far this term, the 29-year-old has scored and assisted five goals apiece in 22 matches across all competitions.

Fresh after being sent off for a dangerously high boot going into a challenge against Ajax defender Nicolas Tagliafico, the Bayern Munich superstar will be out to redeem himself on Saturday with a match-winning performance on what will be a special evening for him as he is set to make his 300th Bundesliga appearance.

Prediction

Hannover 0-3 Bayern Munich

Bayern may not have started the season on the best of notes, but have shown signs of improvement in recent fixtures, notching up back to back wins in the Bundesliga. On the other hand, Hannover have lost four of their last six matches and have been found wanting in both halves of the pitch.

Given the excellent record that Bayern boast against their weekend’s opponents and taking into factor the form that the two teams are in heading into the fixture, an easy victory for Niko Kovac’s men seems the most probable outcome at the HDI Arena this Saturday.