Wolfsburg - Closing out an incredible week of Bundesliga action, VfL Wolfsburg host the league's only ever-presents Hamburger SV on Sunday (kick-off 17:30 CET). While the Wolves are looking to bounce back from a humbling defeat to Gladbach, HSV are hoping to move within a place of the European qualification spots.
A win in Matchday 15's final encounter would see Thorsten Fink's side draw level on points with high-flying 1. FSV Mainz 05, currently in sixth place, a situation Wolfsburg will have been hoping to be in at the start of the current campaign.
VfL's form has certainly improved under new head coach Lorenz-Günther Köstner, who has seen his side pick up ten points from a possible 15 since taking over, yet Diego and Co. still sit perilously close to the drop zone. Despite that fact, the 60-year-old believes his side are on the right track. "We're playing better football. We're combining more and not playing long balls as often. Our most successful matches have come when we've played directly at pace going forward."
Though the encounters with Bremen and Gladbach didn't go to plan, Köstner is still of the opinion that in "recent matches the results weren't right" because his charges put in a "huge effort" on both occasions. They'll need to call upon that work ethic once again when they face a confident Hamburg side, but may be without two key figures. "With Ivica Olic and Josue it's still unclear as to whether they will be able to play," explained the Wolfsburg boss, who will definitely be without Alexander Madlung, while Christian Träsch is hoping to recover from the flu in time to feature.
The optimism amongst the Hamburg faithful has certainly been restored, most notably after their 3-1 win over Schalke in midweek, but there is still plenty of room for improvement away from home. Two wins from seven on foreign soil have held HSV back from already moving into the Bundesliga's top six, but Fink is confident his side can turn that around. "The squad demonstrated against Schalke that they learnt from the last away match (a 2-0 defeat to Fortuna Düsseldorf)," stated the former FC Bayern player. "I hope they'll be able implement that again in Wolfsburg."
The 45-year-old is having to cope with depleted numbers within his ranks as superstar Rafael van der Vaart is joined on the sidelines by the suspended Tolgay Arslan and Marcell Jansen, who will be out until the second half of the season after injuring his shoulder in training. "I'm confident that the team will, as they did against Schalke, compensate for the absentees," declared Fink. On a more positive note, Heung-Min Son and Ivo Ilicevic are both set to return after recovering from their respective muscular problems.
Wolfsburg: Benaglio - Fagner, Naldo, Kjaer, M. Schäfer - Polak, Träsch - Hasebe, Diego, Olic - Dost
Hamburg: Adler - Diekmeier, Mancienne, Westermann, Aogo - Badelj - Skjelbred, Ilicevic - Tesche - Rudnevs, Beister