Hamburger SV captain Rafael van der Vaart scored his fifth goal of the season in Matchday 9's 3-3 draw with VfB Stuttgart
Hamburger SV captain Rafael van der Vaart scored his fifth goal of the season in Matchday 9's 3-3 draw with VfB Stuttgart

Freiburg set for pivotal battle with Hamburg

Freiburg - A resurgent side travel to SC Freiburg on Sunday afternoon with a view to climbing the table and further plunging their hosts into a relegation dogfight (kick-off 15:30 CET).

'Young talents our strength'

Freiburg have been the one of Bundesliga’s draw merchants so far this season, with five to their name, but perhaps more indicative of their current travails is that they remain one of only two sides without a win. Hamburg, on the other hand, began slowly, but are beginning to show signs of turning their form around and are still unbeaten under new head coach Bert van Marwijk.

They came close to blowing that record last weekend though, falling behind three times at home to Stuttgart, yet showed great charcater to grind out a 3-3 draw, no thanks to inspirational captain Rafael van der Vaart. The Dutchman now has five goals this season, which equals his tally in 2012/13, and is clearly enthused by being the one of the old heads amongst an otherwise youthful squad.

"Our young talents are our strength," said van Marwijk before the Freiburg match-up. "Perhaps though, that is a weakness sometimes, as they play with risks and still make mistakes." The 61-year-old coach, who guided the Netherlands to the 2010 FIFA World cup final, is prepared to persist with his young stars, "I’ll keep trusting them as long as they make fewer mistakes". Against a Freiburg side he described as "difficult to play against", that will be essential. "They are also a young squad, and players like Admir Mehmedi and Jonathan Schmid can be dangerous. It’ll be a tough game".

'Intense game'

Schmid and Mehmedi looked dangerous in the first-half of Freiburg’s UEFA Europa League tie against Estoril Praia on Thursday night. Schmid created the first goal and Mehmedi could, and probably should, have got his name on the scoresheet. The game, however, reflected Freiburg‘s shortcomings this season, after taking an early lead they failed to close things out, and the 1-1 draw meant the men from the Black Forest have picked up their only two wins this season, both in the DFB Cup. Coach Christian Streich felt his side’s first-half performance, "deserved a victory".

A victory will be tough to come by at home against Hamburg, and Streich is duly wary of Sunday‘s Northern opposition. "It will be a very intense game," explained the charismatic coach. "We’ll need to keep our cool, and most of all, we still want to play good football. If we do that, the probability of our first three points will increase."

Pilar back, Beister in

Streich welcomed back Czech winger Vaclav Pilar from a long-term ligament injury for Matchday 9’s 0-0 draw with SV Werder Bremen. "It’s great for him to be back," admitted Streich, who is expected to call upon the 25-year-old against Hamburg. Mensur Mujdza and Marco Terrazzino remain sidelined, but defender Oliver Sorg returned to training this week.

Hamburg have similarly few personnel problems, and Maximilian Beister, after his goalscoring introduction from the bench last week, is expected to be handed a starting-berth. "We’ve all been preparing well for this important game," the young midfielder added. Indeed, of the usual first-team regulars only midfielder Tomas Rincon, who returned to light training this week, was not fit enough to travel to the Black Forest.

Possible line-ups:

SC Freiburg: Baumann - Schmid, Krmas, Ginter, C. Günter - Fernandes, Schuster - Klaus, Pilar - Mehmedi - Hanke

Hamburger SV: Adler - Westermann, Tah, Djourou, Jansen - Badelj, Arslan - Beister, van der Vaart, Calhanoglu - Lasogga

Check out the best goals from Matchday 9, including Hamburg's thrilling draw courtesy of the official Bundesliga YouTube channel: