The situation going into Saturday's fixture between VfL Wolfsburg and Hamburger SV (kick-off: 15:30 CEST) could hardly be more tense: just five points separate the two clubs at the bottom of the Bundesliga table. While the Green-Whites sit 14th, HSV are 17th – and the threat of a first-ever relegation for the Bundesliga ever-presents is all too real. Indeed, with just two games remaining after this one, the visitors simply have to win.
Hamburg's upward curve
Although still in the drop zone, Christian Titz's side have shown plenty of spirit of late: a 1-0 win against fellow strugglers SC Freiburg last time out means HSV have taken six points from their last three games, as many as in their previous 15 (D6 L9). Recent displays have certainly lifted confidence in the Red-Shorts' camp: "We have a good mixture of self-belief and the necessary nerves before each game. We're pleased that this game still has such importance," said Titz.
A glance at VfL's home record against HSV augurs well, though: the Wolves are unbeaten in the last six against Hamburg at the Volkswagen-Arena (W3 D3), with the last defeat coming in February 2011. In the reverse fixture earlier this season, the sides shared a 0-0 draw – a first-ever stalemate in 41 Bundesliga meetings.
Labbadia up against former employers
If anyone in the Wolfsburg corner can offer inside knowledge before this one, then it's head coach Bruno Labbadia. The 52-year-old presided over 100 competitive games (W38 D27 L35) during two spells in charge in of HSV, first between July 2009 and April 2010 and then from April 2015 until September 2016.
Indeed, Labbadia's firefighting experience comes from his time in the Port City. The Darmstadt native inspired HSV to survival via the play-off against Karlsruher in 2015 (1-1 at home, 2-1 away aet). Labbadia also turned out for Hamburg during his distinguished playing career, scoring 16 goals in 50 competitive appearances for the club between August 1987 and November 1988.