Barca looms, but first, Hannover

Posted by Susie Schaaf

While Hamburg's Rafael van der Vaart was busy opining that Bayern Munich have no chance against Barcelona -- "When both sides meet, Bayern will only have 30 per cent possession or so. Barca always have the ball. Their system is unbelievable. The Bundesliga has reached new heights this season and is the most interesting league in my opinion. I do not think Bayern have a chance against Barca, though." -- there was an open media day at the Saebener Strasse.

According to Bayern's website, 60 reporters (25 of them Spanish) showed up at the training center to grill Jupp Heynckes, Franck Ribery, Javi Martinez and the ever-dour Matthias Sammer on Bayern's insignificant match against a little Catalan club next week. Sammer saying: "Barcelona have shaped European club football for many years, and were the role model for many stages of the game -- and I'm hoping I'm right with 'were'. We want to grow into something, but we're not anything yet."

Heynckes seemed unconcerned about missing Mario Mandzukic for the first tie. "It's not causing me any headaches," said Heynckes, "I have [Mario] Gomez, the second-highest scorer in the Champions League last season, and Pizarro, the non-German player with the most goals in Bundesliga history."

But before that tasty little match on Tuesday, Bayern Munich travels to Hannover Saturday. The Hannoverians have not lost at home for eight consecutive matches, and Martin Slomka's men are just four points out of the last European spot in the Bundesliga.

A 3-1 defeat away to Freiburg last Friday threw a little wrench in to their grand European plans. Christian Schultz bagged an own goal, while Max Kruse and Jonathan Schmid finished for Freiburg. Konstantin Rausch, the scorer of Hannover's last three goals, was able to pull one back for (the other) die Roten, but that lone goal would not be enough for points.

Joerg Schmadtke, director of sport for Hannover since 2009, insisted he be let out of his contract on April 20th -- the day Bayern Munich comes to town. Although Hannover president Martin Kind would've preferred Schmadtke to stay on, the former Duesseldorf and Freiburg 'keeper has decided to depart. "This is a very intense emotional time for me," Schmadtke said, "I thank the management, staff and fans for their strong support."

An upper-level management issue does not bode well for Hannover, a team that needs everything to go perfectly to defeat Bayern with the newly-crowned league winners having collected 78 out of a possible 87 points.

Heynckes and the boys have now proved to the Bundesliga that it doesn't really matter who their Startelf is ("We're Bayern Munich, we'll start who we want!), so you can expect, perhaps, a blended line-up of who needs minutes before the Barcelona match, and who needs a break before Tuesday -- understanding that a three-day turnaround is not optimal.

Jerome Boateng has returned to training, as well as intestinally-challenged David Alaba, but interesting choices for Heynckes abound for Saturday's Hannover match. Diego Contento has been marvelous in Alaba's stead, and the "Daniel van Buyten or Jerome Boateng" question remains open for debate. Heynckes' eleven Saturday might not give us any clues as to who will start Tuesday, but it will certainly be an entertaining ride.

Auf geht's!

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