PREVIEW: FSV Frankfurt v St. Pauli (Sunday, 13:30)

After a huge win against Union Berlin on Monday evening, St. Pauli travel to FSV Frankfurt well and truly in the race for promotion. With 11 games to go, it looks inevitable that 1. FC Köln will win the 2.Bundesliga title and return to the top division, but the 2nd place promotion spot and 3rd place playoff place are still up for grabs in a league that sees just 6 points separate Greuther Furth in 2nd with 1860 Munich in 8th. In recent weeks teams at the top have struggled for form, with Paderborn being the surprise package who have suddenly won 6 out of their last 7 games to climb up to 3rd. Kaiserslautern (5th) won last night to record their first win in four games, having lost their last three against Cottbus, Aalen and Aue – teams who they would have hoped to have beaten. Karlsruhe (6th) have also struggled since the winter break, winning only 1 of their 4 games since the league resumed and they host Paderborn tomorrow.

Defeat for Union Berlin (7th) on Monday night meant they had also only won 1 of their 4 games since the restart of the 2.Bundesliga, but they were unbeaten in 5 prior to that and good results in the next couple of weeks could be vital for them with games against Greuther Furth and Paderborn following this weekend’s home game against Ingolstadt.

St. Pauli have struggled for consistency themselves, particularly at home this season, but hopefully Monday night’s win against Union Berlin can go some way to putting that run of bad form to bed. The next two games are both away against teams who would expect to be performing better than they are – FSV Frankfurt followed by Fortuna Dusseldorf. This weekend’s opponents FSV sit 14th in the league, just 4 points ahead of Dynamo Dresden who occupy the relegation playoff place. They go into the game on the back of two defeats away from home against two of St. Pauli’s promotion rivals – Union Berlin and Greuther Furth. In his press conference on Friday, coach Roland Vrabec warned that FSV Frankfurt are a team of good quality, who are a good counter-attacking side who would pose a big threat from set pieces. Vrabec spoke about the “liberating victory” against Union on Monday night, saying it was a huge relief to win after the poor run of form at the Millerntor, with Vrabec saying “at the moment we feel good and will take the positive feeling to Frankfurt”.

It’s fair to say the St. Pauli board never expected, nor requested, for the club to push for promotion this season – particularly after the dreadful campaign last season. But the form shown by the young players brought in by astute sporting director Rachid Azzouzi has put St. Pauli in contention. It could be argued that the sacking of Michael Frontzeck before the winter break showed that the club believed that they could be contenders if they had the right person in charge to take them forward – the board thought Frontzeck wasn’t that person, but his assistant Roland Vrabec was. There’s plenty of discussion to be had with regards to the effects of promotion, both positive and negative, not just from a football perspective but from a commercial perspective too. Not many fans of clubs would shun the prospect of promotion, but at St. Pauli there’s always cause for concern. If promotion means more advertising and commercial deals that erode the fabric of the club, then it’s not welcome. And from a purely football point of view, is the team too young and inexperienced to compete in the Bundesliga? Maybe so, but how long do you wait until the time is right?  An interview with Rachid Azzouzi in a local Hamburg newspaper a couple of days ago suggested the club were planning for both eventualities. As they were last season, except they were planning for the possibility of the 3.Liga and the potential of another financial crisis.

St. Pauli are unbeaten in 5 away games, winning 4 of those games – and are looking to pick up their 7th away win of the season. Another away win tomorrow could well put St. Pauli into the playoff place. It’d be hard to stop talking about the potential (and the ill-effects) of promotion then…