Form and prestige on the line at the Millerntor
Hamburger SV head to arch-rivals St. Pauli on Monday night (8:30pm CET), looking to return to form and lay down a marker in the battle for promotion.
The 105th Hamburg derby sees a lot at stake for the Rothosen, heading into the final two months of the season neck-and-neck at the top of the 2. Bundesliga table. The derby against cross-town rivals St. Pauli is the start of three critical fixtures at the beginning of March, facing off against fellow promotion candidates Holstein Kiel and VfL Bochum in the following two games. Whilst the 2. Bundesliga is known for its tight tilt for the title, the battle has reached historic proportions this season, four teams all tied on 42 points heading into Matchday 23. The Rothosen aim to strike a decisive knockout blow against the Brown and Whites to get the season back on track and regain momentum.
Focus on the hosts
The trip to the Millerntor could not come at a worse time for the Rothosen, Timo Schultz’s men undoubtedly the form side in the league. After Matchday 14, St. Pauli were mired on nine points in second-last, and very much in the middle of a relegation fight. The next nine games have seen the Brown and Whites pick up 19 points, only losing once to promotion candidates VfL Bochum, and winning all their last four. Entertainment is guaranteed with the side from the Millerntor, high-scoring games aplenty and five of their most-recent six wins being secured with a one-goal margin of victory. As is always the case with a run of good form, luck has also turned in Pauli’s favour, last week’s entertaining 3-2 win over Darmstadt at the Millerntor seeing two Darmstadt attempts at goal both cleared off the line and scrambled away with the last kick of the game. As it is, the Brown and Whites go into the derby full of confidence in 11th place on 28 points, unbeaten in three derbies, and with a chance to inflict a painful result on their visitors.
Opposition scouting report
Pauli’s upturn in form has been driven on by some shrewd additions in the January transfer window and the return of talismanic striker Guido Burgstaller. The Austrian was heralded as one of the signings of the summer transfer window on a free from Schalke, but was only able to play two games before suffering from acute kidney problems. The 31-year-old needed one game to get back into his stride, since then hitting the net eight times in seven consecutive games, unsurprisingly a club record in the division. The game against Darmstadt was a prime example of his skillset, poaching one within the six-yard box, followed by an exquisite control and finish with the weaker left foot for his second of the game. Yet the Austrian’s goalscoring is not the only quality he brings, able to hold the ball up well and bring his teammates into the game, something that was sorely lacking for Pauli before Christmas.
Winter additions ‘keeper Dejan Stojanovic and winger Omar Marmoush have also added quality in the Millerntor ranks, long-time goalkeeper Robin Himmelmann going through an unexpected rough patch of form during the Hinrunde. Marmoush, on loan from Wolfsburg, has added a different dimension to the Pauli attack with pace and a wicked right foot, and reduced the attacking burden on Daniel Kofi-Kyereh. The one positive for the Rothosen is the defensive fragility of their hosts, who despite their good run of form have still been shipping goals, only the current bottom three having conceded more than their 40 goals. Particularly the pace and directness of Bakery Jatta and Sonny Kittel could prove a problem for the Pauli wing-backs, who are a bit exposed in Schultz’s diamond 4-1-2-1-2 formation.
Ambrosius returns but Onana missing for HSV
The 3-2 reverse to Würzburger Kickers on Sunday was not the derby preparation Daniel Thioune would have been looking for, perhaps the only positive being that the players will be doubly motivated to bounce back on Monday night. Amadou Onana’s 90th-minute second yellow card at the flyeralarm Arena will also mean that the youngster misses out on Monday, although Stephan Ambrosius will return having sat out in Lower Franconia, easing Daniel Thioune’s selection headache for the centre of defence slightly. Klaus Gjasula (knee) and Toni Leistner (hamstring) continue to miss out, whilst Rick van Drongelen could make his first appearance in the squad since his ACL tear in June, at the very least on the bench. Fürth’s victory over Kiel on Monday night means that the race for promotion is tighter than ever before, HSV tied with three other teams on 42 points, but still in first due to their superior goal difference. With the promotion charge having stalled slightly after one win in five, a derby win would be the perfect time to get back on track.
The next victory would be St. Pauli’s 400th in the 2. Bundesliga. Only Greuther Fürth (447) and Alemannia Aachen (406) have more.
St. Pauli and HSV have both scored 21 goals this calendar year, the joint-highest mark in the division.
Simon Terodde has scored 10 goals in 14 appearances versus St. Pauli, with five in his last three (including a brace in the 2-2 draw between the two sides at the Volksparkstadion in October).
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