Mirko Slomka has warned his Hannover 96 side to expect a "very tight match" as they set out to defend their 2-1 lead away to Club Brugge KV in the round of 32 on Thursday.
Article top media content
Hannover 96 coach Mirko Slomka told UEFA.com he is expecting a "very tight match" in Thursday's UEFA Europa League round of 32 decider at Club Brugge KV.
The German side take a 2-1 lead to the Jan Breydelstadion thanks to strikes from Artur Sobiech and Jan Schlaudraff, but Maxime Lestienne's away goal in Germany means a 1-0 victory on home turf would send Club Brugge through to face either Wisła Kraków or R. Standard de Liège in the last 16.
"I still think our chances are 50-50," said Slomka, whose charges came from behind in the first leg to retain their unbeaten home record in this season's competition. "We've shown that we can beat Brugge, so perhaps that means our chances have increased slightly, but we'll definitely need at least one away goal to progress to the next round. Brugge are a different proposition at home and are sure to raise their game."
With the availability of leading marksman Mohammed Abdellaoue uncertain after the Norway forward was taken off early last Thursday with a foot complaint, Slomka may hand a starting berth to "super sub" Sobiech. Having struck a late leveller from the bench at 1. FSV Mainz 05 in the Bundesliga five days previously, the 21-year-old bundled in the all-important equaliser against Club Brugge within five minutes of entering the fray.
"Artur scored his first goal as a substitute last week and got another very important one for us [in the first leg]," said Slomka. "He had a difficult start to life at Hannover due to various niggling injuries but he's an incredible fighter. It was his hard work that led to [Schlaudraff's] penalty too. Many strikers would have let that ball run, but he was determined to get there first and ultimately it earned us the winner."
If Slomka gives both teams an equal chance of progress, his Club Brugge counterpart and compatriot Christoph Daum still rates Hannover as clear favourites. Nevertheless, the 58-year-old recognises the value of his side's away goal. "We can still rectify the situation," said the well-travelled tactician. "If we can make the most of our chances then it's still possible, especially with the power of our home fans behind us."