Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Hamburg preview

Mixed emotions appear to be the mood around the blogosphere heading into tomorrow's Quarter final first leg in Hamburg.

On the one hand we have put in some good performances away from home in Europe this season with plenty of parallels being drawn with our group stage game at Schalke where we came away with an impressive victory. However, counter that with some abject displays on our travels away from home in the league.

Recent years have seen us struggle to get past the Quarter-final stage of competitions (with some dismal exits along the way) but this year we do have real opportunity. Undoubtedly we are now surrounded by the elite sides in the UEFA Cup but we should class ourselves in that group and we really should believe that we can win the tournament.

Mark Hughes, whilst cautious, is certainly looking at progressing onwards:
'Hamburg are doing exceptionally well domestically and will be confident having won again at the weekend, so it`s a big test for us. We've really enjoyed the UEFA Cup run and we have every intention of keeping it going.

'We're looking to get a good result, and then bring it back home in front of a full house for a great European night in Manchester.

'The stakes are higher now we are at the quarter-final stage of the competition, there is a lot of focus on this game and everything becomes higher profile the nearer you get to the final.

'We met them in pre-season, but things are very different for both teams now. I have come up against Martin before and had a decent record against him in competitive games, hopefully that will continue.'
We have plenty of injury worries heading into the game of course. From BBC Sport:

Kompany has a hamstring injury which he picked up in the Premier League defeat by Arsenal last Saturday.Former Hamburg midfielder Nigel De Jong is also out as he is cup-tied. But left-winger Martin Petrov (knee) and midfielder Stephen Ireland (ankle) have both travelled to Germany after overcoming injury problems.

Hamburg will without a number of key players as Bastian Reinhardt, Thimothee Atouba, Romeo Castelen, Maxim Choupo-Moting, Guy Demel and Alex Silva are sidelined through injury. However, Paolo Guerrero (ankle) and Collin Benjamin (thigh) returned to training on Wednesday and could be involved.

The presence of Stephen Ireland will be key. He along, with the trio of Wright-Phillips, Robinho and Bellamy have looked good in European games and without the duo of Kompany and de Jong much will rely on them.

Hughes does have a big decision on his hands as it is inconceivable he will not replace with Kompany or de Jong with either Gelson, Zabaleta or even Hamman. It is likely then that one will line up alongside Elano and which ever option he selects, it isn't our strongest line up.

Jack mused on what would be a good result and I don't think there are many of us who wouldn't take a 1-1 draw at this stage. An away goal though is imperative, with 2-1 almost more preferable than 0-0 given the importance of an away goal - something particularly the case given our inability to register clean sheets in the competition.

I've always said the first leg will determine the outcome of this tie and my view on that hasn't altered. Can we do it? Of course we can, and I do feel we will go through from this tie.

It will likely take a win at Eastlands to ensure it though.

vote it up!

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