A welcome repeat of the top-of-the-table clash against Köln
On Monday night, 2. Bundesliga leaders 1. FC Köln host Hamburger SV in a top-of-the-table clash. While Köln look to move ten points clear of the Rothosen and push for an immediate return to the top flight, HSV want to demonstrate a repeat of the special victory in the previous meeting this season.
When HSV head coach Hannes Wolf meets his squad for the final time on Monday, he will certainly refer to the previous meeting between the two sides this season. Pierre-Michel Lasogga scored in the dying seconds to secure a 1-0 win for the Rothosen in arguably the biggest match of the Hinrunde. “We proved in this match that we could compete against a really strong side in 1. FC Köln,” said the coach in the pre-match press conference ahead of the trip to face the league leaders tonight (20:30 CEST).
Visioning more special moments
HSV have managed to live up the occasion of big, televised matches this season. One of the most experienced members of the Rothosen squad, Tom Mickel, believes in the team and their strengths in special moments. “Even if our Rückrunde performances have fluctuated, we have certainly shown our strengths in the decisive matches,” reflects the 29-year-old goalkeeper on the Hamburg city derby victory away against St. Pauli as well as the DFB-Pokal quarter-final victory in Paderborn. “We want to and have to show this side of our game again.”
On the question of whether another big victory will arrive for HSV tonight, Mickel replied: “Alongside battling hard and putting in a passionate performance, we need to bring our strengths onto the pitch. This is something we simply haven’t done well enough recently.” HSV are currently missing key players with injury, notably Pierre-Michel Lasogga (who scored in the reserve fixture), Lewis Holtby, Aaron Hunt and Hee-chan Hwang. There is no doubt that this has influenced the team’s dip in form in recent weeks. Nevertheless, Wolf has a lot of faith in his team as they prepare to face the league leaders in the sold-out RheinEnergieStadion. “This week, we have worked hard on several ideas and considerations for the match,” explained the head coach, who turns 38 on matchday. However, he has ruled out any birthday celebrations ahead of the crucial match: “It isn’t about me and the occasion but instead about the team and Hamburger SV.” More than 5,000 HSV fans will travel to Cologne to for the Monday match and Wolf is excited to have so many fans supporting the Rothosen. “The support is simply incredible, we’re thrilled to have them and it helps us a lot.”
Pollersbeck to play an important role
Together as the team, the aim will be to stop the top-scorers of the 2. Bundesliga. Simon Terrodem John Cordoba, Dominick Drexler and Anthony Modeste have scored 57 of Köln’s 74 goals so far this season. “You can’t defend for a full 90 minutes against such a strong attacking line,” said Wolf ahead of the match and consequently, “we will need Julian Pollersbeck to be on top form once again.” The HSV goalkeeper has kept more clean sheets than any other goalkeeper in the second tier (12) and he will be preoccupied with defensive work once more on Monday evening.
“We have to try to relive ourselves of some of our defensive works by keeping the ball and trying to attack,” added Wolf, who has similar views to Mickel ahead of the match. “From the first minute, we need to give everything we have and work hard. Our self-confidence will return if we are able to achieve this.” This will be necessary against a team who are currently enjoying a good run of form. The Effzeh are currently unbeaten in seven matches and have won six of those matches, scoring 21 goals and conceding just seven in the process. 1. FC Köln are currently on the verge of securing immediate promotion back to the Bundesliga although they did suffer a setback last time out in a 4-4 draw against bottom side Duisburg. “We made too many mistakes and were too sloppy,” summarized Köln midfielder Marco Höger but believes this match is just a slip-up for the remainder of the season. “With the experience we possess on the pitch, we cannot allow a repeat of these mistakes against HSV. However, with a clan performance, I believe we can secure a positive result.” Monday’s hosts can move twelve points clear of third place (play-off place), but HSV stand in the way of this proposition. “We have always played well against the top teams,” said Mickel, “and that will be the case once more on Monday night.” Team spirit has been prioritized over individual performances. Just like in the previous meeting, the Rothosen want to secure a last-gasp victory.
HSV squad travelling to face 1. FC Köln:Goalkeepers: Pollersbeck, Mickel; Outfield: Bates, Douglas, Ito, Janjicic, Jatta, Jung, Köhlert, Lacroix, Mangala, Narey, Özcan, Papadopoulos, Sakai, Vagnoman, van Drongelen, Wintzheimer
Potential 1. FC Köln starting XI: T. Horn – Jorge Meré, Höger, Czichos – Geis – Clemens, Drexler, J. Hector, Kainz – Cordoba, Terodde
Referee: Robert Hartmann