Hamburger SV vs Bayer Leverkusen Preview: Schmidt's men look for consistency without Calhanoglu

Hamburger SV vs Bayer Leverkusen Preview: Schmidt's men look for consistency without Calhanoglu

Markus Gisdol's Hamburg will look to win their fourth game of the season, when they host Roger Schmidt's inconsistent Bayer Leverkusen.

Kaustubh Pandey

Roger Schmidt’s Bayer Leverkusen will go hunting for more consistency when they will travel to Volksparkstadion to lock horns with Markus Gisdol’s struggling Hamburger SV in what promises to be an intriguing encounter on Friday evening.

Gisdol’s men are currently at 17th in the league, two points behind Ingolstadt, who stand at the relegation play-off spot with 15 points. Last weekend’s disappointing result at Die Schanzer was Hamburg’s second consecutive loss as their narrow defeat to Valerien Ismael’s Wolfsburg after the winter break had kept them close to relegation.

As far as Leverkusen go, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for them in the league this season. Currently at the ninth spot in the league, Leverkusen have underperformed to a big extent and have lost a lot of games that they should have won. Their previous game was a one in which they blew away a formidable 2-0 lead against Dieter Hecking’s Borussia Mönchengladbach. A Lars Stindl brace and a Raffael strike had stunned Schmidt’s men.

Another late scuffle beckons for Hamburg?

The season has been an underwhelming one for Hamburg, who replaced Bruno Labbadia with Gisdol this past September due to a string of poor showings, that had condemned the side to flirting with relegation once again. And much like last season, this campaign could also see Hamburg leave it late to avoid the dreaded red zone.

Under the former Hoffenheim boss, Hamburg have won just three times in 13 games, which is disappointing. And there were times early during his tenure at the club when Hamburg didn’t defend like a Bundesliga side. They have let in 35 goals this term, third highest in the league, only behind bottom placed Darmstadt and Alexander Nouri’s Werder Bremen. The winter acquisitions of Mergim Mavraj from high-flying Koln and that of Kyriakos Papadopoulos on loan from Leverkusen could play a part in strengthening the back four. The capture of defensive midfield player Walace from Gremio could well do the same.

On the goalscoring front though, they have been just as disappointing. The early season form of Bobby Wood has petered away into nothingness and Hamburg have scored the second least amount of goals this season, only behind Darmstadt. Alongside the American, Nicolai Muller has scored four times, while Michael Gregoritsch has found the back of the net just thrice.

More of the same from Bayer?

Apart from Schalke and Gladbach, who were firm contenders for the top four, Schmidt’s men have been a real disappointment this season. Their current position in the league is enough to clarify how bad a season Die Werkself have endured so far.

Leverkusen have won just two in the last five games, losing twice and drawing a single encounter. The win over rivals Schalke was an impressive one, but came when the Royal Blues were down to ten minutes. The loss to Ingolstadt was another disappointment, but it losing games to lesser capable sides has been a highlight of the season. All in all, Leverkusen have managed to win just seven in the Bundesliga.

In the goalscoring department, Leverkusen have been decent enough and happen to be fifth in the table for most goals scored, behind Bayern Munich, Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund and Hoffenheim. Their chief goalscorer Javier Hernandez finally managed to break his duck in the league and scored against Gladbach after having gone goalless in as many as 15 games. Their other chief goal-getter- Hakan Calhanoglu, has landed in trouble for a transfer that he was supposed to complete in 2011 as a teenager. And due to that, the Turkish star won’t feature for four months for Leverkusen.

On the defensive side of things, Leverkusen have been less than impressive. It is something that tends to let them down, despite being a decent goalscoring unit. After having let in 28 goals, they currently lie at the seventh in terms of most goals conceded, which is underwhelming for Schmidt’s men.

Calhanoglu absence could be costly for Leverkusen

Hamburg will miss Gotoku Sakai due to a suspension following a yellow card he collected during his last outing. Pierre Michel Lassoga too, will miss the game due to a muscle problem.

Leverkusen, on the other hand, could miss Chicharito due to a hamstring injury that he sustained recently and could stay out for a week. Apart from the Mexican’s absence, the ban imposed on Calhanoglu could also hand Hamburg an opportunity to play with a considerably less amount of fear.

Predicted Line ups

Hamburger SV: (4-2-3-1) Mathenia; Mavraj, Papadopoulos, Djourou, Santos; Jung, Ostrzolek; Waldschmidt, Gregoritsch, Kostic; Wood.

Bayer Leverkusen: (4-4-2) Leno; Henrichs, Toprak, Tah, Wendell; Bellarabi, Aranguiz, Kampl, Bailey; Volland, Brandt.