The DFB-Pokal round of 16 starts on Tuesday afternoon with two games, including the clash between Hamburger SV and 1. FC Köln at Volksparkstadion. It is safe to say that both teams are enduring vastly different seasons. On the one hand, HSV are fighting for survival, while Köln are flirting with the European places.
Indeed, in Bundesliga, Hamburg are once again in trouble. With only 16 points, the team are in the relegation spots. Even if the team is in better shape since the arrival of Markus Gisdol, the situation is still far from being idyllic. Though their recent victory against Bayer Leverkusen, thanks to a goal from Kyriákos Papadópoulos, on loan from the Werkself, could be a catalyst behind a good run of form.
If the team from northern Germany is currently suffering, Peter Stöger’s men are doing very well. With their French striker, Anthony Modeste who scored 15 goals in 19 games, Köln are among the best teams in the league this season. Three points from third, the table shows how impressive they are. This is even after the loss of Marcel Risse, who suffered from a knee injury and who will be out for six months, as the midfielder was one their key players.
A good opportunity for both teams
Despite their different seasons, a victory in that DFB-Pokal game could be extremely precious. For Köln, it could be more motivation to continue their impressive season. For Hamburg, it is a real opportunity to transform their underwhelming campaign, even if beating Köln in the Pokal might not be enough.
Their last meeting was in October, at RheinEnergieStadion, where Köln won 3-0 against a weak HSV side. Moreover, Gisdol's men have failed to beat their opponents since December 2013, a 2-1 victory. Therefore, it is clear to see form isn't in their favour. Though a cup game is always different thanks to the “win or go home” aspect. This element gives to the game a special taste, a game where everything is possible until the last minute.
The atmosphere will not only be special since it is a cup game. Per Gisdol, playing at home will be important: “We have produced some of our better performances [at home] this season. The spark from the pitch reached the fans and the atmosphere has been good. I expect a special atmosphere on Tuesday night.”
The presence of 4,800 fans from Köln is also important for Stöger as he stated: “Of course, that is very impressive. We do not take this matter for granted. We always have great support when we are on the road. We know we can count on our fans, but this figure mid-week is surely something special.”
What to expect from their respective opponent?
Both managers spoke yesterday in press conferences ahead of the game. Gisdol described Köln as “a very strong side” which "have worked well in recent years and look solid”. The fact that they are close to Champions league places pushed him to declare that “we will have to be at our best and give our all against them if we are to win".
While Stöger talked about HSV, commenting: “Hamburg have played really well in the past few games and have managed to pick up some points. We all saw how much heart and willpower they had in the recent match against Leverkusen." He added, "They are taking on a difficult situation head on. I am expecting a physical and difficult match on Tuesday. We will be prepared.” To sum up, it will not be an easy game.
While Köln did not lose any players this weekend, that is not the case for the home side. The HSV head coach declared: “The game against Leverkusen was very intense. Many players played beyond their limit and are carrying knocks."
As a result Michael Gregoritsch will be out, Lewis Holtby was injured against Leverkusen and received seven stitches. Finally, Mergim Mavraj - who left Köln this winter to join HSV - and Albin Ekdal are suffering from muscular problems.
They have only been able to train individually since Friday. That is why the staff “will have to monitor their progress before deciding whether to use them or not”. In spite of those issues, Gisdol condluded: “We will of course play our strongest team and need players that can 100% help us."