The good times roll on for Hannover 96. Two wins out of two in the Bundesliga, they look ready to continue the upward trajectory that saw them come from nowhere to finish fourth last season, earning a return to European action after a 19-year absence. In between they had sunk as low as Germany's fourth tier and as they prepare to face Sevilla FC in the UEFA Europa League play-offs, coach Mirko Slomka tells UEFA.com his charges have nothing to lose.
UEFA.com: People said Hannover overachieved last term but two games into the season you are right up there again. Does that surprise you?
Mirko Slomka: No, I am not surprised, just very happy. We have great faith in our team. The pre-season signs were good – the desire to perform and team spirit were both evident and those were qualities we showed last season. It is nice we have had such a good start. I am sure no one underestimates us, though. We have to work very hard for our success. Nothing comes easy for us. But we are being taken very seriously in the Bundesliga.
UEFA.com: Hannover's first European match in two decades will be against Sevilla. Is that a dream draw or a nightmare?
Slomka: It is a great draw for the fans who will get to see a big team. For us it is a difficult task because we are playing the top-seeded team.
We want to give as good as we get but that will only happen if we cut out any mistakes and give it everything. With our fans behind us on Thursday we want to get a result in the home first leg. I am looking forward to it.
UEFA.com: Sevilla are hardly an unknown quantity, not least given you coached Arouna Koné and Ivan Rakitić at Hannover and Schalke, and you also know Piotr Trochowski. Is that an advantage?
Slomka: For Sevilla maybe, because these players know Hannover very well from their time in the Bundesliga. We have prepared very thoroughly. Let's see how things turn out. They have vast European experience, excellent individual players and are a top side in Spain. It will be incredibly difficult: their strengths far outstrip their weaknesses.
UEFA.com: Thursday's game sold out inside two hours. How do you prepare your players to deal with such great excitement?
Slomka: Last season we beat FC Bayern in Hannover. We are playing very well tactically and maybe that will be enough to pose Sevilla problems. If we are to have a chance, everything has to work in our favour. We have to perform well in all departments. Sevilla have a lot to lose whereas we can only win.
UEFA.com: Do you get the impression expectations have risen among supporters, from those you meet around the city?
Slomka: Our fans are great. They always wish us luck and ask how the team are doing. The whole city supports this club. That's great and it's something we have worked hard at.
If the supporters possibly have higher expectations then that's absolutely fine. We don't want to deny them that. It is important we judge our performances realistically and I have no doubt we will.
UEFA.com: There hasn't been any major investment since last term, with your starting XI so far composed exclusively of players who finished last season with you. Is that a negative?
Slomka: We have quite a lot of players who have not yet reached their peak and can develop further within this team. Also, in Christian Pander, Henning Hauger and Artur Sobiech we have signed top-quality internationals. Samuel Radlinger is a great goalkeeping talent from Austria who's just 18 and has real potential. We will need a big squad if we are to compete in all three competitions [Bundesliga, German Cup and UEFA Europa League]. We have strengthened our options.
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