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Soccer-Hamburg's Van der Vaart racing to be fit against Bayern

Reuters

BERLIN, April 29 (Reuters) - Strugglers Hamburg SV could have playmaker Rafael van der Vaart back for their game against champions Bayern Munich on Saturday in their penultimate chance to avoid their first ever relegation.

The 31-year-old Dutch midfielder, out for weeks with a thigh muscle injury, returned to team training on Tuesday, raising the possibility of him playing against the Bavarians.

Hamburg, nicknamed 'dinosaur' for being the only club to have played in the Bundesliga every season since its creation in 1963, are on the relegation playoff spot with 27 points, one above Nuremberg and two ahead of last-placed Eintracht Braunschweig with two games left in the season.

The distance to safety and 15th spot, currently occupied by VfB Stuttgart who are five points ahead, is almost out of reach following their 3-1 defeat at Augsburg on Sunday.

The only way Hamburg can guarantee their Bundesliga survival is if they win their next two matches and Stuttgart lose both of their remaining games.

"Rafael could be an option for the game (against Bayern)," said Hamburg sports director Oliver Kreutzer, who was highly critical of his players following the Augsburg defeat.

Kreuzer said the midfielder still needed work to build up his fitness.

Despite the injury, Van der Vaart has not been spared criticism with his personal life and a very public divorce making the headlines rather than his sporting performances.

Team mates Hakan Calhanoglu, Marcell Jansen, who are nursing minor knocks, and Heiko Westermann, out with flu, were missing from training on Tuesday.

The former European champions host Bayern on Saturday and then travel to European hopefuls Mainz 05 next week on the last matchday of the season in search of points to avoid the dreaded drop or at least get another lifeline with a playoff.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann)

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