Tricky trip to in-form Fortuna
The first ‘Englische Woche’ of 2021 sees Hamburger SV travel to Fortuna Düsseldorf in a clash of two teams at the top of their game.
The Rückrunde in the 2. Bundesliga begins for Hamburger SV at the Merkur Spiel-Arena on Tuesday evening (kick-off 8:30pm CET), offering up a tantalising tie with fellow promotion candidates Fortuna Düsseldorf. Tipped by many to bounce straight back up to the Bundesliga at the first time of asking, an unconvincing start to the season left Uwe Rösler and his team floundering in mid-table. The 5-0 thrashing by VfL Bochum was a turning point at the end of November, Fortuna going unbeaten in the eight games since then, and will be hoping for a win on Tuesday night to underline their promotion credentials and solidify their position in the top five of the table.
Focus on the hosts
Fortuna Düsseldorf are another of the traditional teams in German football, based in the city of Düsseldorf in the Niederrhein area of West Germany, known for its Altbier and packed pub quarter, which allegedly has the most amount of pubs in one square kilometre than anywhere else in the world. After a long stay in the Bundesliga in the 1970s and 80s, the 1990s and turn of the millennium saw Fortuna slip as far as the Oberliga and in serious financial trouble, helped out by the sponsorship of famous German band and Fortuna fans ‘Die Toten Hosen’. The club has consolidated considerably since this low point in 2002, helped in part by the move to the 54,600-capacity Merkur Spiel-Arena, slowly working its way back up the German footballing pyramid, playing its two most recent seasons in the top tier.
Popular coach Friedhelm Funkel was relieved of his duties in January 2020, replaced by former Brentford and Wigan manager Uwe Rösler, who couldn’t stop his side’s slide down the table, relegated on the final matchday against Union Berlin. Die ‘Flingeraner’, known as such because of the working-class neighbourhood where the majority of their fans used to come from, endured a rough start back in the second division, the 5-0 loss to Bochum on Matchday 9 leaving them in 12th position on eleven points. Six wins and two draws have followed, most recently a thrilling 3-3 draw at home to Greuther Fürth on Friday night, goalkeeper Florian Kastenmeier going up for a corner and proving to be a diversion in the 83rd minute (!), as Kevin Danso netted the equaliser to make it three goals apiece.
Opposition scouting report
The most notable improvement, and key reason for the steady rise up the table, has been a shoring up of the defence, conceding only four goals in seven games on the unbeaten run, before the three conceded to fellow promotion candidates Fürth on Friday night. The opening games of the season had seen individual errors and a lack of communication between the newly-assembled back four leading to goals for opponents, but Danso in particular has raised his game and formed a strong partnership with captain Andre Hoffmann at the heart of the defence. Discipline had also been a major concern for Rösler, four red cards coming in the first nine games, significantly contributing to away defeats in Kiel, Hannover and Bochum, but has also been quashed in their most recent fixtures.
Setting up in a wide 4-4-2, the danger predominantly comes from attacking pairing Kenan Karaman and former HSV man Rouwen Hennings, both undoubtedly in the top 5 attacking players in the league, and lethal when given a shot at goal. Turkish international Karaman leads the way for Fortuna with six goals and two assists, his tight dribbling and ingenuity a nightmare for 2. Liga defences. Rösler’s options on the wings have also been improved during the January transfer window, Felix Klaus arriving on loan from VfL Wolfsburg to use all of his experience from over 200 appearances in the top two divisions.
Daniel Thioune on F95: "They've proved themselves to be mature and resistant to pressure over the past few weeks, and press their opponents all over the pitch when they’re out of possession. At the moment they're one of the top teams in the league, and will be in the fight for promotion until the end, no doubt."
Vagnoman missing as HSV look to build momentum
Daniel Thioune was unafraid to ring the changes on Saturday after a disappointing first half in Braunschweig. The half-time substitutions of Aaron Hunt and Amadou Onana certainly paid off and invigorated the Rothosen going into the second half, Hunt getting on the scoresheet himself for the third in a 4-2 comeback win at the Eintracht-Stadion. The victory crowned HSV as ‘Hinrundenmeister’, champions of the first half of the season, and enter Tuesday night’s clash as league leaders on 36 points, three in front of second-placed Bochum and five ahead of Fortuna. The only downside to the victory in Lower Saxony was the injury to Josha Vagnoman, the 20-year-old out of action for several weeks with torn ligaments in his right ankle. Fortunately, Jan Gyamerah has just returned from injury and is an option for the right-hand side of defence, as well as Moritz Heyer who did a sterling job in the second half against Eintracht. Vagnoman meanwhile joins Klaus Gjasula and Rick van Drongelen on the sidelines.
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