Kick-off: Thursday, August 20 2009 (18:45 CET).
Ligue 2 Into Europe
En Avant de Guingamp became only the second French second division side to win the Coupe de France and the first since 1959 when they defeated Stade Rennais back in May. A record crowd at the Stade de France witnessed the Brittany side qualify for Europe and they now face a club that won the European Cup back in 1983. Quite an achievement for Victor Zvunka’s side.
Guingamp's glorious cup win
The club that once boasted Chelsea’s Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda amongst their players finished a lowly 13th last season in the French second division, with the campaign totally dominated by their Cup success, although without wanting to take anything away from their achievement, they did have a fairly easy route to the final.
The current season has begun in unspectacular fashion for Guingamp. As expected, they lost to Bordeaux in the Super Cup curtain raiser, but did register an opening day win in Ligue 2 with 1-0 win over Ajaccio. Then last weekend saw a goalless draw in their first home game of the season at Roudourou against Angers.
Guingamp’s target this season is a top-three finish that would see promotion to Ligue 1. Given a choice between a win over Hamburg and qualification for the Europa League or a top three finish, the majority of realistic fans would take league success.
So Near Yet So Far
Bundesliga side Hamburg will be looking this season to go one step further than last season and get to the Europa League final, which will be held at their HSH Nordbank Arena home.
The Rothosen were cruelly eliminated at the semi-final stage last season by German rivals Werder Bremen thanks to what has now become known as ‘God’s paper ball’.
The second-leg at the Nordbank Arena was in the 83rd minute with the aggregate score at 2-2. The game then took a comical turn (but tragic one for HSV) with a piece of paper proving decisive. Defender Michael Gravgaard looked to pass the ball back to his keeper but shinned the ball out for a corner when it hit a rolled up ball of paper on the pitch and took a horrible bobble. The resulting corner saw Frank Baumann head in to put Werder into the final against Shakhtar.
The phantom paper ball
Now under new trainer Bruno Labbadia, HSV begin their new European adventure against French second division side Guingamp.
“If you look at their side you see that they have not conceded in their first two league games and that they only conceded 35 goals in the whole of last season and won the French Cup, so we know what to expect,” Labbadia told Hamburg’s website.
“We know that we have to put in a top performance to proceed. We want to bring a good result home with us in order to go into the second-leg with confidence,” he added.
14 Aug Guingamp 0-0 Angers (Ligue 2)
07 Aug Ajaccio 0-1 Guingamp (Ligue 2)
31 Jul Guingamp 1-3 Lorient (Friendly)
25 Jul Bordeaux 2-0 Guingamp (Super Cup)
19 Jul Guingamp 3-1 Stade Brestois (Friendly)
15 Aug Hamburg 4-1 Borussia Dortmund (Bundesliga)
09 Aug SC Freiburg 1-1 Hamburg (Bundesliga)
06 Aug Hamburg 0-1 Randers (Europa League)
03 Aug Fortuna Dusseldorf 3-3 p (DFB Pokal)
30 Jul Randers 0-4 Hamburg (Europa League)
The French side were dealt a blow at the weekend in their league match with Angers when captain Christian Bassila was stretchered off with a thigh injury. The French defender looks set to miss the visit of Hamburg on Thursday.
Captain Christian Basilla to miss out
Trainer Victor Zvunga may opt to replace him with Fabrice Colleau.
Probable starting XI: Trevisan, Deroff, Kone, Colleau, Felipe, Diallo, Mathis, Giresse, El Jadeyaoui, Scarpelli, Grax
HSV keeper Frank Rost is still being troubled by a sore heel, and has not travelled to France with the rest of the squad. Wolfgang Hesl with deputise.
Trainer Bruno Labbadia may choose to rotate his squad a little with one eye on the weekend Bundesliga clash with champions Wolfsburg.
Probable starting XI: Rost, Demel, Rozenhal, Mathijsen, Aogo, Jansen, Jarolim, Trochowski, Elia, Berg, Guerrero
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Guingamp - Sebastien Grax
The French second division side lost their top Brazilian striker Eduardo to Lens in the summer, so the responsibility for the goals will now fall to Sebastien Grax, who is currently on loan from St.Etienne. He scored in Guingamp’s first game of the season against Ajaccio.
Hamburg - Eljero Elia
The Dutchman has certainly caught the eye since his summer move from FC Twente, and HSV fans will be looking forward to seeing him in European action for the Rothosen against Guingamp and a similar performance to the one witnessed at the weekend against Dortmund, where he was excellent.
It is not exactly David versus Goliath, but Hamburg are the clear favourites to come through this tie against French second division side Guingamp.
Guingamp 0-3 Hamburg
Mathew Burt, Goal.com