Hamburg - Hamburger SV are hoping a change in management could help inspire them to a mighty upset over third-placed Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 22 this Saturday (kick-off 14.30 GMT).
Nose to the grindstone
Having been dragged head first into the relegation battle as a result of losing seven consecutive league matches for the first time in their 50-year Bundesliga history, HSV’s new head coach Mirko Slomka now faces a baptism of fire against the five-time Bundesliga champions, in a match-up that has produced more goals - 337 - than any other in the league's 51-year history.
First priority for the former Hannover 96 head coach will be to add structure and discipline to the league’s leakiest backline, which has shipped at least three goals in each of their last six encounters. “Conceding 51 goals this season says it all. Every single player has to go about their defensive duties and their individual challenges with consistent accuracy and resolve,” explained Slomka. "We also want to give our fans an organised attacking performance that will make them sit up and take notice."
The 46-year-old’s sentiments were echoed by the Red Shorts’ interim captain Marcell Jansen, who outlined where he felt the team's priorities need to be for the remainder of the season. “The most important thing for us is to practice in training the things we'll need for the weekend,” said the German international left-back. “That means defending together, attacking together and running together.”
Reus set to return
There is, however, a glimmer of hope for HSV who have won five of their last seven games at home to BVB, including last season’s 3-2 win on Matchday 4 in which Heung-Min Son bagged a brace either side of Ivo Ilicevic’s strike. Yet with Son now playing for Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Ilicevic joining Rafael van der Vaart and Maximilian Beister on the sidelines after tearing a muscle in his right thigh in training, HSV will have to find a new source of inspiration.
Dortmund's list of absentees is by contrast, gradually shrinking and while “there’s no change” on the fitness of injured first-team regulars Neven Subotic and Ilkay Gündogan, wing wizard Marco Reus “was able to give 100% in training, looked good and should be fit to play”, according to coach Jürgen Klopp. However, Saturday’s meeting is likely to come too early for Mats Hummels, who is still experiencing “slight discomfort”, which has left Klopp keen to give him a “few more days” to recover.
Miracle not needed?
The BVB boss was quick to dispel any rumours of catering his starting line-up to the upcoming UEFA Champions League clash with Zenit St. Petersburg though. “Our team won't be influenced by our European encounter,” stated the BVB head coach. “I won’t be protecting any players. We can't go to Hamburg with our new-found confidence expecting to face a weak opponent.”
Dortmund's self-belief has returned and, now boosted by the comeback of one of their leading lights in Reus, will be confident of adding to their three-game winning streak built on ruthless efficiency and defensive resiliency. "I'm very happy our backline has been strong,” explained Klopp. “It's been the key to us finding our feet again. HSV don't need any sympathy from us, but they won't get any from us either." His Red Shorts counterpart Slomka would expect nothing less: "We don’t need a miracle, we need hard work.”
Hamburg: Adler - Diekmeier, Djourou, Rajkovic, Jansen - Westermann, Rincon, Arslan - Jiracek, Ilicevic - Lasogga
Dortmund: Weidenfeller - Piszczek, M. Friedrich, Sokratis, Schmelzer - S. Bender, Sahin - Aubameyang, H. Mkhitaryan, Großkreutz - Lewandowski