Hamburg are potentially 90 minutes away from a return to the Bundesliga, but they have to get past Hertha Berlin in the play-off to do so. Led by Robert Glatzel, supported by Sonny Kittel and protected by Daniel Heuer Fernandes, they possess quality from front to back.
Games this season: 35
Glatzel was one of only three outfield players in Bundesliga 2 to start every matchday this season – there was simply no reason for coach Tim Walter not to pick him. The summer signing from Cardiff City was the only HSV player to score double figures, ending the regular league campaign on 22 goals.
The only person with more across the division was ex-Hamburg striker Simon Terodde, who is also the only other player since Sergej Barbarez in 2000/01 to score more than 20 goals in a season for the club.
All told, Glatzel had a direct hand in 25 goals, with a league-high nine of those putting Die Rothosen 1-0 up. He also got the only four-goal haul of the Bundesliga 2 campaign as HSV claimed what turned out to be a crucial 5-0 victory on Matchday 21 at Darmstadt – the team Hamburg pipped to third place by seven strikes on goal difference.
Watch: Glatzel’s four-goal haul at Darmstadt
He got his hat-trick inside the opening 13 minutes to equal the division record for the earliest three goals, but more importantly, the striker also came into the play-offs in hot form. He scored six and provided three assists in just the last seven games of the regular season. The 28-year-old also finished the campaign as the DFB Cup’s top scorer with five goals, and though he did not find the net in the first leg at the Olympiastadion, you would not bet against him being decisive at the Volksparkstadion on Monday.
Games this season: 34
If Glatzel was the first name on the teamsheet, then Kittel’s will have been the second for Walter. The only game he missed was actually the 5-0 win in Darmstadt due to suspension.
The 29-year-old finished second in the Bundesliga 2 assists chart with 12 provisions. Add in nine goals himself and he was directly involved in 21. Only Glatzel had more for HSV (25). Hertha as a team only scored 37 times in the Bundesliga.
Kittel delivered 10 set pieces that led to goals, while he provided the most passes to a shot for Die Rothosen (88) and was second for shots taken (62). Only Terodde and Werder Bremen duo Marvin Ducksch and Niclas Füllkrug were involved in more shots across the second division.
Games this season: 33
Netherlands U21 international Reis was a summer signing from Barcelona and immediately made himself at home at the Volksparkstadion. The midfielder played in 32 of the 34 league games and scored five goals, before netting the goal which - heading into the second leg - has put one Hamburg foot in the Bundesliga. He was, in fact, the most clinical HSV player, boasting a shot efficiency of +1.2. Top scorer Glatzel only came in at +0.6 with 22 goals from an xG of 21.4.
Reis contested the most challenges among Rothosen players, playing mostly as a box-to-box midfielder, but sometimes also in a more holding role when Walter wanted a more defensive approach.
Although still young, the Dutchman does have vital experience in a play-off, having played for Osnabrück in the Bundesliga 2-3. Liga play-off against Ingolstadt last season. Although his side were relegated after the two legs, it will have been a big learning curve for the midfielder in view of this year's Bundesliga play-off.
Games this season: 34
Challenges won: 344 (61 per cent)
Schonlau joined last summer from Paderborn but was immediately named captain of this relatively young HSV team in an attempt to shake things up and dust off the cobwebs of three failed promotion attempts.
The centre-back has led from the front, topping the division for touches (3,116) and also the most distance covered in possession (102.2 miles/ 164.5 kilometres). His pass completion rate of 91.16 per cent was the second best in Bundesliga 2.
The 27-year-old missed just one game due to suspension and played the most minutes of all HSV players. He won 61 per cent of his challenges on the ground and 63 per cent in their air. All four of his goals were headers, including two in the last three games. The last of them finally put Die Rothosen ahead at Hansa Rostock on the final day as they came from behind to claim third place.
Games this season: 28
Clean sheets/saves: 8/84
Heuer Fernandes is the Manuel Neuer of Bundesliga 2, but to even more of an extreme. Watching the Bochum-born Portugal youth international is an experience in itself, given he seems to spend most of the game outside of his penalty area, acting as an 11th outfield player.
Despite missing seven games this season through injury, he had the most touches of all second division goalkeepers (1,595; 59 per 90 minutes). But the 27-year-old ensured not to neglect his day job. He saved 74 per cent of shots he faced, which equalled his personal best rate in a Bundesliga 2 season, to help HSV keep the meanest defence in the division by some margin, with only 35 goals conceded.
He only let in a goal every 81 minutes on average, which was the best return among first-choice goalkeepers in the league, while his clean sheet in the capital was his eighth of the season. And just in case it gets to that on Monday night, he’s also saved four penalties in three DFB Cup shootouts in 2021/22 alone.
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