Hamburg – The final Sunday instalment of Matchday 32’s Bundesliga action comes from the Imtech Arena, where Hamburger SV host VfL Wolfsburg (kick-off 17.30 CEST).
Back on the horse
With only two more games to follow this weekend, there is still plenty to play for. Hamburg can no longer qualify for the UEFA Champions League, but are still in with a shout for a Europa League place. So too, at least in theory, are Wolfsburg, who will take to the pitch looking to extend a seven-match unbeaten run in the league.
Hamburg might still be reeling from last week’s 4-1 thrashing at the hands of FC Schalke 04 that effectively ended their top-four hopes. Marcell Jansen had even put the visitors ahead, only for them to capitulate to a Klaas-Jan Huntelaar-inspired Schalke. The Red Shorts could have gone into fourth place themselves with victory - instead, they are now eight points behind Schalke.
Still, at the end of what has been a transitional campaign for Thorsten Fink’s side, the prospect of Europa League football next season would certainly make it a successful one, and the head coach issued a rallying cry to his players at the pre-match press conference. “We're on the home straight and the next three games are all finals for us."
Inspired by Madrid
Above all, what the 42-year-old expects is for his team to show some fight, and he admitted to taking inspiration from Real Madrid in their contest against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Tuesday. “Real played like a team that really wanted to win and that’s what I want to see from us against Wolfsburg. Even if we end up losing the game, we can still leave the pitch with our heads held high.”
The visitors have been showing exactly that sort of spirit themselves lately, however, and will be no pushovers at the Imtech Arena. Since losing to Schalke on Matchday 24, they have won in Freiburg and Bremen, and held third-placed Leverkusen to a draw at the BayArena. “The team are really performing at the moment and we’re obviously hoping this run can continue", says head coach Dieter Hecking.
One man who embodies the Wolves’ tenacious approach is Ivica Olic,, for whom this will be a return to familiar surroundings. The 33-year-old forward scored 29 goals in 17 league appearances for HSV between 2007 and 2009 and is looking forward to running out at his ol stomping ground, but remains utterly focused on the job.
“I had a great time there, the stadium has a great atmosphere and the fans are amazing," says the 83-time Croatia international. “But I’m concentrating on helping my team. If I get my chance, I want to score a few more goals this season.” With Olic having netted seven in his last eight games, HSV's stand-in keeper Jaroslav Drobny could well have his work cut out.
Hamburg: Drobny - Diekmeier, Rajkovic, Westermann, Lam - Badelj, Rincon - Son, van der Vaart, Jiracek - Rudnevs
Wolfsburg: Benaglio - Hasebe, Naldo, Knoche, Rodriguez - Träsch, Polak - Vieirinha, Diego, Arnold - Olic