Pre-Match report


Carrying courage and character into the final matches of the season

Hamburger SV travel to face 1. FC Union Berlin on Sunday as the Rothosen look to put themselves in a strong position in the race for promotion in the 2. Bundesliga.

As the clock ticked into stoppage time in the Volksparkstadion, 1. FC Union Berlin fired a long ball into the HSV penalty area. Eisern defender Florian Hübner helped the ball into the path of Suleiman Abdullahi and the striker fired the ball into the back of the net from close range. The Nigerian’s late equaliser in the 2-2 draw has proved to be a huge goal in the 2. Bundesliga promotion race. Back in November 2018, when the two teams last met, HSV were league leaders while Union Berlin were third as the Rothosen came from 1-0 down to lead until the final moments. In the pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday’s match at the Stadion an der alten Försterei (13:30 CEST), Rothosen head coach Hannes Wolf reflected on the frustrating late draw between the two sides last time out as well as the qualities tomorrow’s opponents possess. “Union are a very good side, who play a very physical style of play. They possess a lot of power in attack and a lot of pace down the wings. You have already seen in our previous meeting this season that they are a strong side. Consequently, we conceded the late equaliser to lose two crucial points in the 2-2 draws. It was a very even match and we had all three points in our grasp. However, we will need to give a top performance to take something tomorrow.”

HSV have captain Hunt back for the final fixtures

To ensure that this performance required by the head coach can be achieved, his squad must once again show the courage and character that were seen in the DFB-Pokal semi-final against RB Leipzig. With great readiness, HSV played bravely despite their underdog status, so much so that the Saxons weren't plain sailing, especially towards the end of the first half. This performance gave the HSV side some courage, although the game ultimately ended with a 3-1 home defeat. Regardless, the merits of the Pokal don't play a role anymore - rather, the last four games in the 2. Bundesliga are crucial to achieve HSV's main aim for the season. Since their convincing 4-0 victory in the city derby, HSV have not been able to win any of their last five league games (three draws, two defeats) and have thus found themselves in a difficult situation, one that still leaves all options open however. With 53 points, Die Rothosen are in second place - a full three points and two places ahead of tomorrow's opponents.

It will be a tight fixture - one decided by close calls. HSV's 38-year-old coach, Hannes Wolf, spoke about the mental challenges ahead of the game, saying: “Of course we can feel that we are in the last stages of the season. Yes, it’s nothing new to say that HSV are under pressure. We know this situation and we knew about it before. We’ll be playing against a direct opponent. That’s why I hope that we play a good game on the one hand, and on the other hand, have the right amount of nerves and concentration in the decisive moments.” This hope is boosted by the rehabilitated squad, which has recently welcomed back captain Aaron Hunt, now back to full fitness, after he made two short appearances against Erzgebirge Aue and RB Leipzig. As a result, the coach can look to an almost fully-fit squad to give everything in the capital.

Union Berlin also under pressure

The hosts are also hopeful for three points. Much like HSV, Union Berlin have had to deal with a series of disappointments in recent weeks. Swiss coach, Urs Fischer, and his team have racked up only a few more points than HSV (three draws, two losses) and, for the first time since Matchday 20, sit outside the promotion places. The coach, who has been at Union Berlin since July 2018, spoke about the meaning behind the clash with HSV: “It’s a very important game. A game that we believe is crucial. We know exactly what it’s about.” Whether Florian Hübner, who set up a goal in the reverse fixture, will be available for the game is still unknown - the centre-back has been plagued by a muscle problem.  Other than that, the squad situation for Union looks pretty good, so there should be nothing standing in the way of a great match-up.

Should HSV win this tight clash, it would be exactly what Hannes Wolf talked about ahead of the game: “We want to give 100 percent over the course of the entire game.” If that should happen, HSV could have a win at full-time and an important boost for the last few weeks of the season.

HSV squad to face 1. FC Union Berlin:Goalkeepers: Pollersbeck, Mickel; Outfield: Bates, Douglas, Hunt, Hwang, Janjicic, Jatta, Jung, Köhlert, Lacroix, Lasogga, narey, Özcan, Sakai, Vagnoman, van Drongelen, Wintzheimer

Probable Union Berlin starting XI: Gikiewicz – Trimmel, Friedrich, F. Hübner, Reichel – Schmiedebach – Prömel, F. Kroos – Abdullahi, Polter, Mees

Referee: Sascha Stegemann