Editor Axel Falk gives us his unfiltered thoughts on Hamburg's Hin- and Rückrunde and how they will fare.
Hansestadt Hamburg, the most resilient city with the most resilient and hard-working of teams in Germany. The Dino that always prevails. HSV. Rothosen. Traditionsverein has many names, as you could say. Hamburg is Traditonsverein des Traditionsvereins, the ultimate snobb, the extreme elite and the worst of the worst of German football. Hamburger SV is a hated and loved team in Bundesliga, one that everyone has some kind of a relation to and they all have a reason to love them or hate them, often good reasons. Whether it's a loveable club or not, is not for me to decide, but I can say this: The city is fantastic.
The Hanseatic city of Hamburg is one of the most beautiful cities of them all and has one of the most amazing football clubs of them all. Whether you like them or not is off the table, their resilience is admirable. In 2014 and 2015 they were almost relegated and they looked all-but-relegated during these play-off games, but they somehow prevailed, which is absolutely fantastic if you consider the material they had to work with. Basically, a team with Johan Djourou as starting centre back deserves relegation, but HSV kept on going. After getting a bit too close to relegation in 2015, they made a u-turn in the summer and signed a few decent players, among those were Swedish midfielder Albin Ekdal, who was later involved in an odd accident at a night club in Hamburg. Last season HSV turned around and actually went close to finishing top half. Will their rise continue?
It's a hard question to answer. their material has certainly improved with Alen Halilovic, Christian Mathenia and Filip Kostic being brought in, amazing signings by the way, and they haven't really lost any key players either. Bruno Labbadia is still there, somehow, and he could very well be their Achilles' heel, but he could also prove himself to be a good manager, something we haven't seen thus far. Hamburg's material is perhaps good enough for top 9 in Bundesliga and a respectable place in DFB-Pokal, but there are, as always, questions regarding their defence. Will it hold? Will Djourou actually do well? Will Spahic' body hold? While their wing-backs and goalkeepers are great, their centre halves aren't and this could also prove to be their Achilles' heel. Nobody knows what to expect from HSV, neither do the players I'd expect and this season is a really big one for the club..
Their system this season is easier to predict though. Adler in goal, newcomer Mathenia is good too, but Adler will most certainly be given the nod as first choice. Two very competent wing-backs in Diekmeier and Ostrzolek who will stroll along their respective flanks and hope that the two centre halves Djourou and Spahic don't mess up. In d central midfield Ekdal and Holtby will carry the team forward and in front of them Halilovic will look to provide wingers Nico Müller, the best goalscorer last term, and newcomer Filip Kostic with clear-cut chances week in and week out. Lasogga will probably do what he always does: Score the ones the other players miss. While this is how I would play with Labbadia's material, I would certainly recommend him to acquire a new, more stable centre half to at least help the very competent wing-backs and defensive midfielders in their strive for more than plain mediocrity, something the fans of this marvellous club have been wanting for years. Can they somehow keep their rise going? Can they continue their unexpected comeback to Uwe Seeler's time? Perhaps! Who knows? What I do know is, I will enjoy the ride.
Key player: Lewis Holtby.
Not due to his immense technical quality, but because of his newly found importance as the balancing player in midfield. His technical ability does come in handy at times though. Together with Ekdal he might form a great partnership and this will in itself be the key to success for the Hamburgers.
Surprise player: Gideon Jung.
When, not if, the defence falls apart, the young 21 year-old Gideon Jung might be able to step in. Having played 19 games in Bundesliga last term, he could very well have his actual breakthrough now.
Falk's prediction: 5th.
Ali's prediction: 11th.
editor, co-founder and joint best in Sweden at opening almost closed doors with my feet.
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