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One of Hamburger SV's unheralded heroes according to coach Martin Jol, Czech captain David Jarolím is urging his side to treat Manchester City FC with extreme caution when they meet on Thursday.
It is 19 years since HSV last graced the UEFA Cup quarter-finals but their return to the stage owed more to tenacity and a never-say-die attitude than the realisation of any carefully calculated plan. The German side were playing catch-up for much of their last-16 tie against Galatasaray AŞ, finding themselves 3-1 down on aggregate with 41 minutes remaining before launching their daring escape, eventally winning 4-3. This time Jarolím, whose receding hairline perhaps bears testament to a few frayed nerves, is eager to avoid doing it the hard way. "We're at home and the most important thing is that we don't concede," he said. "If we do that I am confident we can reach the semis."
The 29-year-old, so often understated, is unequivocal, and while most point to the two goals conceded in Turkey as the cause of their near downfall, the midfielder begs to differ, highlighting Ayhan Akman's 33rd-minute opener in the 1-1 first-leg draw. "Against Galatasaray we conceded early on in Germany and it made the rest of the tie – particularly the second leg – very difficult," he recalled. "It would be nice if we scored at home to Manchester City but, and I stress: it is far more important that we don't concede. You cannot always pull off something like we did in Istanbul."
Jarolím has been a first-team regular since arriving at the Hanseaten from 1. FC Nürnberg in 2003, but has truly developed into a key man at the Arena Hamburg over the past two seasons. Alongside Ivica Olić and Joris Mathijsen he forms the "backbone of the team" according to Jol, who credits the trio's continuing presence this term – with others falling injured around them – as the factor that has underpinned their current success. Indeed, the side approach the last two months of the campaign in contention for Bundesliga, UEFA Cup and German Cup honours. "It's great still being in the hunt for all three titles," said Jarolím. "If we can keep our cool and continue playing the way we are right now, focus on just enjoying ourselves, then we won't choke." For the sake of the Hamburg skipper and his hair, let us hope they do not.
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