Heiko Herrlich and his squad head for the Hanseatic city on Friday. After the obligatory pre-match press conference with the head coach at midday and the final pre-match training session, Bayer 04 will fly out from the Cologne-Bonn airport on a charter flight and will arrive at the team hotel on the Outer Alster in the early evening. The following day after breakfast, the Werkself will go for a communal walk – and it is possible Jonathan Tah may play the role of tour guide in his place of birth. After lunch it's off to the stadium for the kick-off at 15.30 CET. Bayer 04 will play in all black and Hamburg in white shirts, red shorts and red socks.
The Werkself have clocked up 29 wins and 20 draws against the Red Shorts in the Bundesliga. The results from the last six meetings have been decent: Bayer 04 have picked up 13 out of a possible 18 points with Bernd Leno keeping four clean sheets and only conceding two goals in total. That could make HSV look like a favourite opponent. But beware! During this timescale the Werkself have only earned one point at Hamburg – that is also the meagre total from the last four away games in the Hanseatic city.
The Werkself may take an extra portion of motivation from the fact Hamburg SV, in danger of relegation for the past few seasons, are on the verge of an historic defeat. If the Herrlich team pick up all three points on Saturday afternoon at Hamburg that would be home defeat number 200 for HSV. Notwithstanding their total of 927 Bundesliga home fixtures, Hamburg would be for the first club in the top flight to reach that particular landmark. However, that would suit Bayer 04.
Looking at Leverkusen's recent away games there is good reason to feel additional confidence on top of the extra motivation: Since the 2-1 defeat away to Hertha Berlin on matchday five, the Werkself have taken at least one point from every game on their travels. To be more exact it is a total of 16 points (four wins, four draws). The last time there was a similarly long Black and Red away run was seven years ago between May 2010 and January 2011 under the then coach Jupp Heynckes who managed to make it eleven away games without defeat. Also, the recent goalless draw at SC Freiburg was the first time the Werkself have failed to score away from home since April of last year.
At the Hamburg press conference on Thursday, Bernd Hollerbach said he expected a match dominated by aggression. "Football is a contact sport. We are in a situation where we have to focus on working hard, mentality and challenges. Beautiful football is not essential in a relegation battle whereas mentality is. We have to face our opponents with our fans behind us and get stuck into the game. Then we have to be on the front foot through aggression and challenges," declared the HSV coach. That approach is not unfamiliar to the Werkself: The stats reveal 324 fouls against Bayer 04 this season. That makes the Werkself the second most fouled team in the Bundesliga after Schalke (347). Moreover, HSV have committed the most fouls (223 challenges per game).
Perhaps it is somewhat symbolic the three Hamburg players Dennis Diekmeier, Gideon Jung and Kyriakos Papadopoulos are one booking away from a fifth yellow card on Saturday – none of the Werkself players are at risk of a one-match ban. Papadopoulos in particular may be the focus of attention: After being dismissed for two bookings, the HSV central defender (with nine yellow cards the most booked play in the league) is again available to face his old club. Last year he scored the only goal of the game in the 1-0 win for the Red Shorts and it is reasonable to expect he will also be suitably motivated. Let that be a warning.
All Bayer 04 fans, unable to make the trip to Hamburg, who want to watch the game with fellow Black and Red fans will receive a warm welcome at the Schwadbud: The fan pub in the East Stand at the BayArena is once again showing the match live. Doors open at 14.30 CET on Saturday, one hour before kick-off: Call in and cross your fingers for the Werkself against HSV in the company of other Bayer 04 fans. Further information and background on the game plus live match updates are available, as ever, on our social media channels or on the Bayer 04 website. Come on you Black and Reds!
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