Schalke 04 - Hannover 96 Preview: Di Matteo's Schalke looking to start Rückrunde on a high
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It’s been a long five weeks but the Bundesliga is back. Schalke manager Roberto Di Matteo now has his plans and philosophy across and set, ready for the Ruckrunde and to build on their topsy-turvy Hinrunde, which saw the departure of Jens Keller. 40-year-old Tayfun Korkut has a chance to put a spanner in the works of Schalke plans for the coming second half of the season. On the season opener, Hannover shocked Schalke and marred a glistening start to their season in August after they beat the Royal Blues.

Team news for the home side, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting early exit from African Cup of Nations meant that he only returned on Friday morning, but that does not rule out a potential place in the squad. "He's played three games in eight days so we've got to see how he feels," said Di Matteo. "We'll only decide whether he makes the squad after our final training session." New signing Matija Nastasic is expected to make his debut following his loan move from English champions Manchester City, however, and Fabian Giefer is set to replace the dependable Ralf Fährmann in goal, who has been ruled out injured.

A late influx of confirmed transfers on the transfer market has seen Hannover boost their squad. Unfortunately for Korkut, neither Didier Ya Konan nor Joao Pereira are expected to start on Saturday.

Christian Fuchs : "The sweating and intensive training is over - the whole team are now looking forward to the duel with Hannover."

Tayfun Korkut (Hannover coach): "We've got a chance to start the year positively and we've got to come away with something from Schalke."

Just three points separate the sides in fifth and eighth respectively.  Schalke’s end to the year was a very impressive, losing just once, drawing one and winning three of their remaining five games. Wins against Mainz (4-1), Stuttgart (0-4) and Paderborn (1-2) saw Di Matteo’s side rise into the European places.

Hannover’s run up until the winter break was rather shaky, they won one, drew two and lost two, those losses coming against Hoffenheim (4-3) and at home to Wolfsburg (1-3). Both managers conceded that warm-up games and Bundesliga fixtures are incomparable, but if you were to look at the results over the winter Hannover’s form over the break would put them contenders for this match.

Schalke have lost just 1 of our last 14 competitive home games against Hannover 96, that loss coming in 2010/11 where Abdellaoue and Rausch scored the winning goals over the home side. In the last three home games between the two there has been 14 goals (Schalke 2-0 Hannover 2013/14, Schalke 5-4 Hannover 2012/13 and Schalke 3-0 Hannover 2011/12)

Possible line-ups:

Schalke: Giefer - Höwedes, Kirchhoff, Nastasic - Uchida, Fuchs - Neustädter - Höger, Meyer - Boateng, Huntelaar

Hannover: Zieler - Sakai, Marcelo, Schulz, Albornoz - Gülselam, Schmiedebach - Briand, Stindl, Bittencourt - Joselu