Hamburg v Bayern Munich, Bundesliga, September 26, 2009
After an embarrassing loss in the German Cup at third-division side Osnabrueck, Hamburg host in-form Bayern Munich in a top-of-the-table Bundesliga showdown on Saturday.
Hamburg, despite coming off a 3-0 loss at Rapid Vienna in the Europa League, a 1-1 draw at Eintracht Frankfurt on top of Wednesday’s humiliation, currently sit atop of the German league and remain ambitious to stay there.
They’ll be up against it though this weekend, facing a Bayern side riding a wave of excellent recent form. Three straight wins in the Bundesliga, an impressive 3-0 victory at Israel over Maccabi Haifa in the UEFA Champions League and a 5-0 win over second division side Oberhausen in the German Cup all prove that Luis Van Gaal has managed to build a winning side which is starting to justify a hefty summer of spending.
Hamburg are suffering from a major problem up front. Since striker Paolo Guerrero tore his knee ligaments, the two leftover forwards are Mladen Petric and young Marcus Berg. While Petric, a future star of tomorrow, is in good form, Hamburg are still waiting for Berg to show up. With his immense speed, strength and technique Berg could be the player Hamburg searched for so long but so far he is yet to settle in the Bundesliga. That said, this weekend could prove to be the spark to light the Swede’s season as without doubt Berg is a hugely talented forward with a bright future ahead.
Another important player for Hamburg is left-sided midfielder Eljero Elia. The 22-year-old Dutchman is extremely pacey and skillful, and Bayern right-back Philip Lahm will have to pay extra attention to him as he has the ability to provide a top-class performance and change the outcome of the entire match.
Having won their last five matches by a combined 18-2 (4/7 that they’ll be more than 2 goals in the match), Bayern enter Saturdayâ€™s match with Hamburg as the hottest team in the Bundesliga, and one of the best teams in Europe. Provided they can maintain their recent momentum then on Saturday night the Munich giants could be sitting in first place in the table.
With goals raining down for Bayern, coach Van Gaal has several options up-front. Luca Toni is now fully fit, although it may take a while for the Italian to regain his starting spot with Ivica Olic and Mario Gomez also vying for selection in the Munich attack. And their is even more competition for places up-top as youngster Thomas Muller in amazing form having scored five goals in Bayern’s last four matches.
Van Gaal also has a fantastic selection of quality to pack out his midfield. Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben continue to be the main attractions in the wide areas while Bastien Schweinsteiger continues to impress in a more central role.
It’s not all good news though for Bayern. Central defender and recent goalscorer extraordinaire Daniel van Buyten is rated doubtful having injured his ankle in training on Thursday. If he is unable to play, Martin Demichelis may make his long-awaited return following an ankle injury of his own, although Breno and the fresh-faced Holger Badstuber could line up as a relativelly young and inexperienced central-defensive partnership. (Bayern are 7/4 to keep a clean sheet.)
101predicts: Hamburg 2 – Bayern Munich 2 (12/1)
Full match odds here.