Special debut in Leipzig
RB Leipzig is the only Bundesliga side HSV have yet to take points off. RB won bioth encounters so far. That said. The Rothosen travel there with the confidence of two strong home wins. RB are the strongest home side in Germany’s topflight.
The Rothosen have had a perfect week for a change. Last Friday’s 1-0 home league win over Bayer Leverkusen was swiftly followed by a 2-0 home win over Cologne on Tuesday evening to reach the lucrative quarter final stages of the DFB Cup where they have been given a mouth-watering draw at home to old rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach. But before any thought of further cup progress can be considered the Rothosen travel to meet RB Leipzig on Bundesliga matchday 20 on Saturday ((11.02.17, 3.30PM). It is HSV’s first trip there, making Leipzig their 54th opponent in the top flight.
As Leipzig were founded in May 2009, HSV stopper Rene Adler was number one between the Bayer Leverkusen posts on his way to becoming number one for his country. The keeper hails from Leipzig, so Saturday’s game will be an emotional occasion for him. "I never thought during my long career that I would be returning to Leipzig to play a game let alone one in the Bundesliga", explained the 32 year old keeper. He played for VfB Leipzig at youth level from 1991 until 2000: "I left 17 years ago to realise my dream of becoming a professional footballer. I was 15 at the time. I now have been longer away than I was there. It will be an emotional game for me.“
The same can be said for new on-loan defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos, who joined the Rothosen from Red Bull Leipzig on loan in January: “I know everyone there and am friends with quite a few of them. I am relishing the game”, says the gritty defender, who never made the grade at the east German club for whom he only made one appearance after joining them on loan from Bayer Leverkusen. Since January he has played three times for Hamburg and is already a huge hit with the fans for the way he leaves everything on the pitch – just what the Rothosen need during their annual relegation battle. “Papa” as he is known wants more. He said: “I always want to play and give my all for HSV in order to attain our goal of staying in the Bundesliga.”
The big Greek defender had to be consoled by his boss Markus Gisdol after his emotions got the better of him after being told he would not start the cup game against another former club of his Cologne. Gisdol: “His emotion overflowed. He was so keen to consolidate previous performances and was gutted. But we know how to channel that emotion.” He looks likely to start in Leipzig. Captain Gojko Sakai returns from suspension while injured trio Albin Ekdal, Nikolai Müller and Lewis Holtby are all available after injury. Michael Gregoritsch, Finn Porath (both ankle tendon injuries) and Luca Waldschmidt (flu bug) have been ruled out.
"Release the air from the ball"
Gisdol’s Leipzig counterpart Ralph Hasenhüttl has also received good news from the injury and suspension front: Emil Forsberg is back from suspension while key duo Timo Werner and Marcel Sabitzer are available again after recovering from a bout of flu. The coach only has to find one replacement for central defender Marvin Compper who is suspended after picking up a fifth yellow card last time out. His place is likely to go to either new signing Dayot Upamecano or Stefan Ilsanker.
Rene Adler does not see the fact that Leipzig will be fresher after not playing in the cup this week. They were knocked out in round one. He explained: “That can’t play any role. It will take a strong willed and determined performance to reach our potential limit on Saturday. We have to play over our limit in order to take something home from the game and having two straight wins in the bag help a lot.” Nobody is under any illusion as to the difficulty of the task on Saturday. Leipzig have the best home record in the Bundesliga with 25 points: “They play at such a high tempo that our only chance will be to let the air out of the ball”, quipped Gisdol at the pre-match press conference on Thursday.
HSV (from): Adler, Mathenia, Diekmeier, Djourou, Douglas Santos, Ekdal, Holtby, Hunt, Jung, Lasogga, Kostic, Mavraj, N. Müller, Ostrzolek, Papadopoulos, Sakai, Walace, Wood
Possible RB Leipzig line-up: Gulacsi - Bernardo, Upamecano, Orban, Halstenberg - Ilsanker, Keita - Sabitzer, Forsberg - Ti. Werner, Y. Poulsen