Relegation-threatened Osnabrück stand in the way of HSV momentum
In the penultimate home match of the season, 14th-placed VfL Osnabrück travel to Hamburg, hoping to improve their outlook in the relegation battle and upset the apple cart along the way.
The 2. Bundesliga heads into the final straight with a midweek round of fixtures that will have implications at the top and bottom of the standings. VfL Osnabrück are the visitors to the Volksparkstadion on Tuesday night (kick-off 6:30pm CET) and the Lilac’s coach Daniel Thioune will be looking to land a damaging blow to Hamburg’s promotion aspirations whilst also giving his side breathing room in the battle to avoid the drop to the 3. Liga. Hamburg enter the game with something resembling form, thanks in the main to Joel Pohjanpalo, who has four in his last three appearances and scored the only goal of the game in an important victory in Dresden on Friday.
Focus on the visitors
45-year-old Thioune is one of the rising stars of German football management, having worked his way through the youth set-up of Osnabrück before receiving the first-team manager’s job on a full-time basis in November 2017. The 2018/19 season saw Thioune voted as the 3. Liga ‘Manager of the Year’ as the Lilacs romped to the title, returning to the second tier for the first time since the 2010/11 season. VfL carried their forward momentum into the new season, sitting pretty in fifth position at the turn of the year, yet the momentum has evaporated and Thioune’s team have struggled since Christmas. The East Westphalians are rooted to the bottom of the Rückrundentabelle with nine points in 14 games since Christmas, which has seen them slowly slip down the table, occupying 14th spot with 35 points before Matchday 32, two above the relegation play-off spot.
Despite form letting them down in 2020, the Lilacs have been solid since the league restart, only losing two of their six games, and getting their first win of the Rückrunde against Greuther Fürth on Matchday 28. The defensive solidity that served them well in the first half of the season has returned, drawing 1-1 with table-toppers Bielefeld and 0-0 away at VfB Stuttgart. Momentum was stalled somewhat with a disappointing 2-0 loss in the derby with Bochum on Saturday, and, with results around them not going their way, Thioune’s charges are nervously looking over their shoulder heading into the final three games of the campaign.
Opposition scouting report
The success in the first half of the season for the Lilacs was based on defensive solidity, conceding the fewest amount of goals at the halfway stage with 16. The tables have turned since Christmas, scoring 15 and conceding 28 in 14 games in an alarming change of fortune, going from the tightest defence in the league in the Hinrunde to the leakiest in the Rückrunde. Whilst the defence has been more solid since the restart, shipping four goals to Hannover on Matchday 27 shows the inexperienced defence is still having trouble coping at this level, particularly when opposing sides have long periods of possession and are able to move them out of position, testing the defensive unit’s concentration.
Thioune has also been tactically flexible in the preceding fixtures, generally starting with a back four apart from the 2-2 draw in Regensburg that saw the Lilacs operate in a 3-4-2-1 formation. With Hamburg looking to employ their usual 4-3-3 formation, Thioune may opt to compete directly with a 4-2-3-1 or aim for something different, as seen in the Regensburg game. 28-year-old eccentric centre-forward Marcos Álvarez is the clear dangerman for the Rothosen to watch out for, having scored 14 of Osnabrück’s 39 goals this season, yet is something of an enigma, and is usually more efficient when coming off the bench. On-loan attacking midfielder Niklas Schmidt has also shown glimpses of his talent this season, none more obvious than his solo goal against the Rothosen in Osnabrück’s 2-1 win at the Bremer Brücke in November, yet has failed to provide attacking threat consistently. Felix Agu, who will join Werder Bremen on a free transfer at the end of the season, is one to watch as a marauding left-back, having collected six assists already this season.
Van Drongelen missing as Hamburg aim to keep pressure up
It was by no means a vintage performance from the Rothosen on Friday at the Rudolf Harbig Stadion, but on the balance of play certainly a deserved victory thanks to Joel Pohjanpalo’s 84th-minute winner. And the three points proved invaluable when, on Sunday, Karlsruhe defeated Stuttgart, meaning that the Rothosen leapfrogged the Swabians into second position, and now control their own destiny, one point ahead of VfB and two ahead of Sunday’s opponents Heidenheim with three games to play. Despite a disappointing last-minute equaliser against Holstein Kiel, the victory on Friday means Hamburg enter the match on a three-game unbeaten streak and can keep the pressure high on their competitors with another three points. Pohjanpalo has been particularly influential, netting his sixth in six since the restart, not having a huge amount of influence on games but being in the right place at the right time to punish defenders’ mistakes.
A number of Hamburg players have accumulated four yellow cards over the course of the season (Tim Leibold, Lukas Hinterseer, Bakery Jatta) and Rick van Drongelen’s late challenge on Oliver Kreuzer in Dresden earned the vice-captain his fifth caution of the season, resulting in a one-match suspension for Tuesday’s encounter. Who will replace the Dutchman in the centre-back position is unclear, with Gideon Jung and Jordan Beyer both options, with the latter likely to be back in the squad after pulling a muscle in training last Wednesday and sitting out the fixture in Saxony. David Kinsombi had muscle problems after Friday’s match but will be fit in time to make the squad, whilst the availability of fellow central midfielder Jeremy Dudziak is unclear at this moment in time.
Dieter Hecking on the upcoming games: "We have to complete the task at hand. It doesn't help anyone to talk about what the other teams are doing or where we are in the table. We have to beat VfL Osnabrück tomorrow and we won't get anything handed to us by them.
HSV only won the first of four meetings with VfL Osnabrück since the foundation of the Bundesliga, a 1-0 away win in the second round of the DFB Pokal in 1988/89. Two losses in the DFB Pokal followed (2nd round 2009/10, 1st round 2017/18) as well as the 2-1 loss in the league in November.
This is the first meeting between the two sides at the Volksparkstadion. The three meetings in the DFB Pokal as well as the game in November all took place at the Stadion an der Bremer Brücke.
Osnabrück manager Daniel Thioune was a player for VfB Lübeck in the 2002/03 and 2003/04 seasons. The Lübeck coaching staff for those two seasons? Dieter Hecking and Dirk Bremser.