HSV travel to surprise package Bielefeld for top-of-the-table clash
Hamburger SV travel to Arminia Bielefeld on Monday evening (kick-off 8:30pm CEST), knowing that they will have to be at their best to come away from the SchücoArena with any kind of result.
The HSV coaching staff have had two weeks to mull over the season up until now, and, having had to watch the rest of the league get back underway over the weekend, are chomping at the bit to get the league campaign back underway with one of the most difficult match-ups of the season. A more than satisfactory opening nine matches sees the Rothosen sitting pretty in the race for promotion on 20 points, yet face third-placed Arminia Bielefeld on Monday before the visit of VfB Stuttgart to the Volksparkstadion next Saturday and the following Tuesday in the 2. Bundesliga and DFB Pokal respectively. The growing interplay and team spirit amongst the Hamburg ranks will be tested over the next two weeks, and will be a good yardstick for the coaching staff to see where their charges currently sit in relation to the targets set at the beginning of the season.
A difficult task awaits against a Bielefeld side brimming with confidence after collecting the most points of any second division side this calendar year, and who can leapfrog both Hamburg and Stuttgart with victory at the SchücoArena. The team from Ostwestfalen (East Westphalia) have gone from strength to strength under Uwe Neuhaus, who took over from Jeff Saibene in December 2018. Under Neuhaus’ tutelage, Arminia were the second best team in the league in the second half of the season, climbing from 14th position at Christmas to 7th on the final day of the season. A dab hand in the German second tier, having managed Union Berlin for seven years and Dynamo Dresden for three, Neuhaus’ ideas have obviously been taken on board by the Bielefeld playing staff, carrying the strong form in the spring of 2019 into the new campaign, and sitting on 18 points after nine games, their best return in the second division at this point for 10 years.
Focus on the hosts
Founded in 1905, Arminia Bielefeld is the biggest and most successful club in East Westphalia, a region dominated by countryside wedged between the footballing heartlands of the Ruhr valley area (Dortmund, Mönchengladbach, Schalke) and Lower Saxony (Wolfsburg, Hannover, Braunschweig). After failing to truly establish itself like its more successful cousins in the Ruhr valley region, Arminia Bielefeld’s first real period of success came in the 1970s, playing in the Bundesliga for the first time in the 1970/71 season. Yet relegation followed, a pattern that was to continue for the rest of the club’s history. The ‘Blues’, as they are affectionately known by their supporters, have been promoted to the Bundesliga on seven occasions, a record that only 1. FC Nürnberg can trump with eight promotions. Having been relegated from the Bundesliga in 2009, a period of uncertainty and relegation followed, with Arminia flitting between the second and third tiers. After gaining promotion back from the third tier in 2015, the Blues have somewhat established themselves, with fourth and seventh-placed finishes in the past two campaigns in Bundesliga 2. The SchücoArena, the club’s home since 1926, is regarded as one of the best atmospheres in German football, with a sell-out crowd of 26,515 expected on Monday evening.
Despite the intense atmosphere at the ‘Bielefelder Alm’, the strong start has been based off the back of Bielefeld’s away form, picking up 13 of a possible 15 points on the road, whilst only picking up five points on home turf from four attempts. The last home game saw then-table toppers VfB Stuttgart emerge 1-0 winners, whilst St. Pauli and Greuther Fürth have also taken a point from their trip to the SchücoArena. Andreas Voglsammer scored the only goal of the game last Monday night in the derby game at Osnabrück, meaning that Bielefeld kept pace with Hamburg and Stuttgart at the top of the table. With Stuttgart having lost to Holstein Kiel on Sunday, a win for Uwe Neuhaus’ side would see them leapfrog both of their promotion rivals, and lead the pack for the first time this season.
With the net having rippled 20 times in Arminia’s favour so far this campaign, the Blues can call on the second most potent attack in the division, only being bettered by Hamburg’s tally of 21. Lining up in a 4-3-3 formation, Uwe Neuhaus has instilled a clear style of play, looking to build out from the back, with both full-backs bombing forward and looking to interchange passes with Marcel Hartel and Jóan Edmundsson, the two more advanced of the three central midfielders. Hartel has been something of a revelation since completing a summer move from Bundesliga side Union Berlin, contributing four assists in eight games, looking to find space between the defensive lines to feed his strikers.
The front three of Andreas Voglsammer, Fabian Klos and Cebio Soukou strike fear into the heart of any second division defender due to their versatility. Neuhaus has implemented a possession-based philosophy, yet is also not afraid to use the height and aerial ability of his three-pronged attack, particularly Klos, with the 31-year-old standing 6’4” tall, strong in the air yet deft with the ball at his feet. The club captain has been entertaining the SchücoArena crowd since July 2011, and is the club’s all-time record goalscorer with 136 goals in 301 games for Arminia. The crowd favourite has built up a formidable partnership with Voglsammer since the latter moved to East Westphalia in July 2016, with Klos having scored six and assisted four and his strike partner preparing two and scoring five so far in 2019/20.
Dieter Hecking on the threat posed by Bielefeld: “They like to keep the ball on the deck but can also go back to front very quickly, playing it up to Fabian Klos, who's very strong in the air. We are going to have to defend intelligently against him, and Bielefeld as a whole as they are a quality outfit."
Hunt sits out as squad nears full capacity
HSV captain Aaron Hunt’s injury-hit 2019 has continued, as the 33-year-old has failed to overcome muscular problems that saw him substituted off just after the hour mark two weeks ago against Greuther Fürth. It had been hoped that the captain would be able to shake off the knock that has blighted him during a large proportion of 2019 whilst his teammates were on international duty, but the Hunter was training individually with rehabilitation coach Sebastian Capel last week and has not taken part in full training since the Fürth game. Christoph Moritz played a full 90 minutes for the under-21 side on Saturday to near a return from a broken collarbone, whilst it is hoped that Ewerton will be back to full fitness after an additional week of training with the rest of the first team over the coming days. As reported earlier in the week, Kyriakos Papadopoulos will be training with the under-21 side from now onwards and is not in the matchday squad. After dispatching Greuther Fürth by two goals to nil (Jeremy Dudziak and Sonny Kittel) two weeks ago, Hamburg will be praying for a strong showing on the road, with the possibility of extending their lead to five points over Bielefeld with a win.
Arminia Bielefeld are without a doubt the most successful side in the calendar year, collecting 49 points from 25 games. Hamburg are next best with 39 from the same amount of fixtures.
21 and 20 goals from Hamburg and Bielefeld respectively after nine games are records for both clubs. Hamburg have an average of 2.3 goals a game so far, a whole goal better than their average last campaign, a measly 1.3.
Sonny Kittel sealed the deal against Fürth last time out with the second of the game in the 85th minute, his fifth goal of the season. HSV have won every game in which the winger has scored this year.
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