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Friday, February 10, 2006 

Hamburg waiting for Van der Vaart

Hamburger SV are hungry for Rafael van der Vaart to return after stumbling to two away defeats in their first three Bundesliga matches of 2006.

Broken ankle
The Dutch international playmaker has resumed training after recovering from a broken ankle and has set his sights on featuring in the 4 March trip to FC Bayern München as third-placed Hamburg look to secure a place in next season's UEFA Champions League. "That's my aim," he said. The Hamburg coach Thomas Doll knows his side are a different proposition when the former AFC Ajax star plays - Hamburg have taken 34 points from 15 games with him compared to seven from five since his injury - despite the sterling efforts of German Under-21 international Piotr Trochowski.

'Top player'
"He is a top player, a true jewel, and we really need him," Doll said. With Van der Vaart fit and firing, Hamburg negotiated the UEFA Intertoto Cup and progressed to the last 32 of the UEFA Cup where they will face FC Thun of Switzerland over two legs on 16 and 23 February. They have taken just three points from nine in 2006, however, with Wednesday night's 2-1 loss at Hannover 96 prompting stern words from their coach. "Hopefully we will wake up again soon," Doll said. "We must work more intensively. In the first part of the season this sort of defeat would not have happened."

Pressure increased
To make matters worse, Hamburg's major winter signing Ailton has been ruled out for up to two months after breaking his jaw on Wednesday. His absence will increase the pressure on Sergej Barbarez, although he should not have to shoulder the burden for too long on his own. "My recovery is going faster than everybody expected," Van der Vaart said. "I will be back soon."

Source: Uefa.com

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