In May 2009, arch rivals Hamburger SV and Werder Bremen met at the Volksparkstadion with a place in the UEFA Cup final on the line. On Saturday, seven-and-a-half-years later, their latest meeting is little more than a relegation six-pointer.
This is of course not a new situation for either club now, with relegation battles now a common occurrence for these once great clubs.
Hamburg go into this game still looking for their first Bundesliga win of the season, and by extension a first win for coach Markus Gisdol. Bremen meanwhile are on a four game losing streak themselves.
Can either side snap out of their current troughs in the Nordderby?
Another relegation battle
Gisdol has not exactly turned around Hamburg's form since replacing Bruno Labbadia in late September. But there have been some promising signs, particularly in their last match against Gisdol's former club TSG 1899 Hoffenheim last weekend, when Nicolai Müller's equalised after Hoffenheim had turned around the lead given to Hamburg by Filip Kostic.
However they remain rock bottom of the Bundesliga, with their only other points earned in draws against FC Ingolstadt 04 and Borussia Mönchengladbach. In fact since they hosted Ingolstadt on the opening day of the season, they have lost four home games in succession.
Alexander Nouri had initially made a positive impact on the side that lost each of their first five games of the season in both league and cup, with 2-1 home victories over VfL Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen, with a 2-2 at SV Darmstadt 98 in between.
The seven points picked up in those three games remain all they have to show for their season so far. They lost each of the three following games 3-1, before a late winner from teenage debutant Aymen Barkok denied them a point against Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday. They sit in the relegation play-off spot, just two places ahead of Hamburg.
The most-frequent Bundesliga fixture
This will be the 105th meeting between the two sides in the Bundesliga, with the fixture taking in place in every Bundesliga season except in 1980-81, when Bremen had been relegated to the 2. Bundesliga.
Overall, Bremen have won 37 of the meetings, compared to 34 won by Hamburg and 33 draws. However Hamburg have the advantage on home turf, with 24 wins in 52 matches.
In a reflection of how the two teams faired overall, Hamburg won both matches last season. They won 3-1 at the Weserstadion in late November before winning the reverse fixture in April 2-1. Pierre-Michel Lasogga scored a double in the latter game, with the Bremen goals in both games being scored by Anthony Ujah, who has since departed for China.
There is likely to be a winner this time too. The last draw between the two sides was on the final day of the 2009-10 season. Claudio Pizarro, these days back at Bremen, and Ruud van Nistelrooy, long since departed from Hamburg, scored in the 1-1 draw.
A special game
“We are experiencing a daily increase in tingles and anticipation ahead of the game,” said Gisdol at his press conference. “Derbies are always special games as I experienced during my time at Hoffenheim and Schalke, but the northern derby has huge history attached to it."
“Obviously there have been derbies before when both sides have been higher up the table,” admitted Nouri, but he emphasised that “none of the edge has been taken off it.”
Gisdol, who failed to beat Bremen in six attempts during his time at Hoffenheim, was confident that his side could get a first win of the season, but added that they still have to show their opponents respect. “They have a lot of quality up front and key players have recently returned to the side,” he said.
Meanwhile Bremen striker Max Kruse is clear about where his focus is. “I’m not interested in the rest of the season - I want to win this match,” he revealed. He could be a lucky omen too. He has never lost against Hamburg in ten previous games playing for FC St. Pauli, SC Freiburg, Gladbach and Wolfsburg.
Hamburg set to be unchanged; Bremen cautious with returning players
Bobby Wood is still out suspended for Hamburg, with the injured quartet of René Adler, Emir Spahic, Albin Ekdal and Cléber Reis also unavailable. They will though have Luca Waldschmidt back after he was unavailable for the Hoffenheim game due to a tear in a joint capsule.
Gisdol suggested though that they would field an unchanged side from the draw with Hoffenheim, the first opportunity he would have of doing so. “That is a good thing,” he said, although he added no decision would be made until their final training sessions.
Bremen’s injury problems continue to ease, with former Hamburg goalkeeper Jaroslav Drobny available again, whilst Lamine Sané is back in training. Nouri admitted he had a decision over whether to recall Drobny or keep Felix Wiedwald in goal, whilst he suggested a cautious approach will be taken with Sané.
There have been some suggestions that Pizarro, making his way back from a muscle injury, may drop to the bench to allow Bremen to revert to a 4-2-3-1 formation. That would likely mean a recall for Fin Bartels. Luca Caldirola, Ulisses García and Justin Eilers all remain absence.
Hamburger SV: (4-2-3-1) Mathenia; Diekmeier, Jung, Djourou, Santos; Ostrzolek, Sakai; Müller, Holtby, Kostic; Gregoritsch.
Werder Bremen: (4-2-3-1) Wiedwald; Gebre Selassie, Veljkovic, Moisander, S. García; Fritz, Grillitsch; Bartels, Gnabry, Junuzovic; Kruse.
Quotes via Hamburger SV and Werder Bremen.