Two teams in uproar for different reasons
Both Hamburger SV and FC Bayern Munich are currently in an uproar, but for vastly different reasons. Hamburg are fighting for their 1. Bundesliga lives, currently sitting in the relegation playoff spot, 16th, just one point over FC Nurnberg and two over Eintracht Braunschweig.
Meanwhile, Bayern -- who won the league in March -- have their own set of troubling issues after being mercilessly tossed out of the Champions League by Real Madrid, 5-0 on aggregate.
Hamburg are famous for spending every single season in the Bundesliga since it began in 1963. Even predating that, they've played top-flight football since the mid '40s. Their nickname, der Dinosaurier (the Dinosaur), is quite apt. But here and now, it's quite likely they go down -- the very best they can hope for would be that playoff spot because the next team up in 15th, VfB Stuttgart, is five points ahead with two matches to play.
Mirko Slomka's men come in to this match knowing that Pep Guardiola's side have already beaten them twice this season: 3-1 at the Allianz Arena, and a serious drubbing, 5-0, in the DFB Pokal quarterfinals. Slomka said prematch: "Bayern absolutely dominate the Bundesliga. A point from the game would be a huge surprise, and a win a sensation against them."
Not that it would ever be easy but for Bayern, this match is perhaps not quite so trying because the majority of Hamburg's front line is injured. Striker (and Germany hopeful) Pierre-Michel Lasogga might be able to make their final game away to Mainz next weekend, while his backup, Jacques Zoua, picked up a thigh strain on Wednesday and is now also ruled out. Reserve striker Mattia Maggio was ineffective in the team's 3-1 loss to Augsburg last weekend, so what is Slomka to do?
With playmaker Rafael Van der Vaart not quite the talisman he was last season, an impressive Hakan Calhanoglu and Ivo Ilicevic should join the Dutchman as partners in attack.
Tolgay Arslan, suspended on 10 yellows, is also missing for Slomka, as are defenders Johan Djourou (torn hamstring) and Lasse Sobiech (ankle).
Transfer rumour circus
Turning attention to Bayern Munich, an absolute media firestorm resulted from their loss to Real Madrid. Did Guardiola get his tactics wrong? Was the wrong personnel on the field? Will Bayern Munich toss out Guardiola? (My answers are: Yes, yes and no.)
Then came the rumours of unhappiness within the squad -- completely blown out of proportion in many cases -- with every other large club ever being linked to Xherdan Shaqiri, Toni Kroos, Thomas Mueller, Mario Goetze and Javi Martinez.
Guardiola subsquently went on record to dispel at least some of the rumours, stating that "Javi Martinez will stay at Bayern"; that "I understand the players, I understand Mueller, Martinez, Goetze, but I have to decide what's best for the whole team"; and that "every player wants to play according to his own ideas, but I have to convince them what's best for everyone."
Guardiola remains confident, although Goetze admitted he is not happy at Bayern.
"I'm sure Mueller, Martinez and Goetze will be here next year and are going to play well," Guardiola said.
Perhaps telling was no mention of Kroos or Shaqiri.
On the positive side
Despite the transfer rumours, there are some positives this week, as Thiago Alcantara and Holger Badstuber have returned to team training -- the latter not having been around since late 2012 after suffering two ruptured ACL. And Shaqiri has resumed a running programme and hopes to be fit for the Pokal final. This now leaves only Tom Starke on the injury list and gives Guardiola much needed options going forward as the long season finally comes to an end.
Also, Germany's No. 1, Manuel Neuer, was just extended until 2019, and Karl Hopfner was officially voted in as Bayern Munich president -- barring 0.04 percent, unanimously -- succeeding embattled Uli Hoeness. These two news features also serve to promote positivity at the club for the near future.
After the coach's self-blame for the laughable Madrid tie, three matches remain to end the season successfully. Fielding consequent strong starting XI's against both Hamburg on Saturday and Stuttgart next week will go a long way to improving the mood in Munich -- and quelling the doubting Thomases -- ahead of what is now Bayern's most important match of the year -- the DFB Pokal finale against Borussia Dortmund on May 17.
Meanwhile, the Hamburg faithful will be looking anxiously at their proud clock in the Imtech Arena -- recording the years, days, minutes that die Rothosen have been in the top flight. And wondering if it grinds to a halt soon.