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Collective sigh of relief in the north after Hamburg avoid the drop

The players, management and fans of Bundesliga club Hamburg are coming to terms with another year in Germany's top flight. The celebrations went through the night after the team avoided the drop.

As some Hamburg residents were on their way to start their early shifts on Tuesday morning, the city's Bundesliga captain, Rafael van der Vaart, and other HSV players were just winding down a night of celebrations at the disco 'Zwick.'

An hour later, club chairman Dietmar Beiersdorfer and head coach Bruno Labbadia were all smiles in the 'Erikas Eck' restaurant in the vibrant nightlife district of St. Pauli.

German news agency SID quoted Beiersdorfer as saying that despite the joy that followed Hamburg's

2-1 victory in extra time

in their relegation playoff against second division Karslruhe on Monday, which gave them a 3-2 aggregate win, he was still unhappy with the club's season.

'Joy - not self satisfaction'

"Joy should not be confused with self satisfaction," Beiersdorfer said. "That is impossible after the season we had."

Just as relieved was coach Labbadia, who shortly after the match declared that "relegation battles are crap, there is nothing worse."

But

Labbadia, who took over the team with just six games left in the season

and has a contract that runs through to the end of next, also pointed to the massive potential at the club, which is the only Bundesliga side never to have been relegated.

"This club can achieve an awful lot," he said.

Change is coming

With this aim in mind, Beiersdorfer, who went through three coaches over the past season before finally settling on (and for) Labbadia, is already planning major personnel changes ahead of the coming campaign.

The departures of Rafael van der Vaart, Marcell Jansen and Ivo Ilicevic are already a done deal. The contracts of Heiko Westermann, Gojko Kacar and Slobodan Rajkovic are all running out, but they could also be extended. As of Tuesday, the futures of Valon Bejrami and Artjoms Rudnevs at HSV also remained murky.

Defender Jonathan Tah and midfielder Kerem Demirbay are both expected to return from their loan spells at second division sides Düsseldorf and Kaiserslautern, but what Beiersdorfer really needs is goal-scoring prowess. Not including the two relegation matches, Hamburg scored just 25 goals in 34 league games this past season - while conceding twice as many.

pfd/al (SID, dpa, Kicker.de)

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