Goal.com looks ahead to an exciting encounter between underachieving Hamburg and high-flying Hoffenheim.Beware The (Literally) Wounded Tiger
There has only been one story in town if you're a HSV fan over the last few weeks and it revolves around the seemingly never-ending injury crisis engulfing the club. The ever expanding casualty list has stunted the progress of die Rothosen at the worst possible moment for three reasons. Firstly, they started reasonably well with Ruud van Nistelrooy in form before stuttering once neither Mladen Petric nor Paolo Guerrero came to terms with their role behind the Dutchman in Armin Veh's 4-2-3-1. Secondly, perennial favourites Bayern made their worst ever start and finally, Hamburg had no European distractions this season owing to their seventh-placed finish last term. Coach Veh is at a loss to explain the reasons for having so many players on the treatment table.
"This is absolutely not normal in any case. I don't know how one goes about analysing the situation. When we worked intensively in pre-season, we had not a single injury. Now the problems have come further on in the season. I can't understand it. It is difficult to pinpoint the reason but at the moment we're groping in the dark."
Last week's visit to then bottom side Koeln had been expected to herald a rejuvenation for die Rothosen but they went down 3-2 to the Milivoje Novakovic inspired Geissboecke. The major plus point was the quite outstanding debut goal in the Bundesliga from winger Heung-Min Son, who yesterday penned a contract extension. The Korean flicked the ball over the onrushing Miro Vardovic with his right foot before letting it drop and half-volleying with his left into the empty net. Few players have announced themselves on the Bundesliga stage with greater aplomb. A worrying sign was the poor performance from Heiko Westermann, normally one of the league's most reliable defenders. One thing is for sure, as Marcell Jansen has already made clear, should HSV come up short again, injuries will be no excuse.
Continuity Breeds Success In Sinsheim
"It is no coincidence that we are at the top."
The words of Hoffenheim midfielder Sebastian Rudy. And what a season it has been for him -
shipped out by Stuttgart as part of their suicidal transfer policy (and that's not hindsight speaking either) - he has now secured a spot in Ralf Rangnick's eleven who once again are occupying the upper echelons of the table after an excellent start to the season.
With ten points from their opening four games, including wins in the opening three encounters against title contenders Werder Bremen and Schalke 04, minds were cast back to their meteoric, if inevitably unsustainable rise to the top of the league two years ago. And once again this term, they suffered a blip, sparked off by Daniel van Buyten's last-gasp winner at the Rhein-Neckar Arena. However, they have recovered of late, putting in some highly impressive performances and were deeply unfortunate not to take all three points from the Signal-Iduna Park after Antonio Da Silva's controversial last-minute equaliser to secure a point for Borussia Dortmund.
There are many familiar faces in the Hoffenheim team, who have become synonymous with Dietmar Hopp's side during their maiden stint in Germany's top flight including Andreas Beck, Demba Ba and Sejad Salihovic. Coach Ralf Rangnick believes having such a settled squad is reaping rewards for Hoffe this season.
"It works to our advantage that the greater part of our team are playing together for a third season. There is never absolute stability in any squad but it does aid our development and should be maintained," Rangnick remarked.
Rangnick also evoked his side's excellent display in Dortmund and he hopes that will inspire a good performance and result tomorrow in the Imtech Arena.
"We know that Hamburg have come under pressure during the last few matches. If we can raise our game against them in front of their own fans, we have the chance to take at least a point, as we did in Dortmund."
Hamburg are almost in a contest with Bayern for the most number of injuries at the moment. Armin Veh is without (brace yourselves) Mladen Petric, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Frank Rost, Marcell Jansen, Collin Benjamin, Dennis Aogo, Dennis Diekmaier, Eljero Elia, Miroslav Stepanek, Tunay Torun and Romeo Castelen. Erik Maxim Choupo-Moting may get the nod to play in behind over Piotr Trochowski while Ze Roberto is forced to deputise at left-back.
Probable Starting XI: Drobny - Rincon, Westermann, Mathijsen, Ze Roberto - Jarolim, Kacar - Son, Trochowski, Pitroipa - Guerrero
Ralf Rangnick can call on just about everyone in his squad, with the sole exception of the injured Josip Simunic as the veteran centre-back has a heel injury. Sejad Salihovic returns from his one-game suspension while Luiz Gustavo looks set to continue at left-back. The only other contentious issue appears to be whether Boris Vukcevic will get the nod over Tobias Weis in the Hoffe midfield.
Probable Starting XI: Starke - Beck, Vorsah, Compper, Luiz Gustavo - Rudy - Weis, Salihovic - Sigurdsson - Mlapa, Ba