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Michael Taylor 16th Dec 2008 - 14:34

Jol-ly times ahead for Hamburg

Martin Jol is a man that commands respect; he has a great footballing brain, he very rarely complains and he bears a remarkable resemblence to fictional mafia man Tony Soprano, but, the most important thing is, his teams play attractive and effective football.

Spurs did not realise Jol's achievements until a year of Juande Ramos fuelled awfulness highlighted the Dutchman's good work and, by that stage, Jol was working his magic with German Bundesliga side Hamburger SV.

Jol's influence at Hamburg was instantaneous, leading his team to the top of the division; even more impressive given the loss of key midfielder Rafael van der Vaart to Real Madrid.

Since then there has been a slight loss of form but, with half of their domestic season complete, HSV find themselves just two points off surprise leaders Hoffenheim, and are also through to the next stage of the UEFA Cup with a game to spare.

Their last game of the UEFA Cup group stage will decide where Hamburg finish in the group but, for Jol, the game against Aston Villa takes on far more meaning as he is desperate to show the Premier League what they are missing.

Hamburg will start as 21/20 favourite for the game which looks to be great value with Croatian internationals Mladen Petric (7/2 first goal, 10/11 anytime) and Ivica Olic (5/1 first goal, 5/4 anytime) leading the attack while David Jarolim and Marcell Jansen are responsible for providing the ammunition.

For Villa, Martin O'Neill is unlikely to name a first choice team with qualification assured but with young, hungry squad players looking to force themselves into first team contention means they will be no walk-over. However, a home loss against Zilina in the past round of matches makes Villa impossible to back at 5/2.

Villa fans will get the chance to see new striking hope Nathan Delfounesco (9/1 first goal, 10/3 anytime) again while James Milner is likely to start and 11/2 about him to score anytime could be good value.

However, the best bet could prove to be the 10/1 about Villa winning the UEFA Cup, with a talented squad and world-class manager they are already starting to look like the real deal.

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