Turnaround needed in Darmstadt
Hamburger SV travel to the Merck-Stadion am Böllenfalltor on Saturday (kick-off 1:00pm CET) wanting to see the back of a three-game losing streak.
Where there’s a will there’s a way. Hamburger SV certainly didn’t like fighting spirit last time out against Hannover 96, an outstanding performance from 96 ‘keeper Michael Esser and poor finishing denying them a well-deserved point at the Volksparkstadion. Yet, as we are often told, this is a results-based business and the 1-0 loss was the Rothosen’s third on the bounce. Daniel Thioune’s side will need to show the same fighting spirit with a certain amount of guile to emerge from the Merck-Stadion am Böllenfalltor with a positive result to exit the rut that they currently find themselves in.
Focus on the hosts
Whilst Saturday lunchtime’s visitors find themselves in a sticky patch, the same could certainly be said of the hosts as well. A strong second half to the 2019/20 season saw Dimitrios Grammozis’ team secure second place in the Rückrundentabelle despite the former HSV player being told he would be relieved of his duties at the end of the season in February. Despite the change of manager, ex-Köln and Holstein Kiel chief Markus Anfang taking charge over the summer, it was expected that the Lilies would mount a tilt at promotion in the current season. Results have been spectacularly unpredictable and inconsistent so far, the last two results at the Böllenfalltor being a 4-0 loss to Paderborn and a 4-0 win over Eintracht Braunschweig. Heading into Saturday’s game, the Lilies sit in 14th position on twelve points, something that will not please Anfang or the Darmstadt fans.
Opposition scouting report
Games involving Darmstadt have certainly been interesting so far this season, a league-high 39 goals being seen in the 10 matches so far in the 2. Bundesliga. Goals have been flowing for the Lilies, 18 goals so far being the second-highest tally in the league. There are two clear main threats, Serdar Dursun continuing to see his stock rise in the second division with seven goals and three assists, and Tobias Kempe leading the league in goal contributions thanks to five goals and seven assists so far this campaign. As Daniel Thioune noted at Thursday’s pre-match press conference: “Markus Anfang tries to get his team to play out from the back and control possession, playing some nice football. On top of that they're always very flexible in how they set themselves up.”
Anfang’s tactical flexibility will be tested once again on Saturday, as the Lilies have a raft of personnel missing for the clash. The biggest loss is certainly midfield talisman Victor Pálsson who has torn a tendon in his thumb and will likely be missing until the end of January. On top of that Nicolai Rapp (calf), Fabian Schnellhardt (hip flexor), Seung-ho Paik (personal matters) weren’t able to train this week and may not be able to fill on for the Icelandic international. The defence, third-leakiest in the division, is also suffering from injury problems and a lack of form for on-loan Bayern Munich centre-back Lars Lukas Mai, who was seen as a real coup when signed from the Säbener Straße in the summer but has failed to show his class just yet. Former HSV man Patric Pfeiffer was part of a five-man defence in last Friday’s 3-2 loss to Fortuna Düsseldorf and will most likely face his former team on Saturday.
HSV hopeful of positive result in Hessen
Frustration was tempered with hope in the HSV camp this week, as another opportunity to collect points drifted away against the Hannover, but the performance and attitude was the right one after the sending-off of Sonny Kittel. Daniel Thioune reaffirmed that this was the case in training this week as well. "Sometimes you have to play the role of psychologist as well when you’re a manager. We tried to raise the moral a bit this week because the squad displayed a good performance against Hannover, but didn't quite get the result." The good news for Thioune and co. is that once again they have a range of options to choose from, Tom Mickel and Rick van Drongelen remaining the only injury candidates, and Sonny Kittel sitting out his one-match suspension from the red card. The third loss in a row sees HSV still mired on 17 points, having now slipped down to fourth position. As such the Rothosen are very much in striking distance of the rest of the league now, all the way down to Fortuna Düsseldorf in 11th place on 14 points. Time for a turnaround indeed.
The loss against Hannover left a bitter after-taste statistically as well as on the scoreboard: it was the first time this season the Rothosen have failed to score, and the three-match losing streak equals the club’s longest in the second division.
Both teams have shown themselves to be effective in front of goal so far, HSV converting every sixth shot and Darmstadt every seventh, the best and second-best ratios in the league.
Hamburg native Serdar Dursun has a particularly good record against the Rothosen, scoring three and assisting two in the four games he’s faced HSV in 2. Bundesliga. He has scored all three of SV98’s goals against Hamburg at the Böllenfalltor in the second tier.
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