Van der Vaart to return for Hamburg
Rafael van der Vaart says he is fit to return to the Hamburg squad against Augsburg this weekend after three weeks out with an ankle injury.
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Van der Vaart, 30, tore his ligaments while on international duty against Columbia less than three weeks ago. In his absence Hamburg moved clear of relegation trouble, picking up four points against Hannover and in-form Wolfsburg, and reached the quarterfinals of the DFB-Pokal.
Hamburg are now 11th in the Bundesliga table and have put five points between them and Freiburg, who are in the relegation playoff place. On Saturday, they entertain Augsburg at home, and three points could send them back into the top half of the table.
"I am ready for Augsburg," Van der Vaart told Bild. "It still pinches a bit. But I’ll be able to play. It’s great that it healed quicker than expected."
In Van der Vaart's absence, 19-year old midfield hopeful Hakan Calhanoglu filled in, scoring in both Bundesliga games. This led the local Hamburg press to suggest that the Netherlands star could be only make the bench upon his return to fitness. However, Calhanoglu is one of many players who believes that Van der Vaart can only make the team better.
"I am longing for his return," Calhangolu told Bild. "He is the one, who can calm the game when it’s all haywire."
Hamburg sporting director Oliver Kreuzer echoed Calhanoglu’s words and underlined the importance of the former Tottenham man.
"Although the team has seen that they can be successful without him, Rafael remains the leader," he told a news conference. "Everybody is longing for such a player."
Hamburg attacker Pierre-Michel Lasogga is looking forward to the return of his partner. The 21-year old has not scored in any of the matches during Van der Vaart’s absence, and has lost touch with Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski at the top of the Bundesliga scoring charts.
Lasogga has scored eight goals this season and hopes that the Netherlands international can feed him with enough good balls to move closer to Lewandowski once again.
"As a striker, it’s just great fun to have a player like Rafael behind you," he told kicker.