Bayer 04 Leverkusen are looking to get their tilt at a UEFA Champions League place back on track at home to Hamburger SV on Sunday afternoon (kick-off 15:30CET/14:30GMT) after falling off the pace over the last few games.
Personnel woes have hampered their efforts to push for a top-four finish, with numerous first-team regulars, including Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez, Stefan Kießling, Kevin Kampl and Ömer Toprak, either injured or suspended recently. And after staging an astonishing fightback to go from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 away to FC Augsburg last weekend, the hosts will be in buoyant mood ahead of this fixture.
Nevertheless, Leverkusen will need to be on their guard against a spirited Hamburg side that defeated third-placed Hertha Berlin last time out. Sitting in tenth place, HSV's status as the Bundesliga's only ever-present club looks secure for another year, having strayed dangerously close to relegation in recent seasons.
Hamburg goalkeeper Rene Adler thwarted former club Leverkusen in a hard-fought goalless draw that did little for either side's ambitions of climbing the table.
Matchday 26 – Match facts
- Hamburg can be relatively sure of safety now. No team has ever gone down with their current total of 31 points after 25 rounds of matches.
- Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt returns to the dugout for this game after serving a three-match touchline ban.
- HSV have only lost one of their last four games against Die Werkself. However they suffered heavy defeats in their three most recent trips to the BayArena, losing 4-0, 5-3 and 3-0.
- Goals are all but guaranteed on Sunday: this fixture has never ended 0-0 in Leverkusen.
- Schmidt's side have earned just one point from the last nine available and are now eighth in the table, having been third on Matchday 21.
Leverkusen: Leno - Jedvaj, Toprak, Tah, Wendell - Kramer, Calhanoglu - Bellarabi, Mehmedi - Kießling, Hernandez
Absentees: Papadopoulos, Toprak, Tah, Aranguiz (all light training), Hilbert (broken collarbone), Bender (thigh), Kampl (fractured fibula).
Hamburg: Adler - Sakai, Djourou, Cleber, Ostrzolek - Ekdal, Holtby - Müller, Hunt, Ilicevic - Rudnevs
Absentees: Götz (hamstring, Cleber (light training), Altintas (fractured cheekbone), P. Müller (shoulder)