Two teams from polar opposite ends of Germany but very similar positions in the Bundesliga table meet later on this afternoon in an early-season six-pointer. Rock-bottom HSV make the seven-hour trip south to Freiburg, knowing that a two-goal margin victory would be enough to leapfrog their hosts into the heady heights of 16th position. Despite a two-week international break – during which both clubs saw players called up to represent countries in a variety of continents – making the sides’ last league fixtures seem like they took place a lifetime ago, the players and staff at Hamburg will remember far too clearly what it felt like to be beaten 2-1 at home to Schalke, and will be keen to make amends. Although their newly-appointed coach, Thorsten Fink, won’t be on the bench for this fixture, it nevertheless provides the perfect opportunity for those selected to show the new man what they can do.
One player who is looking forward to Fink’s arrival is winger Ivo Iličević. The deadline day signing from Kaiserslautern is yet to make his début for HSV after serving a suspension carried over from his last club, and being hit by injury. But, the 24-year-old Croat is now ready to show Fink what he can do, and this week stated: “I have heard that he likes his teams to play attacking football down the wings.” Despite Iličević declaring himself 100 per cent fit and ready to play, interim coach Frank Arnesen is likely to select Lam Zhi Gin and Gökhan Töre for the match at the Badenova-stadion: the two youngsters have been in mesmerising form down the channels in recent weeks, while injury-prone Romeo Castelen has become the first port of call from the bench. With Iličević back, Arnesen is well and truly blessed in the fitness department for this game, with no one note of missing. Therefore, as club manager as well as coach for today’s game, the Dutchman knows more than anyone that his expensively-assembled squad simply have to take three points from this clash.
Freiburg coach Marcus Sorg, on the other hand, is still feeling his way into the Bundesliga, and his weak squad has too often seemed on low on confidence, or incapable of enacting the 45-year-old’s preferred short-passing style of football. Sorg, who is expected to hand new signing Andreas Hinkel his debut at the first available opportunity at right-back (because Mensur Mujdža is ruled out through injury), seems particularly confident coming into this game. And why not – last time out, his side defeated high-flying Borussia Mönchengladbach. Sorg said: “We want to again play with great passion and we will do everything we can to keep the points here.” Nevertheless, his opposite number, Arnesen, is convinced that Sorg’s side don’t have what it takes to trouble his HSV outfit: “We need the right tactics and must exploit Freiburg’s weaknesses,” the former Chelsea sporting director said. Whether or not Hamburg’s leaky defence can keep in-form Papiss Demba Cissé quiet, though, remains to be seen.
Freiburg vs Hamburg kicks off at 2.30pm in the UK, and can be watched live on Bet365.com.