April 12, 2018 / 7:42 AM / 3 months ago

Soccer: Hamburg cling to slim hope of relegation playoff spot

BERLIN (Reuters) - Hamburg SV travel to Champions League contenders Hoffenheim on Saturday still clinging to the hope they can pull off a miracle and force a relegation playoff to protect their perfect Bundesliga record with five games left in the season.

Hamburg, the only club to have featured in the top division in every season since the Bundesliga’s creation in 1963, are in 17th place, five points behind Mainz 05, who occupy the relegation playoff spot.

But last week’s stunning 3-2 victory over second-placed Schalke 04 reignited their desperate battle to stay up with Christian Titz’s team showing signs of life.

“It will be all about being able to be carried by this emotion,” Titz, who took over only a month ago, said of his team’s chances after beating Schalke.

“We are no longer looking at what the others are doing. If what we are doing is good then we will get our chances.”

Hamburg will, however, be without suspended central defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos against Hoffenheim, who hunt a top four finish for a spot in next season’s Champions League group stage.

Hoffenheim are seventh on 43 points, five off fourth-placed Bayer Leverkusen.

Hamburg might have already started planning for life in the second division and top talent Fiete Arp could be among the first to leave.

The club survived successive relegation playoffs in 2014 and 2015 and only narrowly avoided playing one last season with the former European champions struggling in recent years.

At the other end of the table Schalke and Borussia Dortmund will battle it out for control of second place in the Ruhr valley derby on Sunday. Schalke are second on 52 with Dortmund a point behind.

Dortmund spectacularly squandered a 4-0 lead to draw 4-4 when they met earlier in the season and victory over their bitter local rivals would put a shine on an inconsistent season.

“We will never forget that first match so that is why we really want to win this time,” said Dortmund’s Nuri Sahin.

“That needs to be our goal. Because if we win we will be second and the world will look a lot different then.”

Bayern Munich, who secured their sixth successive Bundesliga title last week with a win over Augsburg, host Borussia Moenchengladbach.

Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Sudipto Ganguly

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