Questions were being asked of Sami Hyypia and Sascha Lewandowski's suitability to a joint-coaching role while Thorsten Fink was odds-on to become the first managerial casualty of the season as both sides struggled for form going into September.
However, times have changed, with Leverkusen now the number one challengers to Bayern Munich at the top of the table, whilst Hamburg have just moved into their highest position of the season.
"We started the season badly, but then we stabilised and have recently been playing well," said Fink.
"With 24 points, we can look back on a good record, but we can make it even more positive by reaching 25 or even 27 points."
If the visitors are to inflict a home defeat on Leverkusen, they will have to do so without Rafael van der Vaart, whose year is over due to a thigh injury.
However, they can rely on the solid foundations of one-time Leverkusen goalkeeper Rene Adler, who meets his former club for the first time tomorrow.
"Of course it's a special game for me," he told the Abendblatt newspaper ahead of his return to a club where he spent the first 12 years of his career.
"I know that I have a lot to thank Leverkusen for."
Adler can expect a warm reception at the BayArena both on and off the field but Hyypia is planning an unusual present for him.
The manager said: "Rene has played a fantastic first half of the season, but I still hope that we can give him one or two goals as a gift."
Leverkusen are without the suspended Daniel Carvajal and Stefan Reinartz while Sidney Sam is injured.