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Rafael van der Vaart set for Hamburg swansong in crucial playoff clash

Rafael van der Vaart is set to make his final start for Hamburg in the second leg of the Bundesliga relegation/promotion playoff against Karlsruher on Monday.

With the tie poised at 1-1 heading in to the crucial match at the Wildparkstadion, Bruno Labbadia's Hamburg must score in order to avoid being relegated to the second tier on the away goals rule.

Hamburg's injury and suspension problems mean 32-year-old Van der Vaart -- who will be leaving the club this summer whether or not they survive in the top flight -- will make a last start for them.

The former Spurs midfielder was an unused substitute in the home leg but is likely to return to a holding midfield position with Gojko Kacar suspended and Petr Jiracek set to miss out with injury.

Labbadia, a former Karlsruher player, told reporters ahead of the trip to Germany's south-west: "I've told my lads that it's half-time now and that we'll stay in the league with a win."

Hamburg defender Heiko Westermann is also suspended, while attacker Ivica Olic and midfielder Ivo Illicevic, the scorer in the first leg, are major doubts.

Meanwhile, Karlsruher coach Markus Kauczinkski warned his players they faced "a very, very tight match."

"One goal will decide whether we return to the Bundesliga [after six years away] or not," he added.

"HSV are not a village team we can just storm past. They've got enormous qualities, and are physically strong. We need to be focused and play for a victory."

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