Hamburg face tough trip to champions Stuttgart

April 4th, 2008 - 11:56 am ICT by admin  

(German League Preview)
Hamburg, April 4 (DPA) The trip to champions VfB Stuttgart for a Saturday Bundesliga football match could not have come at a worse time for SV Hamburg. Stuttgart have won five and drawn two of their last seven games as they are climbing up the rankings with a Champions League berth in sight. Hamburg are unbeaten in 11 games and still rank second, but they have won just three of their last nine games. They have lost three players through sending offs in the last two games, with David Jarolim and Joris Mathijsen suspended for Saturday’s match.

The northern Germans can also expect a tough match because Stuttgart will be out to avenge a 4-1 crushing in the teams’ first meeting in Hamburg last autumn.

To add to Hamburg’s woes, that game’s hat-trick hero Ivica Olic is sidelined with a muscle injury, fellow-striker Paulo Guerrero struck down with a flu, and Dutch playmaker Rafael van der Vaart is far from his best form.

“We are at a stage where every player must show what he is made of. If we win in Stuttgart we keep a rival (for a Champions League berth) at bay,” Hamburg goalkeeper Frank Rost told Thursday’s edition of Kicker sports magazine.

The only good news for Hamburg is that Stuttgart’s Germany striker Mario Gomez is also sidelined with a muscle injury in what is a big blow for the hosts.

“We are convinced that the team will be able to make up for his absence,” said Stuttgart sports director Horst Heldt.

Gomez’s return from another injury in January and his 15 goals overall were important as Stuttgart rebounded from a poor first half of the season.

Leaders Bayern Munich appear out of reach on 54 points for a seven-point advantage, but Hamburg (47), Schalke 04 (45), Bayer Leverkusen and Werder Bremen (44) as well as Stuttgart and Eintracht Frankfurt (42), and even VfL Wolfsburg (40) are in the race for the various European berths.

Rost insisted that a look at the table showed Hamburg’s class. “There is no reason to be negative about the season. We are second and have it all in our hands,” he said.

The six top teams all failed to win last weekend and will hope for better showings this time around, with the Stuttgart-Hamburg game the only direct meeting of high-placed sides.

Munich host VfL Bochum and Leverkusen are at Borussia Dortmund Sunday after they were set for UEFA Cup quarter-final duty Thursday night.

On Saturday, struggling Bremen are at Hertha Berlin, Schalke host lowly Hansa Rostock, Frankfurt take on bottom club Nuremberg and Wolfsburg welcome Hanover 96.

The other games are MSV Duisburg vs. Energie Cottbus (Friday) and Arminia Bielefeld vs. SC Karlsruhe (Saturday).

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