It will be first versus second-from-bottom on Saturday when BVB host Hannover 96 (15.30 CET), but for sporting director Michael Zorc, the distance separating the two sides in the table represents a potential stumbling block. ''I have to warn everyone that the three points are far from secure. We need the same level of concentration that we had in Leipzig!''

Head coach Lucien Favre is striving for an important three points and in his pre-match press conference, he was quick to highlight the opposition's strengths: ''While it's true that Hannover lost their last match, I've seen a few games of theirs in which they've played really well. For example, they drew 1-1 in Freiburg and had far more goal-scoring opportunities than their opponents. This was against a Freiburg side that had just come off the back of 3-0 and 2-0 wins against Leipzig and Gladbach respectively. That tells you all you need to know.'' Zorc sent out a further warning: ''They're not well-placed in the table and are under a lot of pressure. This means that they'll come out fighting with everything they've got.''

The 0-0 draw in the equivalent fixture before the winter break (Zorc: ''They caused us real problems''), as well as the most recent meeting at SIGNAL IDUNA PARK (''We haven't always set the world alight against them at home''), should both serve as reminders for the league-leaders that teams battling relegation should never be underestimated. This is more evident than ever this time round in light of the ongoing defensive personnel crisis: Manuel Akanji and Dan-Axel Zagadou are still out injured, with Ömer Toprak potentially able to make his return to the match day squad. ''He's been training,'' said Favre, without revealing whether or not he can make plans involving the central defender: ''We'll have to wait until tomorrow.''

As to when exactly Dan-Axel Zagadou will return to the side, the coach had the following to say: ''It's hard to give a precise answer. He's been running during the week - the ball hasn't been involved just yet, but he's done a few sprints. It's a good situation which we're really happy with. He'll get there step by step, but Saturday will come too soon.''

This means that Julian Weigl will once more be required to help out in the heart of defense. The midfield specialist has left a strong and stable impression during his appearances in the recent matches against Gladbach and Leipzig.  ''It hasn't been easy for him,'' said Zorc. ''He was an established first-team player for a long time and then he had a long spell on the sidelines with an injury. He's always conducted himself in an extremely professional manner and now he's giving us exceptional performances in his new role. We're happy to have him.''

While Marco Reus has been able to shake off an injury picked up in training last week (Favre: ''He's trained all week. He's doing well.''), there are question marks regarding the fitness of his deputy: ''Maximilian Philipp has done individual runs,'' said Favre, before adding with a note of caution: ''That alone is really positive.'' (br)