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Hamburger SV coach Huub Stevens has an injury crisis to contend with as he attempts to cancel out a 1-0 deficit against Bayer 04 Leverkusen and reach the UEFA Cup quarter-finals.
The two sides are divided by a single point in the Bundesliga race for next season's UEFA Champions League – with Hamburg in third and Leverkusen fourth – and there is little to separate them in the UEFA Cup too. Theofanis Gekas's late strike made the difference at the BayArena last week. Yet, however narrow the margin of defeat, Hamburg's hopes of overturning it could be compromised by player availability.
For Sunday's goalless draw at 1. FC Nürnberg, HSV were without Vincent Kompany, Guy Demel, Thimothée Atouba, Mohamed Zidan, Romeo Castelen and Juan Pablo Sorín. Come Wednesday's game in Hamburg and Stevens will be missing the suspended Nigel de Jong, Collin Benjamin – who has returned to Namibia following his father's death – and Castelen, again absent after knee surgery. The better news is that Jerome Boateng and Zidan may recover in time to play while Atouba and Sorín are nearing returns, although the Argentinian international "will not be able to start" according to his coach.
If Hamburg have appeared tired in recent matches, confidence remains high. Midfielder David Jarolím said: "We are absolutely capable of beating Leverkusen." Goalkeeper Frank Rost concurred, predicting "a great European night for our fans". Still, Stevens will opt for a cautious approach, knowing one Leverkusen goal will leave his team needing three to progress. "We must not go for all-out attack straight away," he said. In contrast to Hamburg, Leverkusen looked fresh as they eased to a 2-0 win at home to Hannover 96 on Sunday. "They are bang on form," Hamburg playmaker Rafael van der Vaart said. "We must not risk too much, too soon."
Leverkusen coach Michael Skibbe anticipates "an open game where both sides will attempt to decide the outcome". He continued: "HSV have a strong team and will do everything to turn the tie, but we are prepared for that." The visitors are likely to rest striker Gekas and bolster the midfield, as Skibbe usually does away from home. In the 20th anniversary of their UEFA Cup triumph, Leverkusen are also determined to give fans further cause to celebrate. "We have tasted success and want to get to the next round," midfielder Simon Rolfes said.
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