Hamburg: the 2021/22 season so far
Hamburg will hope that they can maintain their position in the top three for long enough to give them a realistic shot at promotion in 2022.
The Red Shorts have suffered plenty of heartbreak since being relegated from the Bundesliga for the first time in 2018, but bundesliga.com sees signs that this season could be different.
The story so far
Having finished fourth in each of the three seasons they have spent in Bundesliga 2, Hamburg were third in the table - and only six points off top spot - heading into 2022. Their current position would be good enough for a place in the promotion/relegation play-off come the end of the season. The northerners, though, will be out to catch either local rivals St. Pauli or second-placed Darmstadt - if not both - to secure an automatic return to the top flight. Hamburg's campaign appeared set for a bad start when Simon Terodde - who left the club in the summer - put Schalke in front on Matchday 1. The visitors, though, staged a stirring comeback and two late goals gave them a 3-1 win. The Red Shorts drew their first home game against Dynamo Dresden, however, and that was followed by a 3-2 loss in the derby at St. Pauli on Matchday 3. New head coach Tim Walter clearly needed time with a side that had lost Terodde and the likes of Sven Ulreich (Bayern Munich), Rick van Drongelen (Union Berlin) and Aaron Hunt (free) in the summer transfer window. His team drew seven of their next 10 league fixtures but crucially didn't lose any of them. That unbeaten run included a 2-0 win at Werder Bremen in the Nordderby on Matchday 7 and was added to by comprehensive victories over Jahn Regensburg and Ingolstadt.
While the 12-game unbeaten streak came to an end with defeat at Hannover on Matchday 16, Hamburg rounded out the year with three wins from four before drawing 1-1 at home to fourth-placed Schalke on 18 December. The three-time Bundesliga champions have the fewest number of losses in the division (two) but also have the most draws (nine). Hamburg were top at the same stage last season - seven points better off - so they are well aware that further improvements are required.
Robert Glatzel had big boots to fill when he was brought in to replace Terodde, a promotion specialist and the record Bundesliga 2 goalscorer in history. The 27-year-old on loan from Cardiff showed plenty of promise early in the season though, scoring on the opening day against the Royal Blues and against city rivals St. Pauli. Glatzel then struck the opening goal in Bremen before getting a double as his side twice came from behind to draw at home to promotion rivals Nuremberg a week later. The former Heidenheim and Kaiserslautern striker, who spent the second half of 2020/21 on loan at Mainz, also finished the year strongly. He struck twice in the 3-0 win over Hansa Rostock on Matchday 17 before also scoring in the 1-1 draw against Schalke. That left him with a very healthy return of nine league goals in 18 starts so far. He added one further goal in the DFB Cup to help set up a last-16 clash with Cologne on 18 January.
Watch: See Glatzel's goals against Nuremberg
Best game so far
The successful raid at Schalke on Matchday 1 is certainly a standout, as was the 4-1 win over early pacesetters Jahn Regensburg on Matchday 14. The Nordderby victory at Bremen will be most fondly remembered by the fans, however, while it also came at a key stage of the campaign. Glatzel nodded home the opener for the visitors after only two minutes, and midfielder Moritz Heyer powered home a header - one of five goals he got in the first half of the season - to make it 2-0 in first-half stoppage time. By that stage Hamburg were playing against 10 men, but things were evened up early in the second half when their defender Sebastian Schonlau picked up a second yellow card. Walter's team held on, though, to secure back-to-back victories for the first time in 2021/22 - following Heyer's injury-time winner against Sandhausen - and also ended a run of four matches without a win against their northern rivals.
Watch: See how Hamburg beat Bremen
One to watch
Winger Faride Alidou broke into the first team in October and by the end of 2021 he had made seven starts in the league. The Germany U20 international has weighed in with two goals and two assists to enhance his reputation as one of the most exciting talents in the division, and the 20-year-old's drive and energy in attack will be crucial in the second half of the campaign. Sonny Kittel is another important outlet, meanwhile, having contributed four goals and eight assists already.
The view from inside the camp
"We saw that things are moving forward, that the team is developing and that the mentality is good. I'm really happy." – The end-of-year assessment from Hamburg head coach Tim Walter
St. Pauli (h) - Matchday 20
Darmstadt (a) - Matchday 21
Werder Bremen (h) – Matchday 24
Hamburg start 2022 with a challenging away fixture at Dynamo Dresden on 14 January, and it won't get much easier from there. The Red Shorts face back-to-back matches against the top two early in the year, with the second derby against Pauli on January 21 followed by a trip to Darmstadt on 6 February. Hamburg took only a point from the first two matches against those sides this season, so improved results in those fixtures could be telling. Another derby game against Bremen on 27 February will also give a good indication of where Hamburg's promotion chances stand.
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