Nobody in the Black Forest is panicking yet, following two defeats in their first three games, but the German media is already lapping up another Hamburg ‘crisis’, even at this early stage of the season.
Bruno Labbadia’s job is coming under intense scrutiny, and he’ll be hoping Hamburg can continue their impressive record against Freiburg.
Both sides looking to bounce back
Freiburg have one home win out of one so far, following their impressive comeback against Borussia Mönchengladbach on matchday two, and will be glad to be back at Schwarzwald-Stadion after another away defeat on Friday night.
After losing their opening match against Hertha BSC, 1. FC Köln left them stunned with three goals in fourteen minutes, a deficit they could never recover. Christian Streich will be expecting better from his side on Tuesday night.
After appearing to stabilise last season, Hamburg’s old problems seem to be creeping back in, with the side showing a distinct lack of bottle in each of their three games so far.
Having led in the first two games, thanks in both cases to Bobby Wood, they subsequently drew with FC Ingolstadt 04 after a defensive howler from Cléber, and conceded three late goals to substitute Joel Pohjanpalo against Bayer Leverkusen. One would hope that their capitulation in the second half against RB Leipzig, losing in then end 4-0, will serve as a wake-up call, before they find themselves in another relegation scrap.
History favours Der Dino
Hamburg have history on their side in the far southwest of Germany. The two sides have met 34 times in the past, with Hamburg winning 15 and Freiburg seven of those games.
Hamburg have only ever lost three times away at Freiburg, in 17 games, with Freiburg winning only one of their last eight meetings, which was back in December 2010. Papiss Cissé, latterly of Newcastle United and Shandong Luneng, scored the only goal in a 1-0 win.
Their most recent meetings came the season before last, when they were both battling relegation. After a goalless draw in Freiburg in the Hinrunde, the 1-1 in Hamburg proved critical, with Gojko Kačar snatching an 89th-minute equaliser for Hamburg to deny Freiburg the two points that ultimately would have saved them and sent Hamburg into the 2. Bundesliga.
There has only ever been one Tuesday night meeting between the two sides, and Freiburg won’t want a repeat of that game this time round. Hamburg won 5-1 at the Volksparkstadion back in August 1996.
Labbadia in the spotlight
Speaking ahead of the game, Streich believes his team will not be affected by the defeat in Köln. "The team is not at the bottom, they can deal with disappointment. They can go out onto the pitch liberated in some form."
The same can't be said about Hamburg, but Streich isn't concerned about that. "I am interested zero point zero," he said of Tuesday's opponents' problems.
Labbadia described Hamburg's defeat to Leipzig as "a brutal blow to the neck," but he is defiant that the team will recover from its poor start to the season.
"I see every day, in every training session and in every game, that the team wants and tries everything," he says, but admits this hasn't been consistent over 90 minutes in any of their games.
The German media is already speculating who could replace Labbadia if he follows Viktor Skripnik in getting the sack, and club CEO Dietmar Beiersdorfer hasn’t exactly taken the pressure off, saying publically that results must improve, and soon. "We need to bring about changes as soon as possible. If possible, in Freiburg," he has said.
Will Streich and Labbadia shuffle their packs?
Freiburg’s injury problems in defence have not improved, with questions marks going into the game over Manuel Gulde (patellar tendon problems) and Caglar Söyüncü (infection). Söyüncü was also at fault for Köln’s third goal, and was replaced at half-time, but Streich suggested he would play.
He has few other options in any case. Despite appearing from the bench on Friday, Georg Niedermeier is struggling with back problems, Marc Oliver Kempf (meniscus) is still missing, but Marc Torrejón (ankle) is nearing a return. However Streich will not risk him even if either Gulde or Söyüncü can’t play. “One should not expect miracles,” he said.
Otherwise, he remained tight-lipped about any other changes. Despite the extra pressures brought about by playing a midweek fixture. "We will put out the team which we believe are most likely to be able to win against Hamburg," he said. One man who will be itching to start his first club game of the season though is Nils Petersen, who was again a substitute against Köln.
Dennis Diekmeier remains Hamburg’s only absentee, as he recovers from a calf injury. After such an abject performance though, there is likely to be changes, although no official indication has been given who could come in.
Many are clamouring to see 20-year-old playmaker Alen Halilović given a start, with Labbadia having been cautious to use him so far. Pierre-Michel Lasogga could be another attacking option, although he wasn’t even named on the bench for the game against Leipzig.
SC Freiburg: (4-1-3-2) Schwolow; Stenzel, Gulde, Söyüncü, Günter; Höfler; Bulut, Frantz, Grifo; Petersen, Philipp.
Hamburger SV: (4-2-3-1) Adler; Sakai, Djourou, Spahić, Douglas; Jung, Holtby; Halilović, Hunt, Kostić; Wood.
Quotes via SC Freiburg, Kicker and Bild.