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Hamburg relishing play-off bid to return to Bundesliga

Berlin (AFP) – Second division Hamburg expect thousands of fans to travel for Thursday’s relegation play-off, first leg at Hertha Berlin as a sleeping giant of German football looks to return to the Bundesliga after a four-year absence.

All 7,500 away tickets for the first leg at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium were snapped up with an estimated 30,000 travelling Hamburg fans expected in the capital.

Hamburg, who host the second leg next Monday, qualified for the play-off by finishing third in Germany’s second tier and face Hertha, who ended up third from bottom of the Bundesliga.

Hertha coach Felix Magath, 68, is a Hamburg club legend.

Magath scored the winner for Hamburg in the 1983 European Cup final against Juventus and won three Bundesliga titles with the north German club between 1978-83.

“Felix has achieved a lot as a footballer and a lot as a coach,” said Hamburg coach Tim Walter on Tuesday.

“In that respect, he has something ahead of me in terms of experience, but we are a young and hungry (side), we are brave.”

Since their relegation in 2018, Hamburg missed promotion by finishing fourth in three straight seasons until qualifying for the play-off this term.

Getting Hamburg back into the Bundesliga at the end of his first season in charge would be the biggest achievement thusfar of 46-year-old Walter’s coaching career.

Hamburg earned their spot in the play-off by winning all of their last five games to jump from sixth to third.

“We have momentum on our side. The focus is on what’s to come, because we’re not done yet,” added Walter.

“We’re up for these two games, which have the character of a cup tie.”

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