Hamburg face play-off battle to save record as only ever-present side in Bundesliga

football editor

They are known as Dino, for dinosaur, because they are the only club to have been in the Bundesliga every season since Germany's national league began in 1963, but Hamburg's proud record could soon be extinct.

The 1983 European Cup-winners, who have Rafael van der Vaart as captain and many other internationals in their ranks, are embroiled in a two-leg play-off to maintain their top-flight status after finishing third from bottom in the Bundesliga. On Thursday they were held to a goalless draw at home, in front of 57,000 fans, by Greuther Fürth, who came third in Bundesliga 2. Tomorrow they travel to Fürth's 15,000-capacity Trolli Arena for a winner-takes-all second leg.

It is the culmination of a dreadful season for Hamburg which has involved three coaches including Bert van Marwijk, who took the Dutch to the 2010 World Cup final but lasted 143 days at the club before being fired, at a cost of £2.5m, in February after eight straight defeats.

Mirko Slomka, sacked by Hannover 96 in December, was entrusted with saving Hamburg, but they lost their last five matches and only avoided direct relegation because the teams below them, Nürnberg and Eintracht Braunschweig, fared little better.

Hamburg, with Johan Djourou, signed from Arsenal after a loan spell, and former Chelsea player Michael Mancienne in central defence, did at least keep their first clean sheet since February in the first leg. But Van der Vaart said: "We know we need to improve. We're staying positive, though. A club as great as this belongs in the Bundesliga."

History counts for nothing tomorrow, but Hamburg's is impressive. Founded in 1887 they are one of Germany's oldest clubs and have been continuously in the top flight since the resumption of football in 1919 after the First World War. When the regional leagues were replaced by the Bundesliga they were a founding club (unlike Bayern Munich) and have had 27 seasons in Europe. The highlight was the European Cup victory over Juventus, achieved with a long-range shot from Felix Magath, the current Fulham manager.

However, in recent years a series of poor management decisions, including a rapid turnover of coaches, has left the north German giant close to £100m in debt. Relegation would further add to financial woes which seem inexplicable given an average gate, even in this tortured season, in excess of 50,000.

Hamburg's dire form led to the Germany internationals René Adler, Heiko Westermann and Marcell Jansen all being omitted from Joachim Löw's World Cup squad this week, but one ray of hope is the return of striker Pierre-Michel Lasogga, whose form won him a call-up from Löw prior to his injury.

Greuther Fürth, a team from Bavaria, are seeking to bounce back immediately after relegation last season, their only campaign in the Bundesliga.

In Berlin, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund continue their rivalry in the German Cup final. Bayern will be without Bastian Schweinsteiger, who is injured, and Mario Mandzukic, who has been dropped. Mandzukic, a target for Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea, reportedly responded by heading back to Croatia.

Their opponents' attack will be led by Robert Lewandowski, who has shaken off a calf injury to play his last game for Dortmund before joining Bayern this summer.

Dortmund won the 2012 final 5-2, but Bayern won last year's Champions League final between the pair. Dortmund finished 19 points adrift of Bayern in the league, but won 3-0 in Munich last month.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk