Hamburger SV coach Martin Jol reckons the derby atmosphere in the UEFA Cup semi-final against their north German rivals Werder Bremen will be familiar to anyone who has experienced the north London equivalent.
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Hamburger SV coach Martin Jol reckons the derby atmosphere at Thursday's UEFA Cup semi-final against north German rivals Werder Bremen will be a familiar one to anyone arriving from north London.
Jol, whose spell in charge at Tottenham Hotspur FC from 2004 to 2007 introduced him to the intense rivalry of London derbies with Arsenal FC, only needs his current side to draw at the Arena Hamburg to reach the 20 May final in Istanbul. However, the Dutchman is taking nothing for granted given the slender 1-0 lead from last week's first leg that his men will take into what is bound to be an electric encounter. "It's a big derby game, you could compare it with Spurs v Arsenal, or Arsenal v Chelsea," Jol told uefa.com on the eve of the game. "They [Bremen] were probably the best team in the north over the last decade and Hamburg were probably the best team before that. Just like Spurs and Arsenal. Now we would like to be the best in the north so there's a lot of rivalry and always a lot of emotion between the two teams."
Recent form will not be a particularly reliable guide to Thursday's outcome according to Jol, whose side will face Bremen for the fourth time this season. Victory for Hamburg in the Bundesliga was followed by a 1-1 draw and subsequent 3-1 defeat on penalties at home in the German Cup semi-finals on 22 April. Looking back, Jol said: "In the first game we beat them 2-1, but they were probably the better team. In the second, we drew 1-1 and they were probably the slightly better team. Away from home [in the UEFA Cup], it was a bit easier. You couldn't say they played better than us – we were probably a bit more consistent. But you can't say that my players have the feeling they are the better team. The only difference is that we've been in the top five for the whole season and were first five times, and they are struggling." Bremen lie tenth in the table and Jol added: "I have to say I honestly don't know why they are struggling."
Success would mean a place in the final against the winners of the all-Ukrainian semi-final between FC Shakhtar Donetsk and FC Dynamo Kyiv. It would mean a lot to Jol personally as well. "For me, it would be a great honour," he said. "Because this is a very big club. We've got sell-out crowds three or four months before the end of the season and there's a lot of expectation. You could probably compare it in England with Spurs. I would love to give them something – and they've never won the UEFA Cup."