Hamburg look to spring surprise at Bayern

BERLIN - At one time the Bundesliga clash between Bayern Munich and Hamburg SV was one that captured the fans' imagination, but this weekend's match between the north-south rivals illustrates how far they have drifted apart.

While Bayern continue to challenge for top European and domestic honours, hogging the limelight with big-money signings, former European champions Hamburg wallow in mediocrity.

Ahead of their meeting on Saturday, Hamburg have earned just a point from two games so far - not the start they hoped for under new sports director Frank Arnesen.

Arnesen joined in the off-season from Chelsea with the mandate of reviving the club's successful past. Their last major trophy came in 1987 in the European Super Cup.

"We worked very hard during the preparation and I am certain our work will bear fruit," said Hamburg captain Heiko Westermann on Wednesday.

"Obviously we do not have endless time for this and we have to see those improvements in the very next game."

"It is clear that teams need these difficult situations to learn. But we won't have a lot of time to turn it around," said Hamburg midfielder Marcell Jansen. "But we will turn this thing around."

Bayern appear to have recovered from their season-opening defeat, avoiding a repeat of last season's bad start that saw them chasing eventual champions Borussia Dortmund from the outset.

After their last-gasp win at VfL Wolfsburg last week, a midweek 2-0 Champions League play-off first leg victory over FC Zurich has brightened the mood further. Bayern hope to make the Champions League final on home soil in May next year.

"This was a good performance," said Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes after the game on Wednesday. "But we are still a long way from reaching our peak."

Champions Dortmund, who stumbled to a 1-0 defeat at Hoffenheim last week host Nuremberg while fellow Champions League competitors Bayer Leverkusen travel to VfB Stuttgart.