Rafael van der Vaart, here celebrating a goal against Eintracht Frankfurt, has been hailed as the man to help save HSV's season after returning to the club in August
Rafael van der Vaart, here celebrating a goal against Eintracht Frankfurt, has been hailed as the man to help save HSV's season after returning to the club in August

Hamburg in need of Dutch courage

Frankfurt - Matchday 3 rounds out on Sunday evening with the meeting of Eintracht Frankfurt and Hamburger SV at the Commerzbank Arena in Frankfurt (kick-off 17.30 CEST).

Frankfurt riding high

Two of the German game's traditional heavyweights, each club is currently concerned first and foremost with Bundesliga survival. But a fixture with such long-standing resonance and some interesting sub-plots thrown in for good measure has both sets of fans restless in anticipation.

Frankfurt, promoted to the Bundesliga in the summer after finishing second in Bundesliga 2, are undoubtedly the form team. The Eagles have enjoyed the type of start that head coach Armin Veh could only have dreamed of, coming from behind on Matchday one to defeat Bayer 04 Leverkusen and then romping to a 4-0 success away in Hoffenheim a week later. Veh will also have added motivation on account of his previous association to HSV, who he managed between 2010 and 2011.

Eintracht's priority remains staying in the league come May, but there is also a secondary objective for Veh: to achieve that target by "playing our own game". The football he was referring to is just the sort his side delivered in Hoffenheim - the sort that left fans dreaming of another season in the top flight and shaking the recently-acquired tag of being one of Germany's yo-yo clubs.

HSV looking over their shoulder

Thorsten Fink's Hamburg side have enjoyed a markedly contrasting start to the campaign. After being dumped out of the DFB Cup by Karlsruher SC, there followed a home defeat to 1. FC Nuremberg and a 2-0 derby loss at bitter rivals SV Werder Bremen. The Red Shorts, famously the only Bundesliga club never to be have been relegated from the Bundesliga, will be under no illusions that they face a struggle to keep that record intact.

Transition has been the buzzword at the club since 2011 and, following the arrival of sporting director Frank Arnesen, the main policy has been to bring in youth to replace experience. Old heads such as Mladen Petric, David Jarolim and Paolo Guerrero have been offloaded, while younger faces such as Maximilian Beister and Milan Badelj have joined the squad in a bid to reinvigorate the Bundesliga veterans. One name in particular, however, will be on everyone's lips before kick-off: Rafael van der Vaart.

Van der Vaart to the rescue?

It is hard to imagine a player who has made more of an impact on a Bundesliga club than van der Vaart did in Hamburg. Between 2005 and 2008, the Dutch midfielder scored 48 goals in 113 appearances, helping Hamburg qualify for the UEFA Champions League and becoming one of the Bundesliga's most successful imports. After stints at Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur, he was brought back to the club amidst a fanfare during the recent summer transfer window.

As a member of the elite 100-plus club on the international appearances front, Van der Vaart is easily the most experienced player in the squad and the pressure will be on him to help his club extricate themselves from the danger they currently find themselves in. The Netherlands star himself has said he isn't a miracle worker and other players in the squad will be needed to help cure the club's present on-pitch ails, but should he inspire HSV to yet another year in the Bundesliga, he may well be considered just that.

Possible line-ups:

Frankfurt: Trapp - S. Jung, Zambrano, Anderson, Oczipka - Rode, Schwegler - Aigner, Meier, Inui - Occean

Hamburg: Adler - Diekmeier, Mancienne, Westermann, Lam - Badelj, Jiracek - Son, van der Vaart, Jansen - Rudnevs

Bernie Reeves

All 18 Bundesliga clubs and their shirt sponsors will be supporting the "Geh' Deinen Weg" (Go Your Way) campaign to promote multi-racial integration in Germany throughout Matchday 3.