The Hamburg city derby between HSV and St.Pauli is always one of the most fiercely competitive and much-anticipated derbies in German football, but the clash this Friday at the Volksparkstadion promises to be an even more intense encounter with both sides in genuine contention for promotion to the Bundesliga.
This is now Hamburger SV’s fifth season the 2.Bundesliga and the horrible feeling of déjà vu is descending on the club once again as they wobble at the business end of the season. The Rothosen have finished fourth three times and last season saw them end up third. Denied in the play-off against Hertha Berlin it has been another year in the second tier, but once again they haven’t managed to be the dominant side and currently lie third, a point behind Heidenheim.
Tim Walter’s side have lost three of their last six league matches and are just not finding the consistency needed to stake a firm claim on an automatic promotion berth. They now have St. Pauli, Fortuna Düsseldorf and even Paderborn creeping up on them and know that any dropped points are potentially going to see them denied promotion yet again.
The pressure is clearly getting to the players and staff with Walter sent off in the 4-2 defeat to Karlsruher SC back in March and the pressure will only increase when their in-form city rivals make the short trip across town on Friday.
It has been an absolute tale of two season halves for St. Pauli and they must be amazed that they travel to the Volksparkstadion as promotion contenders rather than relegation contenders.
The sacking of coach Tino Schulz in December came with the club 15th in the table, but only one point off the bottom. Assistant coach Fabian Hürzeler was handed the job and the trajectory since then has only been one way- up!
The restart of the Rückrunde began with a 1-0 away win at 1.FC Nürnberg and that win was the first of ten consecutive victories that have taken the Kiezkicker from the bottom to withing touching distance of the promotion spots. That winning run came to a surprise end on Sunday with a 2-1 home loss against Eintracht Braunschweig, but they will be definitely looking to get back to winning in the cauldron of the Volksparkstadion.
The good news for Tim Walter is that Jonas Meffert is available again after missing his first game of the season last week because of a calf problem. Miro Mulheim should drop to the bench after deputising. A full squad should be at the HSV trainer’s disposal ahead of the big derby.
Possible line-up: Heuer Fernandes, Heyer, David, Schonlau, Katterbach, Meffert, Reis, Benes, Jatta, Glatzel, Dompé
Fabian Hürzeler isn’t one for switching up his team up too much, but Eric Smith could start in place of Pole Adam Dzwigala if he proves his match fitness following injury. David Nemeth is still out with an injury, while attacker Etienne Amenyido remains sidelined by an achilles injury.
Possible line-up: Vasilj, Medic, Smith, Mets, Saliakis, Irvine, Hartel, Paqarada, Metcalfe, Daschner, Afolayan
What they’re saying:
Tim Walter: “It is certainly one of the most beautiful games. Especially with the backdrop. In my time, it’s the first time that the derby is sold out at home. There aren’t many city derbies in Germany, so you have to look further afield to Europe and there you can see the names of the derbies on the tip of your tongue. It’s something special – that’s for sure.
“The most important thing is that we always stay with ourselves. We mustn’t think that we have to do something special just because everyone expects it. It’s about keeping cool – that’s special enough on a day like this. We have to do our thing. That’s exactly what got us into this position: 53 points and thus the best second-division season HSV had played at that time.
“It’s a big point game in the sense that it’s a special game. It’s a derby, a city derby. If you take it purely factually, then there are three points in terms of the table, but purely emotionally it is of course something completely different. Energy, passion and many other things will play a role on Friday.
“At the end of the day, all teams have six more games to go after this matchday. That’s the case for us, that’s the case for our opponents and that’s the case for all the other teams. That’s why we only settle the score at the end.
Sebastian Schonlau (HSV captain): “It’s not a normal game and we don’t have to downplay it. That’s why it doesn’t matter who comes from which run. There are no rules in a game like this, everything will be decided on Friday. “We came off a good [prior to the first game], St. Pauli didn’t. And, unfortunately, we saw that that doesn’t count in a city derby like this.
“You can take your hat off to their series of ten wins in a row. We are six points ahead of them and our plan is for it to be nine after the game. We want to win the game with all our might. Six points behind us, the pressure is on St. Pauli if they still want to get close.
“We want to absorb everything and consciously take the emotions with us without overdoing it. It’s going to be really, really cool.”
Fabian Hürzeler: “I realized again how bad I am at losing, that I’m just not good at dealing with defeat. I’ve told the lads that we should very consciously get angry, but now we want to turn our anger into emotions. In the end, too much emotion isn’t good either, otherwise you forget to think. We want and have to play in a structured way.
“Tim Walter has his principles, everything makes sense. But I also like having the ball with my team, we also want to act and not just react. I’m convinced that we’ll manage to have the ball against HSV. The teams that recently played courageously against HSV also got something or at least hurt them.
“We’re also a club with ambitions, we also want to achieve something. That’s why I can’t say we just want to play freely there. We also have pressure, it’s on both sides.
“I can’t judge whether the HSV squad is stronger because it’s maybe more expensive. Of course, HSV has a lot of individual quality. But I also see quality in our squad. We want to close the gap.”
15/04/23 1FC Kaiserslautern (a) 2-0 L (2.Bundesliga)
08/04/23 Hannover (h) 6-1 W (2.Bundesliga)
31/03/23 Fortuna Düsseldorf (a) 2-2 D (2.Bundesliga)
18/03/23 Holstein Kiel (h) 0-0 D (2.Bundesliga)
12/03/23 Karlsruher SC (a) 4-2 L (2.Bundesliga)
16/04/23 Eintracht Braunschweig (h) 1-2 L (2.Bundesliga)
08/04/23 1FC Heidenheim (a) 0-1 W (2.Bundesliga)
01/04/23 Jahn Regensburg (h) 1-0 W (2.Bundesliga)
19/03/23 SV Sandhausen (a) 0-5 W (2.Bundesliga)
11/03/23 Greuther Fürth (h) 2-1 W (2.Bundesliga)
The corresponding fixture on matchday 12 was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise poor Hinrunde for St. Pauli. They ran out 3-0 winners at the Millerntor thanks to three second half goals that followed the first half sending-off of HSV captain Sebastian Schonlau.
The HSV man was dismissed after just 28 minutes when referee Deniz Aytekin adjudged him to have committed a professional foul on Etienne Amenyido, who was racing through on goal.
St. Pauli made the extra man count in the second period with goals from Eric Smith (61), Marcel Hartel (74) and substitute David Ott (88).
Players to watch:
Robert Glatzel’s 17 goals this season puts him second in the 2.Bundesliga scoring charts behind Heidenheim’s Tim Kleindienst and his instinct for goal might hold the key against a St. Pauli defence that has been rather miserly in the Rückrunde.
Leart Paqarada will have a special role to play with the left back involved highly in St. Pauli’s attacking play while also having to defend the pace of Bakery Jatta. The Kosovan is set for a move to Köln next season, but would dearly love to sign off with a derby win.