Breaking new ground in Fürth with first-ever game without fans
HSV make the trip down to Bavaria for a Friday night match-up (kick-off 6:30pm CET) with promotion chasers Greuther Fürth for both clubs’ first-ever Bundesliga game behind closed doors.
Football has rightly taken a back seat over the past week as German football tries to cope with the fallout from the global coronavirus outbreak. The immediate outcome is that Friday’s game in Fürth will be played without any fans at the Sportpark Ronhof, the first Bundesliga game behind closed doors for both parties. It is naturally an unusual and unprecedented situation, which Dieter Hecking is unsure how to tackle: "I've never played a game behind closed doors before so I don't know what to expect or what impact it will have on my coaching or the team. I’ll have a better idea after the match how it affected my team and what we could do better next time,” the HSV manager explained at Thursday’s pre-match press conference. And whilst it has been a strange week for all involved, with the situation seemingly changing hour-by-hour, the fact remains that a win is up for grabs on Friday night, a three points that could prove vital in the race for promotion to the Bundesliga.
Focus on the hosts
SpVgg Greuther Fürth take their name from the town of Fürth, which lies 10km away from the centre of the larger Bavarian city of Nuremberg, with the town and its neighbouring city having more or less merged geographically due to urban expansion over the past century. Naturally, the two clubs that represent the two cities (1. FC Nürnberg in Nuremberg) have been fierce rivals since their inception due to their proximity and the fact that both were the dominant forces in German football in the 1920s, with the two clubs winning 6 of the available 10 German championships between them during the decade. The Shamrocks have spent the majority of their existence in the second tier, and in fact lead the 2. Liga all-time points table ahead of Alemannia Aachen.
Former Ingolstadt coach Stefan Leitl took over the helm at the Sportpark Ronhof in February 2019, inheriting a relatively precarious situation, but managed to steer the Green and Whites away from trouble and continue the good form into the 2019/20 season. After a slight wobble with back-to-back home losses against Arminia Bielefeld and Hannover 96, Leitl’s charges have been unbeaten in their last three, most notably beating fellow promotion challengers VfB Stuttgart last time out in Fürth. The Shamrocks lead the chasing pack in the packed midfield area of the 2. Bundesliga table, sitting in 5th on 36 points, tied with Darmstadt and eight points behind Friday’s guests.
Opposition scouting report
Leitl has settled on a 4-2-3-1 formation for the majority of the season, yet may have to adapt his plans tactically and personnel-wise due to a raft of injury problems, with a possible eleven players missing for Friday evening’s clash. Experienced campaigners Mergim Mavraj and Daniel Keita-Ruel will be sorely missed by Leitl, as well as 19-year-old winger Jamie Leweling, with the academy graduate having broken through since the Christmas break with three goals and an assist. Left-back is also a problem area, as Maximilian Wittek is still recovering from a forearm fracture, with an emergency solution most likely, something that HSV may want to target.
Paul Seguin and Sebastian Ernst provide a solid base in defensive midfield, with their understanding improving dramatically over the course of the season, as the pair have virtually played together uninterrupted since the start of the campaign, yet Ernst will be missing after picking up his fifth caution of the season against Kiel. The two dangermen for the Rothosen to contend with will be striker Havard Nielsen and Branimir Hrgota. Hrgota, who failed to truly breakthrough during spells at Borussia Mönchengladbach and Eintracht Frankfurt, seems to have found his home in Fürth on the right wing, scoring nine and assisting four in his first season at the Sportpark Ronhof.
Gyamerah a possibility as Beyer recovers from concussion
Right-back Jan Gyamerah was singled out for praise from Hecking during Thursday’s press conference, with the HSV manager beaming that “the attitude he has shown during his rehabilitation has been exemplary. Hats off to Gyambo (Gyamerah) and the medical staff for the way they have approached what was a nasty injury. I’m positively surprised that he’s available to me already and isn’t fearful when going in for tackles.” Whilst it is unlikely Gyamerah will start from the outset, he may be called upon at some point due to the lack of options at right-back. Jordan Beyer was knocked out during last weekend’s win over Regensburg and hasn’t been able to train with the team this week due to the concussion he suffered, with former Fürth player Khaled Narey also an option to complete the back four. Gideon Jung is also available for selection having sat out his suspension and could be an option in midfield alongside Adrian Fein, who is also unsure whether to play with or without his protective mask, having fractured his cheekbone only a month ago.
After three winless games, the Rothosen bounced back strongly last Saturday with a gritty 2-1 win over Regensburg, taking them up to 44 points, one behind Stuttgart in second place. With how the season will pan out after this weekend incredibly uncertain, every point is vital in the battle for promotion, as Hecking aims to secure back-to-back wins and enter a three-match unbeaten run on the road.
Fürth was the scene of HSV’s first relegation play-off escape act, with a 1-1 draw at the Sporthof Ronhof seeing the Rothosen stay in the Bundesliga by virtue of away goals in May 2014.
Since the foundation of the Bundesliga in 1963, Fürth have only been able to win one competitive match against the Rothosen, which happened to be in 1963 as well. 5 draws and 4 losses have followed.
Fürth have scored in each of their past ten games, the longest goalscoring series in the second division, and the Shamrocks’ longest since February to April 2016.
Where can I watch the game?
UK/Ireland: BT Sport 2
Faroe Islands/Denmark/Norway/Sweden/Finland: Viaplay/TV3 Max/Viasat
Poland: Eleven Sports 2/4
Netherlands: Fox Sports 4
Czech Republic/Slovakia: Digi Sport 2
Israel: Charlton Sport 1
Turkey: S Sport 2