Goal.com looks ahead to the northern derby between a Hamburg side who are three without a win and a Bremen team in crisis...
Hamburg began the season well with two convincing wins against Schalke 04 and Eintracht Frankfurt, which tentatively marked them out as a side to keep tabs on this season. However, since then they have had two disappointing draws with Nuernberg and St Pauli followed by a home defeat to Wolfsburg. The win for die Woelfe was a bitter pill to swallow for Armin Veh, as his side had dominated the game and deserved to come away with three points. However they were undone by a sucker punch in the form of a Grafite second-half brace.
"It is a terribly bitter feeling to lose such a game. We clearly dominated the match and had so many chances to score," Veh said after the final whistle.
"I have seen an HSV team, who combined well in their play and played with their hearts. Unfortunately we could not take our many chances. Today the best team lost."
The crux of the problem lies with Hamburg's failure to get enough service to Ruud Van Nistelrooy, undoubtedly their best finisher. Neither Mladen Petric nor Jose Paolo Guerrero have flourished in the playmaking role and thus Hamburg have struggled to kill teams off in their last three games.
Of course, it should not be forgotten that die Rothosen conceded three goals to Wolfsburg, at home. Marcell Jansen was responsible for the first goal when his loose ball allowed Pieter Pekarik to break forward and cross to Edin Dzeko. For the third, he was caught in possession by Grafite. Of course in a side struggling for goals and lacking a Diego or a Shinji Kagawa, Jansen's constant bursts forward are vital to breaking down the opposition. As such, Heiko Westermann and Joris Mathijsen have to be rock solid. Nevertheless, HSV are still sixth in the table and at least are putting in good performances, something their opponents tomorrow are not.
Getting Back To Full Strength
Bremen, like Schalke, were expected to run Bayern the closest this season. However, also in common with die Knappen, Werder have started the season badly with just four points from five games and they sit in fourteenth spot. It all looked so rosy in the garden after they bounced back from an opening day defeat to beat Koeln and secured qualification for the Champions League group stage.
Since then, it has been an uphill struggle for die Gruen-Weissen. They fought gamely at the Allianz Arena to gain a point, but then suffered two extremely disappointing defeats. Matchday four brought a convincing 2-0 defeat at home to Mainz, which Torsten Frings labelled the worst of his career and in midweek they went down 4-1 in the northern derby in Hannover. Werder's slide down the table has resulted in crisis talks with coach Thomas Schaaf although it has to be said it is not the first crisis he has faced during his eleven year reign and it will doubtless not be the last.
"Even if everything runs smoothly, sometimes bad luck will hit you from nowhere and you end up in a negative spiral," Schaaf was quoted as saying on the club's official website.
"It is now our top priority to arrest this negative spiral and the perfect way to achieve this is by picking up the full three points at the weekend.
There may be light at the end of the tunnel as Bremen welcome back two key members of their spine against Hamburg - none other than towering centre-half Per Mertesacker to restore confidence to a shaky backline and Claudio Pizarro, who needs one goal to become the Bundesliga's outright all-time leading foreign scorer, ahead of Giovane Elber.
"We are of course very glad that both are back in the squad. However, we need to be careful to manage the high expectations. Their mere presence is not enough; they also have to contribute to the team," Schaaf said ahead of their return.
Another crumb of comfort to Schaaf comes in the shape of Bremen's recent record at the Weserstadion against Hamburg. They are unbeaten in the last three Bundesliga encounters at home, with Hamburg's last win coming in February 2007.
Werder have a number of injuries in defence to Naldo and Sebastian Boenisch (both knee) and most recently to Petri Pasanen who picked up a ligament tear in training yesterday. On the other hand, Per Mertesacker is back and he should start in central defence. Furthermore, the attack receives a shot in the arm with the inclusion of last season's topscorer Claudio Pizarro. Thomas Schaaf is likely to stick to 4-2-3-1 in spite of his side's heavy defeat in Hannover.
Probable Starting XI: Wiese - Fritz, Mertesacker, Proedl, Silvestre - Bargfrede, Frings - Hunt, Wesley, Marin - Pizarro
Armin Veh has a number of absentees, most notably Dennis Aogo though also Romeo Castelen, Miroslav Stepanek, Heung-Min Son and Tunay Torun. Guy Demel should keep his place at right-back ahead of Tomas Rincon while Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting was impressive against Wolfsburg and should keep his spot. Mladen Petric should also edge out Paolo Guerrero, who alongside Piotr Trochowski and Eljero Elia, is pushing for a place in the starting eleven.
Probable Starting XI: Rost - Demel, Westermann, Mathijsen, Jansen - Jarolim, Ze Roberto - Pitroipa, Petric, Choupo-Moting - Van Nistelrooy