Rothosen aim to round off 2019 with victory in Darmstadt
HSV head south to Hessen on Saturday lunchtime (kick-off 1:00pm CET) for the final match of 2019 against SV Darmstadt 98.
The year and the decade draw to a close for HSV on Saturday (21st December), with the final fixture against SV Darmstadt 98 before the traditional German Christmas break. A year and decade of mixed emotions, as the Rothosen aim to round off the calendar year on a high point after a stuttering end to the Christmas run-in. Dieter Hecking would certainly have envisaged a different outcome to the festive period, yet despite a winless run stretching back to the home win against Dynamo Dresden, Hamburg are by no means out of the running and could leave themselves in a promising position heading into the winter break with a win in Darmstadt. As always in the second division, proven by the Rothosen’s winless run on their travels stretching back to the victory in Karlsruhe at the end of August, HSV will be tested to their limits at the Böllenfalltor, a ground which has become something of a fortress over the past five years for the Lilies.
Focus on the hosts
Darmstadt, a student town which lies around 30km south of Frankfurt, is the home of SV Darmstadt 98, formed in 1898. Despite the town’s modest size (population 160,000), the Lilies established themselves in the second division, spending the overwhelming majority of the post-war period in the second tier of German football. However, relegation to the third tier in 1992/93 started a downward spiral as the Blue and Whites flitted between the third and fourth divisions throughout the 90s and the start of the new millennium. The history of relative disappointment meant back-to-back promotions first to the 2. Bundesliga and then to the Bundesliga all the more surprising in 2013-15 as the Lilies managed to survive their first season back in the big time before being relegated the following campaign. The team from the Böllenfalltor have been in the second tier since that relegation in May 2017.
Having been denied all three points by Aaron Hunt’s injury-time penalty all the way back in July during the first matchday of the new season, the Lilies season under boss and former HSV player Dimitrios Grammozis has failed to ignite, despite flickering at various points over the campaign. The opening day draw was followed up by a win in both league and cup, before a seven-match winless streak, which was duly ended at the Millerntor Stadion in October. Grammozis’ charges enter Saturday’s game on a three-match winless run the same as the visitors, yet have faced table-toppers Arminia Bielefeld and VfB Stuttgart in their two previous home games at the Böllenfalltor. Currently sitting in 12th position on 20 points, the 41-year-old Grammozis will be hoping to go one better than Monday night’s 1-1 draw against Stuttgart and start to climb through the condensed midfield section in the second division table.
Opposition scouting report
Grammozis doesn’t have to look far to realise why his side is perhaps closer to the relegation zone than he had imagined at the start of the season. Only bottom side Dynamo Dresden have scored less than the Lilies’ tally of 18 in 17 games, and only managed three in one game in a lively 3-3 draw with Nürnberg back in September. Lining up in Grammozis’ favoured 4-4-1-1 formation, the Lilies have perhaps become over-reliant on target man Serdar Dursun, who has provided 8 of the 18 goals and is the focal point of the attack. Looking to be compact without the ball and get the ball up to Dursun early on the counter or using his height and strength to their ability, Darmstadt have struggled against teams that have sat behind the ball themselves and let the Lilies make the running. A lot of expectation was placed on the shoulders of 22-year-old attacking midfielder Marvin Mehlem before the season begun, and, whilst having already collected 6 assists so far this campaign, the Darmstadt faithful will be hoping for the youngster to kick on in the second half of the season and spark a charge up the table.
Hunt missing again after training ground injury
Aaron Hunt has not travelled with the squad to Hessen, rather encapsulating a disappointing stop-start year for the Hamburg captain. Xavier Amaechi was a tad over-enthusiastic to make an impression in training on Wednesday, catching the 33-year-old on the top of his foot during a challenge, who tore a small ligament in the process. The captain is the only absentee other than long-term casualties Jan Gyamerah and Josha Vagnoman, with Dieter Hecking confirming at this week’s press conference that both right-backs will be back in action in March at the earliest. Having picked up six points from the last six games, and a point last time out in Sandhausen thanks to Lukas Hinterseer’s 75th-minute equaliser, Hecking is more than keen to end the year with three points, looking to add to the current tally of 30 points, which sees the Rothosen in second four points behind Herbstmeister Arminia Bielefeld.
Hecking on the importance of the game: "We need to play at a high tempo and show some of the creativity that is needed to break down well-organised defences. This is the part of the season when the excitement starts to build, everything before it was just jostling for position. We’re in a good place, we know we can improve significantly and will need to as the pressure begins to ramp up. We want to start the second half of the season the right way on Saturday.”
Darmstadt have not won a home game against Hamburger SV in any competition, with two draws and four losses. All three of their victories against the Hamburg side all came at the Volksparkstadion.
The Lilies have only lost one of their last 14 home league games, but only won one of their last seven, a 1-0 win against Erzgebirge Aue on Matchday 11. Aside from the 3-1 loss to Bielefeld, there were five home draws in these seven games.
Tobias Kempe is the only Darmstadt player to have scored for the Lilies in their last four league games, getting on the scoresheet three times and being assisted by Hannover’s Waldemar Anton who scored an own goal against the Blue and Whites.
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