The fixture even has its own special name in Germany; the Nordderby, or northern derby. But what is it exactly that makes the tie such a standout occasion on the football calendar? Allow bundesliga.com to explain…
Meeting of equals
As the name suggests, geography plays a big role. Bremen and Hamburg are the northernmost clubs in the Bundesliga, separated by just 123 kilometres, and as such the victors get to enjoy bragging rights across the region. Other matches involving northern sides such as VfL Wolfsburg, Hannover 96 and Hertha Berlin are also often called Nordderbies, but Bremen versus Hamburg is always the Nordderby, the original clash of northern giants and a meeting steeped in tradition.
The clubs locked horns in the Bundesliga’s maiden season in 1963/64 and since then no other fixture between any two sides has taken place as frequently. Sunday’s Matchday 29 encounter will be the 102nd time they go head to head - the only duel to have reached the 100-game milestone. Part of the match’s appeal is also the fact that the sides have a remarkably even record over the years. Bremen have taken maximum points from 36 games; HSV have triumphed 32 times and there have been 33 draws.
It is clear, then, that these meetings carry a weight of history, and there will be added intrigue this weekend given the teams’ present standpoints. Bremen, who have won six and drawn one of their last seven home games against Hamburg, are eyeing a place in Europe next season, while HSV are bottom of the league and desperate to preserve their status as the Bundesliga’s only ever-present club.
And both would dearly love to achieve their own aims at their rivals’ expense. “Nobody at this club wants to be relegated,” said Hamburg midfielder last Saturday. “I can promise that we’ll give it everything we’ve got [against Bremen] and that we’ll be better than we were against Wolfsburg. I want to win it, the team want to win it and now we have to give our all to play well at the weekend.”
The hosts currently have 499 home wins in the Bundesliga and coach Viktor Skripnik has urged his players to reach the 500-mark against Hamburg: “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We really want to beat HSV. Everyone has to be up for it.” To help them achieve the desired mindset, Bremen’s players will have a reduced media workload this week to help them “reflect on the defeat against Stuttgart in peace and quiet,” and to “focus on the Nordderby”, according to sporting director Thomas Eichin.
An additional sub-plot comes in the form of Bremen’s , a 19-year-old attacking midfielder who has six assists to his name already this term. Should he add to that tally on Sunday, or even find the net himself, it would be doubly painful for Hamburg as he is the grandson of HSV’s most famous son, revered club legend Uwe Seeler. As ever, this Nordderby is about more than just three points.