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James still sidelined

Boss: We have to stay in the groove

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Just thinking about Saturday's upcoming opponents had Jupp Heynckes enthusiastically reminiscing. ”Those games against HSV were always big battles, they had a super team,” said the 72-year-old, remembering numerous clashes against Hamburger SV as a player as well as a coach. For a long time, the northerners were great championship rivals to FC Bayern, but the situation now is quite different.

With just 18 points, Hamburg are second-bottom and would slide closer to their first-ever relegation from the Bundesliga should they lose at the Allianz Arena on Saturday (Live in English from 14:30 CET via our exclusive Live Ticker). “It’s a difficult situation for the players, having to play under that kind of pressure. There’s a lot of disquiet at the club and in the stands,” Heynckes remarked.

“They’ve fought like crazy in the last few games,” the head coach continued. “Right now, however, it looks bleak. The Dino [the Bundesliga’s “dinosaurs”] would certainly be missed. But it’s a sporting challenge that has to be faced anew every year.” And that’s why Heynckes absolutely wants to keep the three points in Munich, despite all the good memories.

“We’re at home and we want to carry on from where we left off in Freiburg,” he said: “We definitely want to win, play well, stay in the groove and improve.” But the master tactician will have to do it without the injured Manuel Neuer and Kingsley Coman, as well as James Rodriguez.

Line-up: 'I may as well throw a dice'

The Colombian “completed a full training session on Thursday and felt good,” said Heynckes. “But I’d prefer him to get some more practice under his belt. I don’t want to take any risks.” That won’t make it any easier for Heynckes to pick his starting eleven. “In midfield alone, I have seven players for three positions. But I have a dice, I’ll just use that,” he joked with a broad grin.

His opposite number Bernd Hollerbach, meanwhile, has bigger problems. As well as the difficult sporting situation and the turmoil caused by yesterday’s dismissal of chairman Heribert Bruchhagen and sporting director Jens Todt, several players are missing from the squad. Albin Ekdal, Bjarne Thoelke and Mergim Mavraj are all out, as well as the injured Nicolai Müller. Hollerbach is refusing to give up hope though and intends his team to be brave in Munich. “It’ll be difficult, no question. We’re aiming to be stable in defence and use that to get forward and create chances.”

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