Beleaguered Hamburger SV coach Bruno Labbadia was in positive spirits ahead of the UEFA Europa League quarter-final opener against R. Standard de Liège as his side bid to end a run of four games without a victory.
The Hamburg Arena will host the inaugural UEFA Europa League final on 12 May, but Labbadia's side lost 1-0 to VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach on Sunday and have not won since beating RSC Anderlecht 3-1 in the first leg of their round of 16 tie. They edged through on away goals after a nervy 4-3 defeat in Brussels. HSV supporters have become frustrated following a sluggish start to 2010, but the coach is feeling optimistic. "
We have trained really well over the past few days and I have a good feeling about the game," he said. "The team have their enthusiasm back and I hope we can show that against Standard."
With defenders Joris Mathijsen, Jerome Boateng and Dennis Aogo fit again, Labbadia's only absentees will be Eljero Elia and Marcell Jansen, both of whom have ankle problems. Their opponents, meanwhile, have Mohamed Sarr suspended while Benjamin Nicaise (thigh) and captain Steven Defour (gluteal muscle) lead an injury list that also includes Gohi Bi Cyriac (groin) and Landry Mulemo (knee).
Domenico D'Onofrio's selection concerns are no great comfort to Labbadia, who added: "Standard are a good team, like Anderlecht, and we really have to be at our best. Our situation is not ideal at the moment, but it's my job to sort it out." While HSV's coach is sure Standard will offer a stern test, his counterpart is not complacent about the German side's recent travails.
"We are really happy and proud to reach the quarter-finals," said D'Onofrio, "and now we are facing one of the best teams in Europe." The 56-year-old's team began Belgium's lengthy end-of-season play-offs with a 2-0 victory against R. Charleroi SC on Saturday but he was quick to identify his charges as clear "underdogs", not a role he is uncomfortable with. "We saw when HSV faced Anderlecht it is possible to score against them and
we were also underdogs against Panathinaikos and Salzburg but we came through those ties."
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