Hamburg out to humble Bundesliga leaders Bayern
BERLIN (AFP) –
Hamburg coach Thorsten Fink and midfield star Rafael van der Vaart have pledged to continue Bayern Munich’s recent Bundesliga misfortune when they host the Bavarian giants on Saturday.
League leaders Bayern suffered a shock 2-1 defeat at home to Bayer Leverkusen last Sunday which broke the hosts eight-match winning streak.
Hamburg, seventh in the league, have enjoyed a rich-vein of form of late since Dutch midfielder Van der Vaart returned in August after spells with Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur.
Although the club have struggled in recent years, Fink has turned their fortunes around with van der Vaart as playmaker and South Korean star Son Heung-Min top scorer with five goals in nine games.
“We’re a different team compared to last year,” said Fink as Hamburg were bottom of the league at the same point last season.
“We are effective and dangerous, we will not hide from Bayern.”
Having taken 13 points in their last six league games, only Bayern have earned more in the same period.
After enjoying a shock 3-2 win at home to defending champions Borussia Dortmund in September, van der Vaart is eager to pick up another scalp.
“We want to hurt them and must not be afraid,” said the 29-year old Dutchman.
“Our team is not about sitting back and waiting, we want to go forward.”
After four years in Spain, then England, van der Vaart said he is again facing his favourite enemy.
“I have good memories of Bayern. It is always special to play against them,” he said.
“They are very strong and we need to produce a top performance to win, but if we put Bayern under pressure, we have a good chance.
“It’s important to us to show that we are there and can beat Bayern.”
In an interesting sideshow, Hamburg goalkeeper Rene Adler is bidding to return to the Germany squad against the Bayern number one who took his place — Manuel Neuer.
Bayern are set to welcome back France wing Franck Ribery after a thigh strain, while centre-back Daniel van Buyten is also available again after a rib injury and the Bavarians enjoy a four-point lead at the top of the table.
Defending champions Borussia Dortmund, fourth in the league, are hoping to have captain Sebastian Kehl and centre-back Mats Hummels fit for Saturday’s visit of VfB Stuttgart.
Kehl picked up a back knock, while Hummels only played the first half of the German Cup win at Aalen on Tuesday before picking up a leg injury, but coach Jurgen Klopp said his team was in “good shape” for Stuttgart.
Schalke 04, second in the league, are at struggling Hoffenheim, winless in their last four games, on Saturday and are without injured defender Christoph Metzelder while right-back Marco Hoeger is carrying an ankle injury.
With his team 14th in the league, Hoffenheim coach Markus Babbel is under pressure with his side having scored just three goals in their last four games.
Resurgent Wolfsburg, 16th in the league, are at Nuremberg, 15th, on Saturday and have won both of their games since coach Felix Magath was sacked just over a week ago and seem to be building momentum under Brazil playmaker Diego.
A third win for caretaker coach Lorenz-Guenther Koestner may convince Wolves’ board to keep him on permanently.
In contrast, Nuremberg coach Dieter Hecking is under pressure with five defeats and a draw in his last six games.
Friday’s match, Eintracht Frankfurt vs Greuther Fuerth, ended in a 1-1 draw.
Borussia Dortmund v VfB Stuttgart, Borussia M’gladbach v Freiburg, Hanover 96 v Augsburg, Nuremberg v VfL Wolfsburg, Hoffenheim v Schalke 04, Hamburg v Bayern Munich
Bayer Leverkusen v Fortuna Duesseldorf, Werder Bremen v Mainz 05.