Hamburg are determined to preserve their unique 50-year status in the Bundesliga, but face a relegation scrap. Mirko Slomka is set to take his bow on Saturday after replacing Bert van Marwijk on Monday.
Hamburg open a new chapter in their history on Saturday when Mirko Slomka takes charge of his first Bundesliga match, at home to Borussia Dortmund. Slomka replaced Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk on Monday, with the club dropping within a single point of bottom-spot.
The appointment of Slomka, the former head coach of Schalke and Hannover, brought an end to weeks of internal strife and tension between management and the club's supervisory board.
"Hamburg should be in the top-five clubs in Germany," Slomka announced at his official introduction on Monday. "The challenge of facing Dortmund is a good measuring stick for us. Everyone knows them and how they play, but we have a home game and, as I already have said and will keep on saying, we must win our home games.
"And I am sure the fans will give their support on Saturday. There is no talk of a miracle. If we get points, it will be through hard work.”
Slomka's task is similar to the one he faced when he was appointed at Hannover in January 2010, with the Reds slumped into the drop-zone. Like his current troops in Hamburg, the 44-year-old had some technically proficient players at his disposal, but their confidence was left shattered by a succession of defeats in the Bundesliga.
Hamburg have lost their last eight Bundesliga matches, losing by three goals or more in every encounter. High-profile Rafael van der Vaart will be absent against Dortmund, but that could weigh in Slomka's favor should be opt for a tighter defensive structure, with Serbian Slobodan Rajkovic, who is set to replace the off-form Heiko Westermann, and Tomas Rincon ready to return from the cold.
"Our situation is brutal, we have far too few points and should play with less risk," added Slomka. "But the belief in the footballing quality must be there, the team has also demonstrated this before. I want to bring back this element."
'Goals, Goals, Goals'
Yet, sandwiched between two heavy defeats to Dortmund - a 6-2 thrashing in the first half of the season and a 5-1 battering at home in January 2012 - lie two of Hamburg's standout performances under former coach Thorsten Fink.
Inspired by South Korean sensation Son Heung-Min, Hamburg beat Borussia Dortmund 4-1 on their own patch, following up on a 3-2 home win in the first half of the 2012-13 campaign. It is a traditional fixture which has produced high-scoring, action-packed encounters, with 337 goals scored in 93 matches at an average of just over 3.5 goals per match.
But after an injury troubled first half of the campaign, Dortmund have since returned to blistering form, with a 5-1 win over Werder Bremen and a four-goal triumph at home to Eintracht Frankfurt.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - the club's two marquee signings over the European summer - are beginning to click, and this should be a worry for Hamburg's brittle defense. Jürgen Klopp can welcome back Marco Reus but not Mats Hummels, who needs "more training" before returning to match action.
"HSV doesn't need to be pitied. And we won't be making any concessions. On Saturday, it's not going to be about who plays pretty. We have to be tough and give it our all," Klopp said.
Dortmund could leap-frog Bayer Leverkusen and take second spot temporarily should they win. Leverkusen are in action at Wolfsburg in Saturday's later game.