German top-flight outfit
Hamburg are enjoying their most successful season in decades, with hopes of a first Bundesliga
title since 1987 as part of a historic league, UEFA Cup and German Cup treble still very much alive. Indeed, the Hanseaten find themselves at the semi-final stage of both cup competitions and are well-placed in third in the domestic standings as the season
enters its decisive phase.
The only club to have taken part in every Bundesliga season since the league's inception in 1963, thus earning their moniker of the 'Bundesliga's Dinosaurs', Hamburg take on Werder Bremen on 22 April for a place in the German Cup final - the first of four north-German derbies in the space of 19 days.
"I used to watch all the big cup matches when I was back home and I'm sure that the game against Werder Bremen is going to be a great night of football for the fans to look forward to," said centre-back Alex Silva, a bronze-medal winner with Brazil at the Men's Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008.
"It's a proper derby, just like the ones you get in England," said HSV coach Martin Jol, a veteran of north London derbies from his time at Tottenham Hostpur. "I'm really
looking forward to it and my players know exactly how much this game means to the
fans. After coming so far in three competitions, we want to make sure we have a
trophy to celebrate at the end of it. We can be proud of what we've achieved up
to now, but we need to make sure we finish the job."
For Jol, that means picking up the club's first item of major silverware since their German Cup victory over Stuttgart Kickers on 20 June 1987 - a drought that has lasted nearly 22 years. And in a constant reminder of that success, one of the goalscorers that day, Dietmar Beiersdorfer, has since become the club's sporting director.
Shades of Kaltz and
Hamburg are also looking to end a 26-year barren spell on the European stage. This stretches back to 1983, when former German greats Manfred Manni Kaltz, Horst Hrubesch and goalscorer Felix Magath helped then coach Ernst Happel's charges to a 1-0 European Champion Clubs' Cup final win over a Juventus side boasting the likes of Michel Platini, Paolo Rossi and Dino Zoff.
Dutch supremo Jol is now the man charged with Hamburg's latest crop of footballing talent, and the well-respected tactician is determined to bring back the glory days of the mid-1980s. What is more, the 53 year old was clearly confident of a successful reign when speaking exclusively to FIFA.com at the beginning of the season: "My first impressions of the club were excellent. I could sense the enthusiasm of the Hamburg fans from day one and it has been a joy to work with such a talented group of players. The set-up here couldn't be better."
And the Hamburg players appear to reciprocate their coach's sentiments, with Germany left-back Marcell Jansen having this to say:
"Obviously we're all very happy with the boss. He talks to the players a
lot and he doesn't mix his words. We'll all be doing our best to pay him back
for the faith he has shown in us."
Above and beyond a buoyant dressing-room atmosphere, the northerners' excellent home form and lethal attacking trio are two other key factors in their recent success. Hamburg have played 23 home games in all three competitions, winning 18, drawing three and losing just two (against Wolfsburg and Ajax).
Meanwhile, forwards Ivica Olic, Mladen Petric and Paulo Guerrero have been in deadly goalscoring form, with over two-thirds of Hamburg's goals this season coming from the Croatian-Peruvian triumvirate. "I'm glad they're on our side," said Jol, before underlining once more just how much winning a title would mean: "It's important to the fans that we win at least one trophy. If someone could guarantee me that we would win the German Cup, then I would sacrifice the UEFA Cup."
Already a fans' favourite since arriving at the club last summer, for striker Petric his first Bundesliga crown would be particularly special. "If I could choose, I would take the league title because that's the one we have worked towards all season," said the Croatian international, scorer of the winner at Wembley that ensured England missed out on UEFA EURO 2008.
HSV's unique treble would be an even more spectacular feat, with the entire city currently consumed by the possibility, as revealed by Dutch international defender Joris Mathijsen: "The whole of Hamburg is behind us, so it would be a dream come true if we could actually win something."