Goal.com previews the enticing clash between two Bundesliga giants looking for an upturn in fortunes this spring...
It has, unsurprisingly, been another turbulent period for the men from Gelsenkirchen during the winter break. The roof of the Veltins Arena suffered some damage under the heavy snowfall that engulfed northern Europe (as well as the humorous (for a neutral) sight of a Dortmund flag being hoisted inside the stadium), speculation continued to surround the future of Manuel Neuer and Jefferson Farfan rocked the club with his desire to leave, although he has since come back into line. Add in a training camp, which saw a resounding 3-0 defeat to Trabzonspor, a disappointing 1-1 draw with Eskisehirspor and a schedule that sees them only flying back to Germany today, and you get the impression that tomorrow's game with Hamburg comes as a welcome relief.
Felix Magath believes that the eleven day long camp in Belek has been of great benefit to the squad as he seeks not only to avoid the catastrophe that was the start of the season but also the beginning of a run of results that will secure European football and much-needed extra finance for the club.
"We have the ideal opportunity to train and prepare in Belek. We want to take advantage of it as much as possible and we are well-prepared for the Hamburg match," Magath told Bild, as he prepares for the clash against one of his many former clubs.
The end of the Hinrunde saw the real emergence of Raul after a slow start for the Spanish veteran but on the other hand, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's prolific form fizzled out with his last goal coming in the 2-2 draw with Wolfsburg in November, when he was aided by getting away with a handball. The Dutchman is looking to rediscover his scoring touch, starting tomorrow:
"I'm back in form for the start of the Rueckrunde against Hamburg. The Christmas holiday has done me the world of good. I went home to spend time with my family and replenished my energy stocks."
Uncertain Times Ahead In Hamburg
Die Rothosen are another club who will view the first half of the season as a missed opportunity to capitalise on a Bayern Munich, who were not firing on all cylinders. The club have battled allegations of a lack of identity and have fielded valid criticism of disloyalty to various coaches down the years. Armin Veh has also had to deal with a horrendous injury list, missing key players throughout the season and never being able to settle on his best eleven and a style of play.
The off-season has been marked with uncertainty at the club although the seeds of doubt over the future of some key figures had already been sewn before the break. Ze Roberto may not be the only veteran in the twilight of his stint at the Imtech Arena although it is a major boost that Ruud Van Nistelrooy, who looks to be rejuvenated, is sticking around for another few months. Armin Veh is still undecided on his future as a coach and harbours ambitions of becoming a sporting director, the recent board elections seemingly spell trouble for chairman Bernd Hoffmann and the club have held talks with Christoph Daum.
With such a veil hanging over the club, there would be appear to be little reason for optimism. However, the winter break has been kind to the HSV Teamgeist with a greater degree of fluency on show in the win over Ajax, even if Gojko Kacar and Heiko Westermann looked shaky at the back. The captain though feels that his partnership with the Macedonian can keep out a Schalke side, who can be irrepressible going forward:
"We have to play our own game. If we play with the tempo we showed in the first half against Ajax, it will be very difficult for any team to beat us. As for Schalke, there are few teams in the Bundesliga with so much quality in attack but therein lies our chance - they are still uncertain at the back," he told the club's official website.
"(The partnership with Kacar) is going well. Gojko is a top quality player and has an excellent understanding of the game."
Felix Magath has the luxury of being able to name his strongest possible side, with the exception of right-back Atsuto Uchida who is on Asian Cup duty. Jermaine Jones, Hans Sarpei and Alexander Baumjohann remain outcasts with Schalke II, while Levan Kenia has a back problem and Tim Hoogland is not yet fit enough to make a return to first-team action. There is the possibility that Christoph Moritz will start, either in midfield or at right-back, while Edu is a contender for Jurado's left-sided slot.
Probable Starting XI: Neuer – Matip, Hoewedes, Metzelder, Schmitz - Farfan, Kluge, Rakitic, Jurado - Raul, Huntelaar
As so often this season, Armin Veh has to deal with a not insignificant injury list. He is without key players in the shape of Joris Mathijsen and Mladen Petric, as well as Dennis Diekmeier, Romeo Castelen, Jose Paolo Guerrero and Heung-Min Son, who is at the Asian Cup. In Mathijsen's absence, Gojko Kacar will deputise in the centre of defence and Anis Ben-Hatira gets his opportunity after impressing during the winter break.
Probable Starting XI: Rost – Demel, Kacar, Westermann, Aogo - Jarolim, Ze Roberto - Pitroipa, Ben-Hatira, Elia, Van Nistelrooy