Hamburg seek salvation against wounded Bayern
Berlin: Bayern Munich president Franz Beckenbauer believes relegation-threatened Hamburg SV could not have wished for a better time to be facing the Bavarians than after this week`s 4-0 Champions League humiliation at home to Real Madrid.
"If Hamburg do not use this chance to beat a team like Bayern, that is so hurt at the moment, then they truly belong in the second division," Beckenbauer said ahead of Saturday`s encounter.
The Bavarians lost 5-0 on aggregate to the Spaniards to relinquish their hold on the Champions League trophy at the semi-final stage as they maintained their disturbing dip in form since winning the Bundesliga title with seven matches to spare.
After claiming the domestic crown in late March, Bayern have won just two games out of five in the league and struggled to edge out a poor Manchester United side in the Champions League quarter-finals before losing both legs to Real Madrid.
But with only two matches remaining, Hamburg are running out of chances to maintain their proud Bundesliga record as the only team never to have been relegated.
A win against visitors Bayern would ensure they remain in the relegation playoff berth ahead of 17th-placed Nuremberg, a point behind, and bottom side Eintracht Braunschweig, who are a further point adrift.
A Hamburg victory combined with defeats for the teams below them on Saturday would secure a playoff spot no matter what happens on the last matchday. Two wins could also see them overhaul 15th-placed Stuttgart, who are five points ahead.
With captain Rafael van der Vaart set to return from a lengthy injury break, the omens are looking good for the northern club but sporting director Oliver Kreuzer warned the Bavarians could be out to vent their frustrations on Hamburg.
"That defeat (to Real) was extreme," Kreuzer said. "The thorn is in deep and the champions will not be coming to us with a lot of joy.
"It is, after all, Bayern and they will not give anything away."
As well as Van der Vaart, Hamburg also saw this season`s revelation Hakan Calhanoglu and Marcell Jansen return to training on Wednesday, further boosting morale ahead of the weekend`s fixture.
"What is clear is that we must win but most of all we have to show guts and courage," said midfielder Van der Vaart, who has come under increasing criticism for a lacklustre season.
"We have to give it all we have and we have to hurt the Bavarians here in our stadium," the Dutchman added.
Bayern, who take on Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup final later this month, will be eager to bounce back as quickly as possible with coach Pep Guardiola facing his first crisis since taking over this season.
Too much rotation and an insistence on possession football that failed to translate into goals are the reasons critics have given for Bayern`s failure to successfully defend their Champions League crown.
Bayern winger Arjen Robben, however, played down the impact of the midweek defeat saying rounding off the season with two more wins would embellish an already successful campaign.
"We won the league, we are in the Cup final and reached the Champions League last four. If that is not a good season then I do not know what is," Robben said.
Meanwhile, third-placed Schalke 04 can secure the final automatic Champions League spot if they beat Freiburg and fourth-placed Bayer Leverkusen, three points behind, draw or lose at Eintracht Frankfurt.