Stuttgart took a huge step to retaining their Bundesliga status by running out 3-0 winners at the Mercedes-Benz Arena on Thursday.
Indeed, unless they can achieve something truly remarkable at Volksparkstadion, Hamburg’s season looks set to end in heartbreak once again.
With only the top two gaining automatic promotion from the second tier of Germany, and the team that finishes third going into the relegation playoffs, Hamburg narrowly missed out on returning to the top flight following the club’s first ever relegation from the Bundesliga in 2018 by finishing fourth for three successive campaigns.
Last time out, HSV finally gave themselves a chance by bagging third spot, and they looked set to return to the big time when defeating Hertha Berlin 1-0 away from home in the first leg. However, they fell to a 2-0 defeat at home four days later to fall short once again in agonizing fashion.
During a nail-biting final day of action, Tim Walter’s side were on the cusp of gaining automatic promotion courtesy of their 1-0 win away to SV Sandhausen, but two injury-time strikes from Heidenheim saw them snatch victory away to Jahn Regensburg and jump from third to first in the table at Hamburg’s direct expense.
As such, it was perhaps unsurprising that Walter’s side appeared to be mentally fragile when visiting Stuttgart just four days later, with Konstantinos Mavropanos opening the scoring inside the opening minute of the encounter. Subsequent strikes from Josha Vagnoman and Serhou Guirassy have left them a mountain to climb.
While Stuttgart will be delighted with the position they have put themselves in ahead of Monday’s second leg, their head coach Sebastian Hoeness may have slight regrets that his side could not put the tie beyond any doubt by grabbing another goal or two.
After all, Guirassy had already missed a penalty in the first half before getting himself on the scoresheet after the break, while Hamburg were reduced to 10 men for over 20 minutes after substitute Anssi Suhonen was given his marching orders, but his side managed to avoid conceding any more goals despite their numerical disadvantage.
While the extent of Stuttgart’s dominant performance and result may have been a slight surprise to many, there is little doubt that they have hugely improved since Hoeness took over at the beginning of April, with the 41-year-old losing just two of his 11 games in charge so far.
Clearly, then, they should have more than enough about them to get the job done in Hamburg and preserve their top flight status for another season at least, from which they will be hoping to avoid being in this position again next time year given the playing and coaching talent that they have at their disposal.
Hamburger SV Bundesliga Relegation Playoffs form:
Hamburger SV form (all competitions):
Stuttgart Bundesliga Relegation Playoffs form:
Stuttgart form (all competitions):
We say: Hamburger SV 1-1 Stuttgart
Realistically, Hamburg can not afford to concede if they are to have any chance of finally returning to the Bundesliga, and they probably need to be leading at half time to have genuine belief of overturning a three-goal deficit.
While stranger things have happened in football, we can not envisage Stuttgart letting their lead slip under Hoeness’s tutelage, and they should comfortably secure their top flight status to inflict yet more agony on one of Germany’s greatest clubs.