Düsseldorf - Two sides whose fortunes have changed dramatically since the start of the season face off in the Bundesliga on Friday evening (kick-off 20:30 CET). While hosts Fortuna Düsseldorf have faded away after a promising start, Hamburger SV have been steadily climbing the table after stumbing out of the blocks.
Falling on hard times
The newly-promoted hosts, still without a win on home soil, go into the game under pressure having collected just a single point in their previous six outings. However, head coach Norbert Meier believes his side, whose performances against Hoffenheim and Bremen arguably deserved a greater share of the spoils, are still "alive and intact", as they get set to welcome a familiar face to the ESPRIT arena.
Despite those recent poor results, Düsseldorf are making a name for themselves as a disciplined defensive side who are most effective striking on the break, although their style of play has yet to reap the rewards that will make a tangible impact on the standings.
"It's been clear for all to see that in recent matches there have been defining moments that led to us not being successful," said Meier. "We had less possession, but were by no means inferior, so it's frustrating that we're not being rewarded for our hard work."
Fortuna have conceded 18 goals in seven games since going through the opening five fixtures with an unblemished record and their poor run of results has dropped them down to 16th.
"Naturally our league position is currently not as we would have wished, but the gap in standings is such that a win would improve our situation greatly," continued the 54-year-old, who could be without in-form midfielder Robbie Kruse as well as long-term absentees Bruno Soares, Stelios Malezas, Oliver Fink and Dani Schahin. "We've got to demonstrate our determination against HSV."
Unlike their counterparts on Friday, Hamburg's recent form has not only exorcised many of last season’s lingering demons, it has also lifted a large weight off their shoulders. HSV have not conceded in any of their last three away games, but it is Rafael van der Vaart's creativity that could prove crucial in unlocking Düsseldorf's deep-lying backline.
"We'll need to be patient and not rush into things," stated Dennis Aogo, set to start in place of the injured Marcell Jansen on Friday. "We have the better team and better individual players, but we'll have to perform well as a collective to be successful."
Aogo set to start
Unbeaten in four now on the road, Hamburg will likely use Aogo down the left in tandem with Maximilian Beister, who is set to face the club he helped fire into the Bundesliga during his season-long loan there. "We work well together, but we have to function as a team, not just 'Maxi' and myself."
Talking to the club's official website about how he would respond were he to score on Friday, Beister himself had this to say: "I haven't thought about it. The most important thing is to perform well as a team and come away with the three points."
Düsseldorf: Giefer - Levels, Langeneke, Juanan, J. van den Bergh - Bodzek, Lambertz - Kruse, Ilsö, Bellinghausen - Rafael
Hamburg: Adler - Diekmeier, Mancienne, Westermann, Aogo - Badelj, Arslan - Son, van der Vaart, Beister - Rudnevs