Quest for home run continues against out-of-form Karlsruhe
Karlsruher SC are the visitors to the Volksparkstadion on Saturday (kick-off 1:00pm CET), as Hamburger SV aim for their third win in a row since Christmas.
A dramatic final twenty-five minutes at the Vonovia Ruhrstadion on Monday evening saw HSV claim their first win on the road since August 2019, with Tim Leibold and Joel Pohjanpalo opening their accounts for the Rothosen in the process. Dieter Hecking’s previous successful outing away from the Volksparkstadion was a 4-2 victory over opposite number Alois Schwartz, with Sonny Kittel securing a brace to really kickstart his season in front of goal. However, Schwartz won’t be standing opposite Hecking on the touchline on Saturday lunchtime (8th February), unceremoniously dumped by Karlsruhe on Tuesday morning after a two and a half year spell in charge. Having stabilised the Baden side after relegation to the third tier in 2017, the 52-year-old led KSC back to the second division at the second time of asking, with automatic promotion secured in May 2019.
Focus on the guests
And Schwartz carried the momentum into the new campaign, winning his first three games in the second tier, as his Karlruhe side became early league leaders before the 4-2 loss against the Rothosen stalled progress. Seven (!) draws in a row followed as the early season form disappeared and the team from Baden slowly started to sink down the table. 5-1 and 1-0 home losses to Greuther Fürth and Wehen Wiesbaden just before the Christmas break didn’t do Schwartz’s job prospects any favours, and the writing was on the wall when the first two fixtures after the return of competitive football resulted in a 1-0 loss to Dynamo Dresden and 2-0 loss to Holstein Kiel.
Despite backing his manager publicly after Saturday’s home loss to the Storks, sporting director Oliver Kreuzer took an about turn and sacked popular manager Schwartz on Monday morning, with Karlsruhe in the bottom two with 20 points to their name. Christian Eichner, who spent the happiest years of his playing career at the Wildparkstadion and has been assistant manager since April 2017, took over the reins and will most likely be interim manager for the game at the Volksparkstadion on Saturday. The 37-year-old’s debut as first-team coach didn’t go as planned, as the Blue and Whites were taken to extra-time by Regionalliga side 1. FC Saarbrücken after a turgid DFB Pokal round-of-16 game on Wednesday evening. David Pisot missed the decisive penalty for KSC, meaning Karlsruhe had to contend with a change of manager and surprising cup-exit within a matter a days.
Opposition scouting report
The gruelling extra-time cup loss will not have made the recovery for Saturday’s game the easiest, whilst Eichner will also have to shuffle the pack after a raft of injuries and suspensions. Defensive starters Daniel Gordon and Damian Roßbach are both suspended for the game, whilst squad members Choi, Röser and Hanek will not travel to Hamburg after picking up knocks against Saarbrücken. Whilst Schwartz preferred to line up in a 4-1-4-1 formation, as Dieter Hecking mentioned at the pre-match press conference: “Karlsruhe are an unknown quantity this weekend. They have had a change of manager this week and then had a cup game where they were the favourite so we haven’t got much to work on from a tactical point of view.”
Whilst Eichner will be looking to spring a surprise on the more experienced duo of Hecking and Bremser, the 37-year-old will be well aware that his first task is to shore up the joint-leakiest defence in the league, with goalkeeper Uphoff already having had to pluck the ball out of the net 39 times so far this season. Yet, similarly to fellow strugglers Bochum and Nuremberg, KSC have had little trouble finding the net themselves, their 29 goals comfortably putting them in the top half of the table, and striker Philipp Hofmann’s tally of ten goals only one behind HSV’s Sonny Kittel in fourth place on the sharpshooter’s leaderboard. Karlsruhe’s centre-midfield pairing of Marvin Wanitzek (seven assists) and Jérôme Gondorf (winter transfer from SC Freiburg) is one of the more potent available in the division, whilst Marc Lorenz on the left-wing has also provided seven assists, looking to target the strong and lethal Hofmann early on when defences are not set. Whilst in poor form having lost their past four, it would be naïve to think that the visitors won’t cause problems to a Hamburg defence that hasn’t kept a clean sheet in eleven games.
Three is the key for hopeful Rothosen
There was certainly a palpable feeling of relief on Monday night in the HSV camp after the first away win in nine attempts at the Vonovia Ruhrstadion. It looked as if the away day blues would be returning when Simon Zoller put Bochum ahead in the 65th minute, only for Tim Leibold to thunder in a volley two minutes later before putting Joel Pohjanpalo’s first goal for the club on a plate, a chance that the Finn gobbled up with glee. With Arminia Bielefeld and Stuttgart only able to draw, the Rothosen moved on to 37 points, cutting the gap at the top to one, and are adamant about keeping the pressure on the competition up and generating some forward momentum with positive results, having now won both games after the Christmas break.
Luck with injuries is certainly playing its part, with the HSV coaching staff once again having the unenviable task of choosing their best XI for the upcoming match. Dieter Hecking was able to report at Friday’s press conference that Jan Gyamerah and Josha Vagnoman are progressing well with their rehabilitation at the moment, yet the gap has hardly been noticed, with Gladbach-loanee Jordan Beyer making a strong start to his Rothosen career. Jeremy Dudziak picked up a slight knock against Bochum but should be cleared for tomorrow’s action, whilst Jairo Samperio was able to fully take part in training again for the first time this week, bolstering Hecking’s options from the bench.
Dieter Hecking on the mood in the camp: "The atmosphere in the dressing room is good. It's nice to win the first two games after the Christmas break but we know we haven't done anything at all just yet. We need to continue the road we're on and perform to the best of our ability tomorrow."
Important information regarding travel to and from the game: There are a number of events on tomorrow at the Barclaycard Arena next to the Volksparkstadion, therefore we would strongly recommend that you travel to the game using public transport (which is free with your match ticket).
Karlsruhe have not been able to beat HSV at the Volksparkstadion in eight attempts, with five losses and three draws. HSV doesn’t have a longer unbeaten home streak against any of the other current first and second division teams (also 8 unbeaten home games against Düsseldorf).
Hamburger SV have had 15 different goal scorers this season, by some margin the highest number in the division. The club record in a season is 16 different goal scorers (2000/01, 2002/03, 2009/10).
Karlsruhe are the only second division side who didn’t manage to score a goal in any of their past three games. KSC have never gone four games in a row without scoring in the 2. Liga.
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