HSV seek first competitive win of 2020 at home to Nürnberg
1. FC Nürnberg are the first visitors to the Volksparkstadion in 2020 on Thursday evening (kick-off 8:30pm CET), as 2. Bundesliga action returns after a month break.
The waiting is over and competitive football is once again back on the agenda. After a very positive start to the season, which included a 4-0 win over Nuremberg on Matchday 2, the Rothosen ran out of steam towards the end of the Hinrunde, losing back-to-back games to Osnabrück and Heidenheim, before drawing away to Sandhausen and Darmstadt just before Christmas. This left Dieter Hecking’s troops on 31 points, level with VfB Stuttgart and three points behind leaders Arminia Bielefeld. The Christmas break was much-needed to give the squad a well-deserved rest after a stressful first half of the campaign, and after two weeks of recuperation, the playing and coaching staff were ready to put the foundations in place for the Rückrunde, enjoying a productive training camp in Lagos and good friendly performances against FC Seoul and FC Basel. After over a month off, the squad are chomping at the bit to get going again, looking to start the new decade off in a way that sets the tone for the rest of the season. Relegated Nuremberg, who find themselves in the 2. Liga relegation zone, are an unknown quantity, and will be keen to upset the applecart and start to climb their way out of trouble with a result at the Volksparkstadion.
Focus on the visitors
Having been relegated from the Bundesliga at the end of the 2018/19 season, 1. FC Nürnberg were tipped to bounce straight back up at the first time of asking, alongside fellow relegated side Hannover 96. The season hasn’t panned in the way that either of the traditional sides would have envisaged, with Hannover sitting just one point above the relegation zone and Nuremberg sitting second-bottom with 19 points at the Christmas break. Austrian manager Damir Canadi moved from Atromitos Athens to ‘der Club’ in the summer but was let go for the poor start to the season after a 3-1 defeat to VfL Bochum on Matchday 12. Experienced second division manager Jens Keller took over in November and enjoyed a rocky start, losing 5-1 to Arminia Bielefeld and 2-0 to Wehen Wiesbaden in his first two home games. The ship was somewhat steadied with a vital 2-0 win at the Max-Morlock-Stadion in the final game before Christmas over fellow relegation rivals Dynamo Dresden. However, the sense of relief was only fleeting, as the team from Franconia spent the winter break in the relegation zone, knowing that things will have to be a lot better in the Rückrunde if they are to pull themselves out of the relegation scrap and back towards their stated aims at the start of the campaign.
Opposition scouting report
‘Der Club’ managed to retain the majority of the squad that were relegated from the Bundesliga, with many punters predicting that the quality of the playing staff would be enough to see Canadi’s squad in and around the promotion spots come the end of the season. However, as is sometimes the case with relegated teams, the scars from the previous season have been carried over into the new one, with little confidence and rhythm running through the side. A brittleness certainly hasn’t helped matters, with Nürnberg contriving to concede late goals against Kiel, Regensburg, Heidenheim and Aue to throw away points at the death.
Scoring goals hasn’t been the problem for the team from Franconia, with 26 goals from 18 games putting the Club in mid-table league-wide. German under-21 winger Robin Hack, signed in the summer from TSG Hoffenheim, is the clear dangerman for Nuremberg, delivering pace, directness and a cold-blooded finish from the left wing, scoring six and providing two more so far this season. Johannes Geis in defensive midfield, dictates the tempo and can certainly run a game when in the mood, also contributing five goals this season. The former Mainz, Schalke and Köln man’s delivery from set-pieces is also something the Rothosen shall have to watch out for, particularly due to their difficulties defending dead ball situations before Christmas. However, with only Wiesbaden and Bochum having conceded more goals than Nürnberg in the first 18 games, Dieter Hecking will be hoping Jens Keller’s side are just as porous at the Volksparkstadion on Thursday evening as they were in the first half of the campaign.
Hecking wary not to repeat Lübeck slip-up
Hamburger SV’s preparations for the Rückrunde were seen as positive overall by the coaching staff, with a productive week in Portugal and an impressive 2-0 friendly win over Europa League participants FC Basel. However, a 5-2 defeat to Regionalliga side VfB Lübeck last Thursday night (23rd January) took an amount of shine off the previous weeks’ work. Drawing 1-1 at half-time, a host of defensive errors and clinical finishing from Lübeck meant that HSV were deservedly punished for a sloppy second half, eventually going down by five goals to two. “I wasn’t happy with the performance last Thursday at all,” Hecking said at Tuesday’s press conference. “A number of first team players didn’t perform to the level that they should have done and I made my feelings clear to them this week in training.”
However, Hecking was looking forward to getting back underway: “In the last four games before Christmas we weren’t up to the level that we had set at the start of the season. But we’re looking to put that right, starting on Thursday.” The Rothosen’s three new winter signings, right-back Jordan Beyer, attacking midfielder Louis Schaub and striker Joel Pohjanpalo are all in the matchday squad and could make their competitive debut for HSV on Thursday night. Hecking was pleased with the impetus the three have provided to the team: “I think you can see that we've raised the level in the squad with the new additions. Jordan Beyer has made strides since I managed him in Gladbach, and I think the other players are starting to realise the quality that Schaub possesses when they play with him in training." Other than long-term injury candidates Jan Gyamerah, Josha Vagnoman, Julian Pollersbeck and Jairo Samperio, the rest of the squad is fit and injury-free, giving the coaching staff some selection dilemmas before kick-off at 8:30pm CET.
The first meeting between the two sides ended in a 4-0 Hamburg win in August, the Rothosen’s joint-highest win in the second division, and Nuremberg’s joint-worst home defeat in the second tier.
Dieter Hecking stood on the sideline for Nuremberg for almost exactly three years, from December 2009 to December 2012. With 102 Bundesliga games, only Heinz Höher (119) has managed more Bundesliga games for Nuremberg than Hecking.
1. FC Nürnberg have never had fewer points after 18 games than their current tally of 19. ‘Der Club’ only had 19 points in 1994/95, but at that time teams only gained two points for a win.
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