Hamburg-Hannover preview

Hamburg host one of the best counter-attacking sides in the Bundesliga tomorrow afternoon as Hannover come to town. After yet another abject defeat during the week, the 1983 Bundesliga champions are in dire need of three points against a Hannover side who are arguably north Germany’s finest at this moment in time. Coach Thorsten Fink will be relying on Mladen Petrić and Marcua Berg to break down one of the division’s toughest centre-back pairings in Karim Haggui and Mario Eggimann, not to mention hotshot goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler, with time running out for Hamburg to ensure they remain in 1. Bundesliga for the 50th successive season.

Their genuinely is cause for concern at Hamburg right now because the team are on a woeful run of form, having tasted victory in just one of their last nine games (and even that was against the all-but relegated Kaiserslautern several weekends ago). The miraculous turnaround inspired by coach Fink’s arrival towards the end of last year is now just a distant memory, and the only club who have spent every single season in Germany’s top-flight run the very real risk of dropping down into 2. Bundesliga. Admittedly, HSV are four points above the final automatic relegation spot with four games to, and two points above the relegation play-off spot, but Fink’s side have to play resurgent relegation rivals Augsburg on the final day of the season, whereas Cologne and Hertha Berlin – who occupy 16th and 17th place respectively – have games against two sides likely to have nothing left to play for in Bayern Munich and Hoffenheim (a team who beat Hamburg 4-0 on Wednesday).

Hannover, meanwhile, have a fight on their hands to qualify for next season’s Europa League. Mirko Slomka’s side, who were knocked out at the quarter-final stage of this season’s edition of the competition by Atlético Madrid a few weeks back, are currently in seventh place in the table (which would be good enough to qualify), but three teams are breathing down their necks in Werder Bremen, Hoffenheim and Wolfsburg. With a new strike partnership discovered in Didier Ya Konan and Mame Biram Diouf (both of whom scored in the 2-0 win against Wolfsburg in the week), keeping top-scorer Mohammed Abdellaoue on the bench and the talismanic Jan Schlaudraff on the wing, Slomka’s side have been very entertaining in recent weeks. However, they have only won three of their last eight games, and Diouf ruptured his ankle ligaments  in training against Wolfsburg.

When these two sides met in Hannover back in November, the game finished 1-1. At the Imtech Arena in April last season, meanwhile, the sides shared a 0-0 draw, doing Hannover’s bid to pip Bayern Munich to Champions League qualification significant harm. The two sides also played out a 0-0 draw in Hamburg during the 2009/10 season, which doesn’t bode well. No player in either squad has played for both clubs, but this game is something of a north German derby, with the two cities just 93 miles apart. Looking at the statistics, you’d be best advised to put your money on this one ending in a draw, as Hamburg have struggled to win at home this season, while Hannover have picked up only two wins on the road.

Along with the aforementioned Diouf, Hannover are also without Lars Stindl (a winger who has mainly been on the bench this season), and Abdellaoue through injury. Hamburg are expected to be without at least three players – injured defenders Dennis Diekmeier and Slobodan Rajković, plus suspended striker José Paolo Guerrero.

Speaking ahead of the game, Fink said: “The victory at Kaiserslautern shows that the boys can meet a lot of pressure situations. I will get the players motivated for the game and transfer my power and energy to the team – that’s my job.” As for his squad’s injuries, Slomka noted: “Moaning gets us nowhere, we have just got to get on with it for the last four games of the season.”

Hamburg against Hannover kicks off at 2.30pm (UK time) tomorrow afternoon. It can be watched, live, on Bet365.com. The referee will be Günter Perl, who took charge of the 1-1 draw between Hamburg and Wolfsburg in October.

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