Fürth - It could be the end of all the suffering or the start of much worse for Hamburger SV when they travel to SpVgg Greuther Fürth for the most decisive game of their season - and one of the most defining in their history - this Sunday (kick-off 15:00 GMT/17:00 CEST).
Beating the away-day blues
Mirko Slomka's side were forced to settle for a 0-0 draw in front of their own fans in Thursday's relegation play-off first leg, but a score draw in Franconia this weekend will ensure the Red Shorts' status as the only ever-present club in the Bundesliga's 51-year history remains intact.
HSV make the trip south to the Trolli Arena needing to do something about their away form. They have lost their last nine games on their travels, scoring just eight goals but conceding 23. On Sunday, they must score at least once to have any chance of beating Fürth without the need for a penalty shoot-out.
"We need to score, but we're always good for a goal away from home," said Slomka, whose personal away-day blues have persisted right from day one of the season, having lost all eight games on his travels in charge of Hannover 96. Slomka can at least be buoyed by his side's performance in the first leg, even if the result was not precisely what they were looking for.
"In the first half, we were putting them under pressure," surmised Rafael van der Vaart. "You could feel that." The spirits are therefore predominantly high after the goalless opening leg, but nobody at HSV is ignoring how high the stakes are. "0-0 isn't a tragic result," said sporting director Oliver Kreuzer. "We've now got one more game which is like a Champions League final for us."
They will have to play that final, as they did the first leg, without the services of first-choice goalkeeper Rene Adler, who will once again be replaced by Jaroslav Drobny due to injury. Ivo Ilicevic is also a doubt with a calf strain while Jacques Zoua faces a race against the clock to be fit. Pierre-Michel Lasogga is therefore likely to lead the northeners' attack once again.
Hosts Fürth are on the brink of an immediate return to the top flight, having been relegated in 2012/13. Despite the positive result at the Imtech Arena, coach Frank Kramer is warning his players against complacency. "We've only done the first half of the job and now we've got to win," said the 42-year-old. "We want to put the seal on our promotion."
Fürth keeper Wolfgang Hesl, meanwhile, is cautiously optimistic about the Clover Leaves' chances: "We played a great game [on Thursday]," said the former Hamburg stopper. "We showed that we deserve to be here, that we want to go up and that we've got the quality to do so."
Fürth Hesl - Brosinski, Mavraj, Röcker, Gießelmann - Fürstner, Sparv - Stieber, Baba - Azemi, Djurdjic
Hamburg: Drobny - Diekmeier, Djourou, Mancienne, Jiracek - Badelj, Tesche - Rincon, van der Vaart, Calhanoglu - Lasogga
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